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.  Now approaching its 275th year, 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 like that of 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

In celebration of our 275th year, we invite visitors, guests, and passers-by to stop in and experience the South’s oldest cultural institution first-hand during CLS Open House Week. A special Anniversary Exhibit will be on display for the occasion, plus nibbles and bites to share on offer. And, on Wednesday, we’ll host an exclusive morning program documenting one historian’s journey to rescue a troop of Revolutionary heroes from obscurity by sharing the story of their unique lives and accomplishments.

Open House hours run from 11:00am–4:00pm daily, from March 27 until March 31.

This event is free and open to the public.

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 this link to our LibGuide which compiles information for locals seeking to learn more about their heritage.