Welcome to the South’s oldest cultural institution.

S I N C E   I T S   F O U N D I N G   I N   1 7 4 8  the Library Society has continued to strengthen the intellectual and cultural fabric of the Lowcountry as a private lending library and comfortable gathering spot for reading, exploration of treasured collections, scholarly research and lively programs on literature, history, world affairs, and music. After 275 years, the Charleston Library Society remains the oldest cultural institution in the South and second-oldest circulating library in the country.  

A few valuable discoveries in the Library Society’s collections include a manuscript copy of The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina in John Locke’s hand; letters by George Washington, John Marshall, and Alexander Hamilton; a renowned collection of early American and colonial newspapers; rare maps and nautical charts; and surprising manuscript treasures such as DuBose Heyward’s Porgy.

Upcoming events

From The Archives

We are perpetually uncovering and reconstructing the history of the Library Society.  Manuscript 29, our rich archive of institutional records, is home to incredible assets that allow us to review our earliest correspondence, acquisitions, and catalogs. Using Ms. 29 we are able to continuously deepen our understanding of our the Library Society’s history and holdings, and all that our collections have been through over the years.  Learn more and discover the wealth of information available in these records by consulting our Ms. 29 LibGuide linked above.

The Charleston Library Society is a treasure – a National treasure! For me it was love at first sight.

– David McCullough

Introducing the 2023 Conservation Wish List

Our Conservation Wish List is a regularly updated inventory of items from our Special Collections which have been identified as irreplaceable or rare, essential, and in need of conservation at any given time. With such vast collections, our list covers a wide range of topics–from natural history to American history, world exploration to the cultural influences here in Charleston. By nature, these items represent core areas of our collection that reveal our past and help us interpret our world today. Join many other contributors in this special effort to leave a lasting impression on our Special Collections, in perpetuity, with your name and generosity forever attached to the survival of these incredible works.

In celebration of our 275th year, we invited visitors, guests, and passers-by to stop in and experience the South’s oldest cultural institution first-hand during CLS Open House Week in March, 2023. A special Anniversary Exhibit created for this occasion will remain on display in the Main Reading Room.

The Charleston Library Society offers an intimate venue for small receptions and ceremonies, private entertaining, or corporate functions. Learn more about reserving the Library and the various space options available.

Through the generous funding of The Garvey Family Trust Fund and in partnership with the College of Charleston’s Public History Master’s program, extensive resources were uncovered in our collections relevant to Native American history in South Carolina. Explore our LibGuide, which compiles information for locals seeking to learn more about their heritage.