History of Beaufort's Books Sandwiched In

The History of Books Sandwiched In

Marilyn Harcharik


In the winter of 1985, the downtown Beaufort library held a weekly brown bag event called Dickens, You Say to attract folks during their lunch hour to hear about books.  Two years later, the Friends of the Library formalized it as Books Sandwiched In (BSI) held at the Methodist church with four weekly presentations.  That was expanded the next year to 8 weeks because of the popularity of the program.  Presenters were asked to talk about a book they loved which informed their thinking on a particular topic.  Some novels were reviewed but mostly non-fiction “think” books.


The format has stayed the same over all these years – people come early to have coffee and cookies while chatting with friends and making new acquaintances.  Then precisely at Noon, the show begins and includes a welcome from the Friends of the Library, an introduction of the speaker and then their presentation.  There is time at the end for questions and answers, but the show is over at 1pm.  You don’t have to read the book before you come.  Many attendees decide whether to read the book based on what they hear at BSI. 


In the early years, the selection committee tried not to repeat presenters, but that rule was set aside in 2011 when Beaufort celebrated its 300th anniversary and key public figures were slated – most of whom had presented books already like Scott Graber and Billy Keyserling.   


A particularly memorable presentation was in 2016 when Ned Tupper was set to review Natchez Burning, a book about race relations in the South in the 60’s, but decided the week before that a panel talking about the first year Beaufort High School was integrated would be a great way to demonstrate the idea as it unfolded in our own town.  Panel members included Herman Gaither (then Beaufort High School principal), Billy Keyserling and Roland Gardner (then in high school), and Rowland Washington (the first black attendee).  


And then there was the time the entire audience had to exit USCB because of a fire!  Tom Downs, the presenter that day, a retired doctor talking about The House of God, calmly led us outside.  After 20 minutes, we all left. Tom returned the following year to finish his presentation which was great.


Another all-time favorite was Dan Durbin, then principal of Beaufort High School, who reviewed The Closing of the American Mind, a book about education.  He opened with the ideas from the book on how to improve education and what the key issues were.   Then he said “I don’t agree with any of that” and proceeded to talk about what was happening with students here.  It was a fabulous insight.


Not only does BSI engage the community, but the program supports library activities in the North of the Broad branches – downtown Beaufort, St Helena, and Lobeco.  And for me, I can easily say my best friends have come from meeting like-minded book lovers at Books Sandwiched In.