USC Upstate Library Finds New Homes for Leisure Reading Books

October 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Destroy books? The University of South Carolina Upstate Library staff wasn’t going to have any part of it. Instead, the library has turned a caveat of state law into an opportunity to help inmates.

The library recently donated almost 325 hard- and soft-bound books to the Spartanburg County Detention Center and the state Department of Corrections, according to Frieda Davison, dean of the USC Upstate Library. The books, including titles such as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” Carrie Fisher’s “Postcards from the Edge,” and Mary Higgins Clark’s “Moonlight Becomes You,” came from the library’s leisure-reading collection, which Davison pioneered shortly after joining the University’s administration.

“Several years ago, we began developing a leisure-reading collection here in the library,” Davison explained recently. “We realized that our students, staff and faculty, unless they went downtown to the public library, they didn’t really have access to a leisure collection. So we put out a call for donations, and we have wonderful donations that come in every year.”

With new donations coming in, library staff capped the leisure section at around 1,500 titles. Rather than have unread books in the collection, the staff regularly weeds through the offerings: Any book that hasn’t been checked out in three years is removed from the collection.

Davison said the first inclination was to try to sell the extra books; however, she soon learned that state institutions such as the USC Library cannot sell materials. Instead, in this instance, the unwanted books would have been destroyed.

But that wasn’t going to happen.

“This just really upset us,” Davison said. “The staff started looking around, trying to figure out who we could benefit, how we could do something else. The suggestion of the detention centers came up because they are state or county agencies. We contacted the county first, and they indicated they would be thrilled to have the paperback books. Then they put us in touch with a contact at the state level, and they were thrilled to take the hardback books.”

As a result, the library donated 194 softback books to the Spartanburg County Detention Center and 128 hardbacks to the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Spartanburg County Deputy A. Scealf, a 2012 USC Upstate graduate who is also the library’s contact person with the Sheriff’s Office, said the donations have not only benefitted the inmates, but have created valuable bonds within the community.

“It helps us with our resources, and it links us and the community together. It creates a partnership with the community,” Scealf said. “And the inmates – they usually don’t get anything, so when we bring books into the housing units, they get pretty excited about it.”

Bethany Phillips, a USC Upstate student who works with Scealf and the detention center through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, has handled book distribution to detention-center inmates.

“It’s almost like Christmas for them when I bring in new books,” Phillips said. “They get so excited.”

The excitement should continue, as Davison said the library staff will cull the leisure collection again in the spring.