Friday, October 31, 2008

The Charleston Library Society

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I took this picture for no particular reason, except that it's a library, last July. Today I looked it up and it has a fascinating history:

The Charleston Library Society is the South's oldest cultural institution and the third oldest library in the United States. For more than 250 years it has collected, preserved, and made available cultural materials for the use of its members and researchers from around the world. Today, it is a circulating library and a repository of rare books, periodicals, manuscripts, clippings, maps, directories, almanacs, and visual materials.

Established in 1748 by seventeen young gentlemen of various trades and professions wishing to avail themselves of the latest publications from Great Britain, the Charleston Library Society paved the way for the founding of the College of Charleston in 1770 and provided the core collection of natural history artifacts for the founding of the Charleston Museum – America’s first – in 1773.

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During the war years of 1861 - 1865, part of the Library's archives was sent to the state capitol for safekeeping. The reunion of the collections at the end of the war also marked the merging of the Apprentice's Library with the Charleston Library Society, resulting in the long-standing practice of providing each adult member a free membership to gift to a minor twenty-one years of age or under.

The Charleston Library Society's building at 164 King Street is fronted by two of the city's largest ginkgo trees. This species represents memory and long life, and for many years the ginkgo leaf has served as the symbol of the Charleston Library Society.

I love libraries, particularly old ones!


jzdro said...


Is the library still a private institution? the property of the Society?

Julie Z.

miriam said...

All I know is what I learned on their web site. I didn't even enter the library. But I think it is still a private library.

CGHill said...

You have to be a member to use their facilities; membership, which was about $10 a year when I lived there, is now $50.

There is a public library which I remember as being on Marion Square downtown; it's since moved about three blocks east.

miriam said...

There is definitely a county library system which incluldes Charlston--I have a friend who works there.