The New 24/7 Library Branch

By Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System

Did you know the Darlington County Library System has a branch that is open 24/7? You are probably thinking to yourself, “When did this happen? I didn’t know the Library was opening a new branch, especially one I can visit 24/7!” Ok, you know about our locations in Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill. Where is this new branch you can visit any time that is convenient for you? It is on the Internet at

The Darlington County Library System’s “Digital Branch” is “Open for business!” We have been quietly building this branch for the past two years. Some of you may have discovered it is open. When we started the “renovations,” there wasn’t much to look at or use. Since that time, we have turned it into a real library branch.

Some of you are probably saying you can’t have a real library on the Internet! Why not? What makes a library a library?

Does a library always have be a “brick and mortar” building? The first library in Darlington County was built in Society Hill in 1822. That small, one room, wood frame, structure is still there. Ever hear of the “pack horse librarians?” They literally loaded packs on horses with books and made their way into rural areas to share books. That service changed with the advent of the truck and became known as the “bookmobile.” These bookmobiles, filled with both adult and children’s books, were sent to those areas too far away from a “brick and mortar” library. Later, these bookmobiles stocked magazines, videocassettes, DVDS, CDs, etc. Some bookmobiles now offer a copier and public computers. Darlington County once offered bookmobile service before all four branches were built. Many libraries now refer to their bookmobile, especially a 30-40 footer, as the “mobile branch,” recognizing their purpose and services are the same as any branch.

Why turn the Library’s website into a Digital Branch? The answer is convenience for you and the residents of Darlington County. We live in a 24/7 world because of cable and satellite TV, computers, ATMs, tablets, smartphones, Walmart, and “wearables.” Our lives are busy because there is always something to do. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to do everything we would like in our day. When you want to read a book, browse a magazine, learn a new skill or language, work on a business plan, or need information for a research project, a website that just provides locations, times, phone numbers, and lists of what the library has is not very helpful when you can’t get there or it is closed. The Digital Branch is a way to serve you on your schedule. So what will you find at the Library’s Digital Branch?

The latest addition to the Digital Branch is a collection of magazines! The Library has subscribed to over thirty popular magazines through a service called Flipster. Flipster is a digital magazine service where anyone with a library card can access a variety of magazines via a web browser or a custom app made for tablets, e-reader, computers and some smartphones so you can read magazines offline anytime and anywhere. You will find the latest issue of these magazines at the Digital Branch: All You, Arts & Crafts Homes & the Revival, Clean Eating, Coastal Living, Consumer Reports Buying Guide, Country Living, Dr. Oz: The Good Life, Ebony, Essence, Field & Stream, Food Network Magazine, Fortune, Good Housekeeping, Health, HGTV Magazine, Hot Rod, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Marie Claire, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, New Old House, Newsweek Global, O, The Oprah Magazine, Outside, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Rodale’s Organic Life, Rolling Stone, Southern Living, US Weekly, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health.

What would a library be without books? The Digital Branch has books! The Library has built a collection of thousands of e-books you can read on your smartphone, tablet, Kindle, or Nook. We offer e-books for all reading tastes. Last year a special collection of some 600 children’s e-books was added to the collection. You and your child can find e-books by format, such as picture and chapter books, lexile or reading level, and area of interest. Best of all, just like in our “brick and mortar” libraries, the children’s e-book collection is separate from the adult e-book collection, so parents do not have to worry about their child getting an inappropriate e-book.

Don’t have time to read as much as you would like because you are often “on the road” or have chores and work to do? The Digital Branch’s collection includes over 800 digital audio books for you to download to your portable device. I can guarantee you that many of your favorite author’s books are in audio book.

The Library is committed to providing everyone with opportunities for lifelong learning. The Digital Branch offers free access to a quality educational and training alternative, Universal Class. Individuals, homeschoolers, and the staff of businesses and government agencies can take any of over 500 free online classes with a library card. Learn a new language or English as a second language through Mango Languages. Provided by the South Carolina State Library, you can learn any of over seventy languages. Once you have finished your classes, you can go to LearningExpress Library to prepare for public school standardized, GED, college admissions, and professional certification and licensing tests. All this is available 24/7 through our Digital Branch.

A great library is a resource for quality information. You don’t need to rely on Google or Wikipedia for an answer to your questions. The Library’s Digital Branch is open 24/7 for your research needs.

Author: Duane Childers

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