Bertram Rantin

Rantin: Reading the foundation of librarian's storied career

Helen Ann Rawlinson has had a front-row view of the advancements at the Richland County Public Library. And she likes what she's seen.

With the many improvements in technology and the addition of seven branches in the early 1990s, the library system has established itself as among the best in the nation.

But it's the things that haven't changed that impress her most.

"We still get children into the library," Rawlinson said "We still push books. We still want people to read as a part of lifelong learning. That has stayed constant."

Her contributions to that consistency have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Rawlinson, the library's deputy director, has received the 2009 Lucy Hampton Bostick Award for service by the Friends of the Richland County Public Library. The award recognizes contributions to the Richland County and other libraries, as well as efforts to support literacy and reading.

The Bostick award is named for the library's director from 1928-1968. Lucy Bostick is credited with fostering interest in Southern literature and history, improving cultural life in Columbia and promoting library appreciation throughout the state.

"She (Bostick) was one of the people that I admired in library work, so it makes it very special," Rawlinson said.

In her 30 years at the library, Rawlinson has established a legacy of her own, serving in several capacities, including as a deputy director the last 24 years.

She began her career at the Greenville County Public Library before joining RCPL as a children's librarian.

Rawlinson has overseen most of the library's technology advancements in recent years while also overseeing the many youth services programs.

She is credited for her role in developing the library's varied collection, one of the largest and most diverse in the region.

"Her work has vastly improved the Richland County Public Library, and she is known for her positive spirit, vast knowledge and steadfast devotion to RCPL and all that libraries represent," Sarah Linder, RCPL's former chief of Main Library Services, said in a letter supporting Rawlinson's nomination. "She is greatly admired and respected by staff, patrons and library colleagues alike."

Away from RCPL, Rawlinson has made significant contributions to the field of library science. She was named the S.C. Library Association's outstanding librarian in 1998, and she has been active in the annual South Carolina Book Festival and Richland 1's Adult Education Program to promote literacy.

She will officially retire from the library at the end of the year but said she will always be a patron.

"I'm sure it will be a change just being a customer, but I'm looking forward to it."