Employee spotlight: Ina Bootle

When Ina Bootle graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in English, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. A friend recommended she apply for a job at the public library, so she did. She got a job interview on the spot, landed the job, and she’s been working in libraries ever since.

That first job was at a branch library in North Charleston, and Bootle worked there for six years. She had plans to attend Emory University to earn a Master of Library Science degree and had already resigned from her job, but she changed her mind and decided to stay in Charleston. The only job available when she decided to return to the Charleston County Public Library system was on the bookmobile. She took the job and loved it.

“It’s really the best job in the library, because you’re out of the building, and you get to meet people,” she said. “During the summer months, when I would go to Wadmalaw Island, the ladies out there that had gardens would bring me fresh tomatoes and vegetables. It was a really good job.”

Bootle was eventually promoted to overseeing five small community branch libraries and later was moved into centralized collection development, where she selected materials in adult fiction and children’s literature for the entire library system, which was comprised of 16 locations, including the bookmobile. She held that position until she retired in 2007. But full-time retirement only lasted a couple of years.

In 2009, Bootle started working as the library specialist at the Clemson Design Center Library in Charleston. The branch library supports the students and faculty in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation and resilient urban design. (Click here to view a list of resources that Bootle has created to assist students at the Clemson Design Center.)

Bootle’s roots in the Charleston area go back generations, all the way to her great-great-grandfather, who came to the area from England in 1835, so she is well-suited to help students who are studying the buildings, landscape and history of the Lowcountry.

“I love working with the historic preservation students especially because I am helping them research plats and deeds,” she said. “I can spend all day look at plats and newspaper archives.”

Bootle enjoys researching genealogy and her family’s history, as well as the history of the Lowcountry. She is a part of a West Ashley historians group, who have helped local author Donna Jacobs conduct research for several of her books. The group has also spoken at libraries and to other community organizations about their research.

Because the Bootle family has such deep roots in the area — especially in Colleton County and the West Ashley area of Charleston — a lot of that history lives in Bootle’s own home, in the documents and photographs she has gathered from her family over the years.

Past generations of Bootles owned and operated a variety of businesses, including a sawmill, a barbecue restaurant and a guest house on S.C. Highway 17, which was open from the 1940s to 1977. Bootle’s research also uncovered that she has a distant family connection to James Lide Coker, the founder of Coker University in Hartsville. She said the research skills she has developed over her career in libraries have come in handy in her history research.

“I’ve learned a lot, not just about West Ashley history but about my family history, things I’ve never thought about before,” she said.