What the Horry County Memorial Library will do with a $4.4 million gift bequeathed to the Conway branch may very well be up to the community.
John and Barbara Thompson, who passed away less than a week apart in 2016, left that gift to the Conway library, and left an identical gift to Coastal Carolina University’s library.
John Thompson served in the S.C. House of Representatives in the early ‘60s, and his father, Frank, was a S.C. senator in the 1940s and ‘50s.
While library officials have tossed around some ideas of their own about how to use the money, two meetings are planned to get input from the community.
Thursday, Nov. 7 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 15 from 11 a.m. – noon, the public is invited to the Conway library on Main Street to make suggestions.
“We’re still in the planning stages, we’re looking at Conway library’s needs, and we’re going to ask the community what they would like to see,” said Tracey Elvis-Weitzel, Horry County Libraries assistant director.
“We have a lot of dreams, we have a lot of hopes, but as an administrative team, we don’t want to say, ‘This is how we want to use this money.’
“Our library system is for our communities, and we want the people of Horry County to say, ‘Hey, this is what we need, this is what we think,’ and then we want to work together to get a really good plan in place.”
According to the Horry County Memorial Libraries website, on March 4, 1938, a small public library was opened in the Conway Town Hall auditorium with a $200 donation from the Junior Charity League of Conway, and a donation of books from the private collection of resident Dr. J.A. Norton.
In 1944, $15,000 was appropriated to begin a construction fund, and in July 1949, the Horry County Memorial Library opened for business with 16,420 books.
While the multi-million-dollar gift has been set aside for the Conway branch library, Elvis-Weitzel said, “There’s no way you can put that kind of money into one library and it not have a positive effect on all of our libraries.
“For example, if we update the technology in the Conway library this year, what is sitting there now has to go somewhere. So, it will have a trickle-down effect and everyone will benefit.”
The assistant director said she’d like to see a savings program put into place for the money the Thompsons gave to the library. “I’d like to see this legacy live on well beyond the immediate future, and last for many years.”
She also said library personnel have talked about the idea of having multi-use spaces that can be used for a variety of purposes.
“We don’t have a lot of space to add to the building, so we want to be creative with the space we have.”
When people attend the two community meetings, they can verbally express their opinions or write them on provided paper.
People can also fill out online surveys on the library’s Facebook page or follow the link at https://www.horrycounty.org/Departments/Libraries.
If they prefer, people can email their thoughts to the library as well.
“We want the community’s input any way they’re willing to give it to us,” Elvis-Weitzel said.
She also said the library board and Horry County Council have to agree on how the gift is used.
“As long as the community has a say, the board and the county will hopefully back what we recommend, as long as it’s not too crazy.”