The start of a new year is always a time for reflection, both on the achievements made in the past year and the exciting opportunities a new year brings. Looking back on 2021, the words “resilience,” “ reimagine , ” a n d “resourceful” come to mind as Beaufort County Library worked diligently to provide library services and programs to a grateful community.

Looking ahead to the possibilities 2022 may bring, I cannot help but feel eager, expectant and energized.

Like other organizations, the Beaufort County Library experienced no shortage of change and challenges in 2021. Throughout the year, our five locations and two bookmobiles remained committed to connecting the community to library resources and services.

We were thrilled to see more than 200,000 people returning to their local library to pick up a popular book or DVD, access free Wi-Fi or public computers, utilize meeting space, or receive assistance from our helpful staff. Our digital library also kept pace to make available nearly 2 million items available to library cardholders through Hoopla (ebooks, audiobooks, movies, TV, and music), cloudLibrary (ebooks and audiobooks), and Flipster (digital magazines).

Our success is also attributed to the valuable partnerships we have with community organizations, especially those who share with us a deep commitment to serving the needs of Beaufort County residents.

Last winter, VITA and AARP provided free tax preparation assistance to thousands of residents across the county.

As result of our collaboration with the Beaufort County School District and community sponsors, our joint summer reading program awarded 182 prizes to over 2,000 readers while our partnership with the USDA’s Summer Feeding program served 4,458 free lunches to children at our locations this summer.

Through a partnership with South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority this Fall, several library locations hosted representatives from SC Stay Plus who assisted over 815 residents apply for financial support for past due rent and utilities to renters financially impacted by COVID-19.

This year got off to an exciting start with the reopening of the remodeled Bluffton Branch Library, providing larger space for children’s collections and programs, additional community meeting rooms, and a redesigned book and magazine browsing section.

The start of the new year also marked the expansion of operating hours and the return of in-person library programming adapted to account for social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines. In the weeks and months ahead, Beaufort County Library locations will again host free tax assistance (February-April), an annual Summer Reading program in partnership with Beaufort County School District, and prepare for additional facilities upgrades at our locations.

One thing is certain, year upon year Beaufort County Library remains dedicated to making your experience using the library the best it can be.

This spring, we will invite you to provide your feedback by participating in our community survey to inform our next three-year strategic plan.

Without you our library would be an empty warehouse. It is your presence that brings our libraries to life.

Amanda Brewer Dickman is Director of the Beaufort County Library.