Columbia City of Women Honoree
Lucy Hampton Bostick
An active member of a thriving cultural community, Lucy Hampton Bostick was instrumental in establishing and growing the infrastructure of the public libraries in Richland County from 1925 to 1968. In her 40-year tenure as Chief Librarian, Bostick established local library branches, a mobile circulation service, and a state-wide library association, laying the groundwork for today’s dynamic and multi-faceted Richland Library.
"Mrs. Bostick, herself, is inclined to avoid the spotlight, preferring to create the impression that whatever she does has been largely “fortuitous.” But fortuitous circumstances arise in the lives of many of us – who fail to rise with them. Mrs. Bostick is one of those rare ones who obviously recognize “that tide, which taken at the flood” lead on to ever increasing accomplishment."
— Adger Brown, 1966
Lucy Hampton Bostick was a true pioneer in the library field at both the local and statewide level. During her 43-year tenure in the Richland County library system, she expanded the organization’s footprint physically, geographically, and philosophically.
Lucy Hampton and her twin sister Gertrude were born in 1898 to Frank Hampton and Gertrude Ruffini Elliott Gonzales. As the grandniece of Wade Hampton III, she grew up as a socialite in Columbia’s white society. She attended Converse College and studied library science at Emory University in Atlanta and the University of South Carolina. On October 16, 1925 The State announced Lucy Hampton as the newest addition to the Columbia Public Library Staff. She began working for the Columbia Public Library (renamed the Richland County Public Library in 1934) and became the Chief Librarian in 1928, a capacity in which she served until her death in 1968. In the first years of her tenure at the Columbia Public Library, Bostick guided the physical expansion of the library, from a series of Main Street storefronts to its longtime site at the corner of Washington and Sumter streets.
After just one year at the helm, The State boasted that the Columbia Public Library lent “a book a minute” to local patrons on some days, which was more than double the circulation reports of the previous year. In addition to expanding the circulation and increasing the library’s holdings, Bostick was determined to ensure that more people in Richland County had access to books. In 1930, when the library secured a Rosenwald grant she was able to realize this vision. In addition to increasing the footprint of the existing library, the new funds enabled the establishment of library branches as well as a mobile library – the Bookmobile traversed rural areas of the county visiting orphanages, stores, homes, and schools.
With Rosenwald funds, Bostick also brought the first library services to African Americans in Richland County in 1930, loaning the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA 1,000 books. Though it would be another 30 plus years before African Americans where given equal access to all library services and facilities. Under her direction the Richland County Library was developed from an institution having only 16,000 volumes to one, which by 1968, had 225,953. The library also grew from one main site to five with branches including Waverly, Cooper, St. Andrews and Eastover. In addition, the annual circulation expanded during her tenure from 60,000 to more than a million annually.
During her first years at Chief Librarian, Bostick worked with others to pass legislation creating the State Library Board. Active in the organization for her entire life, before the state appropriated funds to establish the agency, she traveled the state advocated for the establishment of libraries. Once funded, a lobbying effort in which Bostick was actively engaged, she housed the fledgling organization at the Richland Library’s Sumter Street location.
In 1938, she expanded her role into literary production, working alongside Assistant Librarian Fant Thornley to establish publishing company Bostick and Thornley, Inc. Using the slogan “beautiful books of enduring significance,” the first publication to bear their imprint was a second edition of the Mills’ Atlas of South Carolina, which originally came out in 1825. The firm produced books of regional import until 1961 including Prints and Impressions of Charleston by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (1939), which included 48 beautifully-reproduced etchings and Wind Star, a collection of the published poems of Nancy Telfair (1944).
In addition to her work with the library, Bostick was active in other parts of the community including the Columbia Museum of Art, Historic Columbia (as a founding member) and Town Theater. In an interview from 1965 she described her fondness for Town Theater an organization for which she campaigned for funds while still in high school. Frequently referred to as “the backbone of the theater,” Bostick served on the Board of the Town Theater from the 1930s to 1968.
Bostick’s life came to an abrupt end in July 18, 1968, when she died in a fatal car accident. Her vast memorialization illustrates the impact of her contributions and accomplishments. Following her death, The State called her a “Woman of Achievement,” and proclaimed that Bostick’s “highly successful library mission” and “sponsorship of the arts will leave a permanent mark.”
"Her zeal and leadership in the cultural life of our community has passed from us; but her good works continue as a memorial to her bountiful years, devoted to creating a more meaningful life for others."
— The Columbia Record, July 19, 1968
Bostick is memorialized by institutions and organization for which she had a profound impact both as an organization and a philanthropist. In the year following her death, Hammond Academy, a private school in Columbia for which she was a founder and benefactor, renamed its main building for Bostick in recognition of her generous donations to the school, including twenty acres of land. The South Carolina State Library’s boardroom was dedicated in recognition of her service as Secretary for the State Library Board. In September 1969, Richland County Public Library held a memorial service unveiling a portrait and plaque of Bostick to hang prominently in the library. Additionally, the Lucy Hampton Bostick Award, established in 1978, is given annually by the Richland Library Friends and Foundation as recognition of someone in the Midlands who has written a significant literary work on South Carolina or who has significantly advanced interest in books and libraries. In the twenty-first century, the Lucy Hampton Bostick Foundation keeps her legacy alive by continuing to support the arts, public history, and educational opportunities throughout Columbia and South Carolina.
Although built in 1991, more than two decades after Lucy Hampton Bostick’s death, Richland Library’s 242,000-square-foot main branch still embodies many of the ideas that Bostick pioneered, including increased access to information regardless of your physical location. The nationally-ranked library was awarded the 2017 National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its community outreach.