Librarian. Dacus (pronounced “Day-cus”) was born on September 9, 1875, in Williamston, Anderson County, the first of four children of John Arving Dacus and Sara Elizabeth Hogg. She attended Williamston Female Academy (later Lander College) before entering Winthrop Normal and Industrial College in Rock Hill in 1896, the year classes began at the college. At Winthrop, Dacus was one of three scholarship girls assigned to care for the school’s meager library, which consisted of two hundred books and a study hall. At the end of her junior year she was asked to take over the library full-time. She was appointed at a salary of $20 per month plus board.
In 1901 Dacus took a nationwide competitive exam and won a scholarship to Drexel Institute in Philadelphia to study library science. The following year she received her certificate along with fifteen others and became the first professionally trained librarian in South Carolina and one of the first in the entire South. Dacus returned as head librarian to Winthrop, where she worked until her retirement in 1945. When she began as head librarian, the holdings numbered 5,184 books and 5,000 volumes of government publications. The Carnegie Foundation in 1905 pledged $20,000 to build a college library but in January 1906 increased the sum to $30,000 plus 500 books if the new library would offer library methods and act as a training school. The new library opened the following June.
As librarian, Dacus had the task of approving “everything from basic design to window sashes” and also of carrying out the pledge of supporting library education. In 1907 she inaugurated two classes in library science, the first in reference (required of all freshmen) and a second in elementary library methods for schoolteachers. Her work was so respected that instructors of library methods from around the county began using her courses at their institutions. Library methods courses, a rarity in 1907, had become the norm by the late 1920s. As late as the 1960s Winthrop still offered an undergraduate library science degree.
Dacus was an active professional and regularly attended meetings of the S.C. Teachers’ Association, the National Education Association, and the American Library Association. “Miss Ida,” as she was known to Winthrop scholars, endeared herself to her students. She shared her love of flowers and growing things, and created “Miss Dacus Garden,” which was one of the loveliest spots on the campus.
Dacus retired in 1945 at age seventy. In her retirement she supervised operations of her Williamston home place, a three-hundred- acre cotton farm, and found time for extensive gardening, apron making, and quilt collecting. On May 30, 1959, she was presented with Winthrop College’s Mary Mildred Sullivan Medallion, its highest alumna award, for her “outstanding service to mankind.” Following a short illness, Dacus died on October 18, 1964, and was buried in the Williamston Cemetery. In 1969 Winthrop dedicated its new library to Dacus. The Dacus Library stands in front of the Winthrop Training School, testifying to the pioneering librarian who devoted her life to furthering education in South Carolina through libraries and library education.
Dacus, Ida Jane. Clippings File. Dacus Library, Winthrop University, Rock Hill.
Grier, Ralph E., ed. South Carolina and Her Builders. Columbia, S.C.: Carolina Biographical Association, 1930.
Obituary. Anderson Independent, October 19, 1964, p. 6.