Skip Auld ’73 Drops Family Name With Ties to Confederate General
When Skip Auld came to Davidson in 1969, he wasn’t thinking about becoming a librarian. He wasn’t thinking about leading a Maryland PRIDE parade. And he certainly wasn’t thinking about changing his name.
He grew up as Hampton Marshall Auld. Everyone called him Skip. During first-year orientation, Professor of History Chalmers Davidson asked whether Hampton was a family name and if his ancestors were from South Carolina. He told Skip the name “Hampton” was likely for Wade Hampton, a Confederate general, politician and slaveholder for whom numerous towns, schools, streets and babies were named.
Auld didn’t think much more about that conversation until 50 years later, when he listened to the audiobook of Ron Chernow’s Grant and learned more about Hampton’s history.
“His campaign for governor of South Carolina in 1876 involved a terrorist campaign, really, to suppress the vote of black people,” Auld said. “I decided the day I learned about Wade Hampton from the Chernow book to change my name to Charles, which was my father’s middle name.”
Auld’s decision is congruent with the way he has conducted his personal and professional life—seek knowledge, educate others, act.
Through his career with public libraries—save a year-long stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran—Auld has provided people with access to technology, education and, yes, to books.
Following the Peace Corps, Auld worked for two years at the Duke University library. He then earned his master’s degree in library science at the University of North Carolina and embarked on his lifelong vocation.
Today, following roles in North Carolina and Virginia, Auld leads the 16 libraries and more than 400 staff in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County.
His board adopted the Urban Libraries Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity, which focuses on “eliminating racial and social equity barriers in library programs, services, policies and practices” and “creating and maintaining an environment of diversity, inclusion and respect.”
“I take very seriously our mission to be there for everyone,” he said. “We help bridge the digital divide. We help people with resumes and job applications. And we offer everything in a non-pressurized setting. Public libraries are where you can grow and be yourself.”
At their core, they are also still about books. Auld’s favorite is one he read for a South Asian Studies course at Davidson: An Autobiography: A Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi.
Auld’s commitment to equity, equality and access has ruffled some feathers along the way. Two years ago, with growing interest in adding more LGBTQ programming, the library system launched a Drag Queen Storytime program. Not everyone was supportive. Some felt the effort was outside the scope of what the library should provide. Others disagreed for personal or political reasons.
“If we aren’t listening to our communities and creating programs based on interest and demand, we are not doing our jobs,” said Auld. “Libraries are one of the great institutions of America. We have a responsibility, and it is worth it to have the difficult conversations in order to serve others.”
Auld recognizes that his life has been full of privilege. He is white. He grew up in a middle-class family. He does not live in fear. As he wrote in a recent blog post, “I have privilege, but I want justice.”
Despite some pushback, Auld’s work around equity and justice has garnered resounding support. This year, he served as the Grand Marshal for the 2020 Annapolis PRIDE Parade.
“People talk about gay pride, but these events are to me really about joy, happiness and exuberance,” he said. “I walked in the parade in 2019, and I danced the whole time.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone, in their hearts, can have any disagreement about people being who they are,” Auld said. “I hope we are in a transformative moment right now. It will take decades and maybe centuries to get to any level of equity as a society, but I hope and believe we are moving in the right direction.”