The South Caroliniana Library is only one of the Special Collections of the University Libraries at the University of South Carolina. The current building of the South Caroliniana Library served as the main library of the University of South Carolina until 1940. Robert Mills, a native of South Carolina, designed the building in 1838, modeling the reading room after Bulfinch's plans for the original Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.). Completed in 1840, this structure marked the first use of a free-standing academic library building in the United States.
Although the Library housed a collection of Caroliniana from its earliest days, it was not until 1906 that the University of South Carolina recognized the need for "a special committee to perfect...the South Caroliniana" holdings of the Library. Then in 1931 University President Davison M. Douglas formally established a "Caroliniana Committee" in an effort to halt the exodus of the state's historical resources to out-of-state repositories. The work of that committee was eventually superceded and expanded in 1937 with the creation of the University South Caroliniana Society, the organization for the friends of the library. In 1940, the University library moved to a new building, McKissick Memorial Library, now McKissick Museum. The University designated the former book repository as the South Caroliniana Library, a new institution charged with the task of documenting the history and literature of the Palmetto State. Today, the Society continues to assist the Library in its mission to acquire, preserve, and disseminate published and unpublished South Carolina-related material. Publications of the Society include the annual program and a biannual newsletter.
Researchers from around the world visit the Caroliniana to study the books, newspapers, manuscripts, pamphlets, serials, maps, audio recordings, and visual images preserved therein. Four major research divisions of the library include: Books, Manuscripts, Modern Political Collections, and University Archives.