Last week, a tragedy occurred in a Charleston church that resulted in nine local residents losing their lives. While the community, now the subject of national and international press alike, has endured its share of suffering and mourning, a local library is taking time this week to recognize one of the victims that was near and dear to their operations.
Her name was Cynthia Hurd, and she was the manager of one of Charleston County Public Library’s busiest branches, but it hadn’t always been that way. Hurd worked her way up from the bottom, learning the library systems’ ins and outs over a 30 year period within which she taught, helped, and touched the lives of countless patrons and employees alike that walked through the library doors.
Hurd was well known within the local and larger library scene, especially after her 21 year tenure from 1990-2011 as manager of the John L. Dart Branch. From there, she was promoted to manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library; county officials have recently announced that this library will be renamed in her honor in the near future. In total, Hurd worked with Charleston libraries for 31 years, leaving behind a touching legacy.
Her library work wasn’t her only connection to Charleston, however. Hurd was a local, and grew up working in local shops like Swensen’s Grill and Ice Cream. Her local spirit never left her, and friends and coworkers have described her as an eternally helpful person who loved making things happen for other people. Specifically, her passion lay in ensuring education and literacy for the community the branches services. As it would seem, then, the library work she dedicated her life to was a perfect calling.
Hurd’s ambition to better the system and bring adequate education to more and more youth drove her to some enviable heights, as well. A few years back, she would travel as far as Washington and London and speak with the titans of industry and organization heads “as easily as to someone she just met on the street,” remembers Don Cameron, head of the Charleston Housing Authority board and a travelling companion of Hurd’s for many of her trips.
For the past six years, as well, Hurd served as the president of a nonprofit that helped to fund resident programs for those in public housing in the community. Aspiration and drive ran in the family too, apparently, as her brother was once one of North Carolina’s senators.
To lose such an inspirational woman and paragon of the community at any time is difficult, and recent events have only made that more so. In Hurd’s honor, the library system closed all 16 of its branches for a day last week and St. Andrews library will be renamed the Cynthia Hurd Regional Library. The branches that Hurd had worked at were also closed on Friday as well. Everyone interviewed offered endless praise for Hurd, highlighting her impact on so many in what was surely one of the greatest modern day tenures in a county library system.