An article in The Sun News on May 2, 2013, discussed plans concerning Chapin Memorial Library’s future. It stated that the City of Myrtle Beach is “looking to hand off” the library’s operation to Horry County.
I have volunteered at Chapin Library for more than five years. In doing so, I regularly witness the community commitment and high level of customer service the staff provides. Each of them is dedicated, and several have worked at the library for many years. It is a well-versed team with honed skills in the “people business.”
The library’s future is not a new subject. Having previously served on the Friends of Chapin Library Board for several years, I know members and supporters have lobbied over the past few years for a new Chapin Library. Discussion has circulated about what might happen to this local jewel. So, perhaps the news shouldn’t have surprised anyone – but it did.
We know the building is old, since Chapin Library officially opened at the present location in June 1949 (a land grant from The Chapin Foundation). She will celebrate her 64th birthday this June, so in today’s thinking she would be “eligible for retirement.” However, being old does not mean being worthless.
Loyal supporters are not fond of giving Chapin Memorial Library and her background to the county. So much of Myrtle Beach’s history exists between those venerable old walls. Many have passed through her doors into an intimate haven of culture and learning. Young and old, rich and poor, locals and tourists, and all ethnic backgrounds have used the facilities.
Tourism obviously is vital to our area, and the city is committed to promoting it. However, tourists seek more than just beaches, restaurants, sports and attractions. They also want access to the library’s benefits. The staff receives so many calls from vacationers, inquiring about services. Chapin Library is a local attraction too.
It is a source of pride to say Myrtle Beach has the only “city-supported” library in the state. It shows commitment to a higher level of self for its citizens. I love the classic old brick building and wish we could duplicate it, with updated electrical and technical services. Chapin Park next door could be rededicated to provide much-needed library parking. It sounds expensive, and maybe it’s a dream, but it would be wonderful to save the history.
Difficult decisions challenge elected officials, as they must consider budgets and overall good of the community. However, cities should be careful about getting rid of historic structures. The Statue of Liberty is old – but we didn’t tear it down, move it, or give it to someone else. We refurbished it (at whatever cost) because it’s an important part of our history.