LETTER: A librarian, more than 50 years
Laurens County lost a valued and trusted public servant in late August with the death of Elaine Martin.
Ms. Martin served for more than 50 years as a librarian in the Laurens County Library system. I attended her funeral on August 24, and the sense of loss among her extended family and dozens of her friends and colleagues was palpable.
Dedicated public servants perform many tasks in many ways. Law enforcement officers, fire personnel and emergency medical technicians risk their lives every day in public service and Laurens County is fortunate to have very qualified professionals in all of these areas. But Elaine Martin followed a different path.
Her 50 plus years of public service were spent in the relatively quiet confines of a public library or behind the wheel of a bone-shaking Book Mobile, well beyond its anticipated use as a vehicle. But Ms. Martin and her colleagues packed that aging vehicle with books, periodicals and other information and hit the road daily to bring library services to the more remote areas of the county where patrons where important library services were not readily available.
Elaine Martin also served as an important county and regional resource for those seeking information on Laurens County history and records of ancestors, many from another century.
Local historians marveled at her walking-around knowledge about local families and her uncanny ability to point out-of-state visitors to primary sources of information at the county library, the office of the Clerk of Court, the Probate Court and other locations in the county. During my years of service as a county employee, I received several calls, thanking me for the service and patience of the quiet lady at the Laurens County Library. I tried to explain on every such call that I had nothing to do with the very important service provided by Ms. Martin. But I certainly appreciated what she meant to literally thousands of families seeking their roots.
I really got to know Elaine Martin a lot better after I retired as a county employee. I count myself as the most amateur of historians but I joined the efforts of local historians and writers who have already produced two extensive volumes of Laurens County history and are working on the completion of a third.
My assignment was the historic election of 1876, a time of strife and violence in Laurens County, South Carolina and throughout the South. Now, I had not done any formal scholastic research since I finished graduate school in 1974 and my task was formidable. I spent about two hours with Elaine in the Local History Room at the Laurens County Library. She pointed me to reliable secondary sources, old newspaper files and other records that I dove into with the abandon of someone much younger. With her help, I produced what I believe is a factually-sound accounting of that historic time in our county, complete with foot notes.
Following her retirement from county service, the Board of Directors and staff of the Laurens County Library named the Local History Room at the Library in her honor. The Elaine Martin Local History Room will continue as a repository for local history, family records and other information important to who we are as a county. I can think of no honor Elaine would appreciate more.
So we must bid farewell to our friend Elaine Martin. She served her community and her profession well and she did it with quiet dignity. As a county and as a people, we are the better for her service and Laurens County, all of us, should be thankful for her time with us.