Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Parades and Gifts

For those who were not able to partake, our second annual Christmas Parade Party was a great success, though the parade was significantly smaller than in past years. Entries included pirate re-enactors, Lowcountry Basset Hound Rescue, and the usual assortment of late-model convertibles with poorly-spelled posters alerting spectators that they were in the presence of the Junior King and Queen of various fraternal organizations. Of particular interest were the entries for the US Department of Homeland Security, Division of Customs and Border Patrol. One Customs van stopped in front of the Library Society, and a small boy asked the agent if he could ride in his truck. The officer smiled and responded that all of his trips are "one-way."

Since the holidays are upon us, we are all still looking for those last minute gift ideas. Though it is late, the Library Society is still taking orders for gift memberships. Give us a call at 843-723-9912, and we will make sure that your special someone receives the wonderful gift of one year of Charleston Library Society membership.

Thanks for a great year, and we hope to see you often in 2009!

Read a book (preferably something by Dickens)!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

With the approach of Thanksgiving, we have much to be grateful for at the Library Society. The first ten months of 2008 have been a time of growth for our organization. Our membership has increased, and more Charleston residents and visitors are learning about our mission and our wonderful collections. Recently, the Charleston Mercury featured an excellent article about the Library Society and its history.

In addition, we have sponsored a number of successful events this year, which have been both entertaining and educational. Two weeks ago we sponsored a sold-out lecture on rum, the triangle of trade, and Charleston, which was followed by a rum tasting. Everyone enjoyed the event, though there was little consensus on which rum was best. Judging from facial expressions (and coughs), the Barbancourt 15 yr. old was definitely not the winner (so much for Haiti's #1 industry).

With the good, however, comes the bad. This year has been a time of failing heating and cooling units at the Library Society. Last Monday the boiler in the main library ceased to function. You might recall that we replaced, at substantial cost, the air conditioning unit in that same building this past summer. The boiler should be fixed in the next few days, but until then, visitors will find the building to be much colder than normal.

We all have witnessed the stock market's slump, which has negatively affected our endowment. Last week we mailed our 2008 Annual Appeal Campaign letter to our members. The mailer was two months later than usual, since we decided to wait for a respite from the successive waves of financial bad news that have pounded us since September. We urge you to give generously to this campaign. Your gifts are more important to the Library Society now than perhaps at any other time in our history.

To kick off the holiday season, we hope that you will join us for our second annual Christmas Parade Party on Sunday, December 7. Bring the children and grandchildren, and watch the Charleston Christmas Parade from the best seats on King Street: the stairs of the Library Society. We will have some cushions, but we urge you to bring your own, since the Society's marble steps are hard, and the parade will last from 2-5 p.m. We will serve Christmas refreshments, hot cider, and lots of holiday cheer!

Read a book (and come wave to Santa at the parade)!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghosts, Used Books, and Rum

The staff of the Library Society are absolutely giddy with excitement about tonight's Halloween Party. Hopefully the city's subcontractors will put down their Mountain Dews and honey buns long enough to move their trucks to let visitors and patrons use our parking lot. For those who attend, we promise a frighteningly fun time! Society directory Eric Emerson will give a ghost tour of the building, and Mike Coker will give a ghost tour of downtown Charleston. For our junior members, Carol Jones will have games and crafts. The prize for the best costume is Mike Coker's newest book, Charleston Curiosities: Stories of the Tragic, Heroic, and Bizarre. With any luck, our resident ghost will make an appearance. We guarantee good food, drink, and scary company.

Speaking of scary, after this protracted election cycle, we all will need something to soothe our nerves and distract us for a few months until the next presidential election begins. With that in mind, why not stop by our annual fall book sale on November 8-9. The sale will take place on the first floor of the Barnwell Building from 9:30-5:00 on Saturday, and 1:30-5:00 on Sunday. Book dealers are welcome after noon on Saturday and not a minute earlier (unless, of course, we are desperate). On Sunday, all books are half price, or you can fill a box with books for only $10.

If you are a fan of steel drums and boat drinks, the Library Society's other November event will grab your attention. On November 13, Eric Emerson will give a lecture entitled "Rum, the Triangle of Trade, and Charleston," which will focus on the seventeenth and eighteenth-century rum trade and its impact on Charleston. Afterwards, participants will have an opportunity to enjoy Caribbean-inspired hors d'oeuvres and taste some of the world's finest rums. It will be the most fun that you can have north of Jost Van Dyke.

Read a book!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Earplugs, Anyone?

Like one of the circles of hell from Dante's Inferno, the past two weeks have been a time of endless jack hammering, drilling, sawing and construction noise outside the Library Society. Continuing road work has prevented staff members and visitors from using the Library Society's parking lot, and this morning, the staff was greeted with the pungent aroma of a natural gas line that construction workers pierced in front of the Ripley-Ravenel Building. The leak was contained within a couple of hours, and the work began anew. The good news is that workers have filled and paved the ditch in front of the Library Society's driveway, so visitors might have access to the parking lot by the time of the lecture and book signing on Thursday (fingers crossed).

Speaking of which, did I mention that we are hosting a lecture and book signing by local historian and archivist Michael D. Coker at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 23? Mike's newest book is entitled Charleston Curiosities: Stories of the Tragic, Heroic, and Bizarre (History Press). Mike is a great story teller, and he also has volunteered to lead ghost tours of Charleston as part of our Halloween Party.

Speaking of which, did I happen to mention that the Library Society will host its first Halloween Party at 7:00 p.m. on October 30? Party goers will enjoy refreshments, scary tales, and ghost tours, while children will enjoy games, stories, and Halloween goodies. Everyone is expected to dress in their scariest Halloween costume. I am personally thinking about dressing as Ben Bernanke or Vladimir Lenin (hmm).

Thanks to our members for filling out their surveys. We have learned much that we did not know, and confirmed much that we suspected. Thanks, also, to our members for their patience with King Street construction. Thankfully, it will cease for the holidays, and we will all enjoy a short break before it begins again in 2009.

Read a book (and come to our next lecture and Halloween Party)!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

They're Baaack!

City of Charleston construction crews once again have begun work on King Street in front of the Library Society. Trucks and backhoes will block our driveway for a few days, so please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that the work may cause. Needless to say, we will remain open during this newest round of "improvements", and we hope that you will not let the construction deter you from visiting.

We have an exciting programs schedule for the Fall, and our next event is a book signing on October 23 featuring local historian Michael Coker. His newest book, Charleston Curiosities: Stories of the Tragic, Heroic and Bizarre, is a series of essays regarding some of the more fascinating aspects of Charleston's past, including a chapter on the 1706 Spanish and French siege of Charleston, and another regarding Seminole warrior Osceola and the final disposition of his remains. As with all Library Society events, we will have refreshments for those who attend.

We have been inundated with member surveys, and we hope to get even more. If you have not mailed your survey, you can fill out an online version on our website and save the cost of postage. Member comments are vital to our strategic planning process, and all surveys are anonymous and confidential. Thanks for your support, and we hope to see you soon.

Read a Book!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Concerning the second most annoying "Hannah"...

The Library will be closed this Friday and Saturday as we all flee like cowards from a Tropical Storm/small Hurricane. If you decide to stick it out, stop by tomorrow and pick up some books. Just be aware that you can't run to the Library for new stuff this weekend; we will not be here.

I, for one, am looking forward to sailing my new boat down Coming Street. May you have a weekend every bit as safe and exciting.

P.S.- Check back Monday (ha ha, like you'll have power!) to see if we're closing for "Ike".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is That What I Think It Is?

Are you feeling particularly anti-social? Sick of the staff's smiling faces and witty banter? Ashamed that all of your books are a month overdue, including the latest about the "Snookums the Cat" Detective Agency? Or are you simply too tired to get out of your car? Well if so, have we got a solution for you! Introducing the Charleston Library Society's new book return! It is constructed of durable steel, powdered coated in white paint, marked "Book Return" in large black letters (for our less observant members), and located beside the driveway. Now you can drive into our parking lot, turn around, and drive up to the book return without getting out of your car! It is also appropriate for videos, DVDs, and cash or checks (we hope for lots of the latter). We are sure that it will be a big hit.

If you joined the Library Society during the past year, Thursday is the day of our annual New Member Reception. We will have many of the Library Society's treasures on display, and staff will give behind the scenes tours of our collections (plus we will have refreshments). We hope that you can join us, and if not, we hope to see you soon!

Read a book!

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Tropical Storm Party" just doesn't have the same ring to it...

Well, summer is winding down. Kids are going back to school, third-stringers are trudging through pre-season football games, politicians are politicking, anglophile Library Society members are checking out Last Night of the Proms (now available on DVD)... all the typical late summer stuff.

And this week, nature herself is doing her end of August thing: sending us a Tropical Storm! Tropical Storm Fay is making landfall in south Florida (where Bill Parcells will attempt to sign it as QB for the Dolphins) and should be a glorified rainstorm when it comes to Charleston: more of a "Barry" than a "Hugo". Still, a good hard rain causes Charleston to do her best Venice impersonation... better to come by the Library Society early this week to stock up on books in preparation for the storm.

ACTUAL LIBRARY NEWS: Our annual New Member Reception is still on for August 28th. If you've joined in the past year, come by for tours and canapes and rare stuff from the collections and refreshments... Attire is business casual- better than flip-flops but less than than top hat and tails, and we'll probably let you in (we would let you in in tails, but you'd make the rest of us feel shabby).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Would Someone Please Close the Oven?

Can it get any hotter? That, of course, is a rhetorical question. Yes it can get hotter, and it probably will in the near future. No matter how oppressive the heat (99 degrees yesterday), we are blessed to be located only minutes from a breezy river or beach. In Columbia, the temperature hit 102 yesterday, and relief for its residents is much farther away. The current conditions provide an excellent reason to visit the Library Society. While here, you can marvel at the awe-inspiring efficiency of our brand new air conditioning unit. It is whisper quiet, energy efficient, and very effective.

As the heat subsides we will begin our Fall programs schedule. First on the agenda is our annual New Member Reception on August 28. Members who joined the organization for the first time during the past year will have an opportunity to make new friends, meet the staff, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Library Society and its great collections. Did I mention that there will be refreshments?

Two days after the reception, Clemson University will begin its 2008 football season in Atlanta, where they will play Nick Saban's University of Alabama team. This game has absolutely nothing to do with the Library Society, but the start of college football season is highly anticipated by Library Society staff (and all true Americans).

We have good news for patrons! The backhoe and jackhammers have moved on, and we are left with only the noise of passing autos and pedestrians, thus providing you with one more reason to stop by and spend some time with us. We hope to see you soon.

Read a book (and drink plenty of water) !

W.G. Hinson

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Backhoe, a Jackhammer, and a Good Book

During the next couple of weeks, Library Society patrons will be greeted by the presence of a large backhoe in front of our main building. They also will be forced to endure a cacophony of jackhammering. City workers have begun the Library Society's portion of the King Street repair and beautification program. We hope that you will not be dissuaded from visiting by the machinery, noise, or orange cones. You will still be able to park behind the building, and the sidewalk is not blocked, so you may use the front or back entrance. We apologize for any inconvenience that the construction may cause.

July has been a fairly busy month for the staff. We have rearranged the Children's Room to create more flexible space, and we continue to relabel special collections materials. We also are inventorying our collection of videotapes and DVDs to remove duplicates, with the goal of generating extra shelf space in the Barnwell Building for additional DVDs.

If you are a military history buff, I urge you to stop by and check out Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-44. It is the second in a planned three-volume history of the U.S. Army in North Africa and Europe during World War II. The first volume, An Army at Dawn, earned a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for Atkinson, and The Day of Battle is every bit as good. Atkinson is a wonderful writer, and though his work is very detailed, it is compelling enough to hold the attention of most readers.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Read a book!
W.G. Hinson

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Carolina Day has come and gone, and once again it was a great success. The weather at the Battery was beautiful, cool (low 90's), and breezy, and the Library Society again fielded a large contingent of marchers. Amid a sea of seersucker, Library Society members cast disparaging glances rearward to those johnny-come-lately organizations founded in the late eighteenth century. Upon arrival at the Sergeant Jasper monument, we spread out under the beautiful live oaks, which to our chagrin, were filled with Yellow Night Herons that attempted a bombardment of their own. The service concluded with what seemed like an endless cannonade by a battery of Confederate reenactors. Adults winced, children cried, and dogs barked with each shot. This year the cannon was pointed at the Fort Sumter House instead of out over the harbor, and those in attendance were left with the impression that a company of Yankees had purchased a two bedroom, two bath condo, and the Winyah Light Artillery were trying to drive them back north of the Mason-Dixon. All in all, it was a remarkable day.

The Library Society was closed on July 4 and 5, but we opened again on July 7 for those patrons who are looking for a cool and quiet refuge from the heat. Summers are our quietest season, as members leave for cooler climates. If you are in town for a "staycation," stop by and take a look at the newest issues of Country Life. Yes, these issues have all that you've come to expect from our most popular periodical: horsey debutantes who are spending their gap year in Santorini; multi-million pound country estates; and commentary on the oh-so-troublesome and invasive American Grey Squirrel. Throw in a photographic spread from Lord Smith-Smythe-Smith's birthday party, and you have something for the whole family.

Seriously, we hope that you will stop by, if for no other reason than to say hello. Read a book!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Carolina Day is coming, the goose is getting fat...

Just a few more days 'till Carolina Day! Join us as we celebrate South Carolina history: our crude palmetto fort absorbing British shot; the heroism of Sergeant Jasper, leaping into the crossfire to raise high our flag; the Redcoated blockhead who thought wading troops across Breach Inlet (while under fire) would be a simple endeavour...

Join us Saturday in commemorating South Carolina's own independence day. The Library will march near the head of the parade (so feel free to act sniffy to friends near the tail). We'll see you underneath our green and gold banner at Washington Park between 10:30 and 11:00!

If you can't make it out Saturday (and don't use some excuse about heat or humidity- just remember What Would Colonel Moultrie Do?), stop by the Library and check out some movies that you can watch in air-conditioned comfort. We're in the middle of receiving and cataloguing a big batch, so look for new titles on the shelf soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Good News and Sundry Postings

The good news just keeps coming! The South Carolina State Historical Records Advisory Board (SC SHRAB) has awarded a $4,850 grant to the Library Society to process and re-house its manuscript collections. These grant funds will be used to purchase acid-free folders and boxes and to process our manuscript collections. Soon, scores of researchers will flock to the Library Society to immerse themselves in the treasure trove that is our archives. Heck, we might even hire ushers for crowd control (On second thought, maybe not).

Last Thursday best-selling author Cassandra King gave a fascinating presentation. With great charm, she described how she became a writer and how her personal experiences shaped her novels. She also signed copies of her books. If you stayed home to watch "Survivor: Micronesia", you really missed out. (Come to think of it, if that's the case, you probably need more than one night out a week).

Under the "More Good News" category, when you grow tired of looking at other people's amusing (and sometimes disturbing) Facebook pages, you can look at the Library Society's new page. Soon, you will be able to view images of Library Society events (or anything mildly entertaining that occurs at 164 King Street).

A number of our members only read non-fiction and aren't terribly interested in books that involve a cat that solves murder mysteries (not that there is anything wrong with that). Those members will be thrilled to listen to a first-rate historian on May 22. Clemson professor Rod Andrew will travel to Charleston to discuss and sign his newest book, Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer (UNC Press). Andrew's book is the best Hampton biography to date (my opinion is as good as any). Arrive a little early (before 7:00 p.m.), because this lecture will draw many members and visitors, who never grow tired of books about "The War."

If you are a fan of the Library Society's speakers' series (and have $15), you will love the Southern Literary Festival, which the Library Society is sponsoring as part of Piccolo Spoleto from May 29-31. This year's festival will feature six sessions of prominent Southern writers over the course of three days. Sue Monk Kidd, author of the New York Times bestseller The Secret Life of Bees, will headline this year's events. You can get tickets and information at or by calling Ticketmaster at 888-374-2656.

Read a Book!

W.G. Hinson

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spring Book Sale and other happenings

This is a busy weekend in Charleston, but of all the events, the Library Society's Annual Spring Book Sale is the most important (but of course I am biased). Do yourself a favor. Disregard the Bridge Run (too crowded, too long, and you can run the bridge anytime by using the handy pedestrian walkway). Ignore the Flowertown Festival (again, too crowded, and who can afford to drive to Summerville to see azaleas, when you can find them in any neighborhood in the lowcountry). Forget about the Cajun Festival (not as crowded, but no Dixie Beer). Instead of wasting time, energy, fossil fuels, eating crawfish and listening to Zydeco, come to the best little used book sale in the lowcountry. The doors of the historic Barnwell Building at 160 King Street open at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and don't close until 5:00 p.m. (book dealers can purchase books after noon). On Sunday the doors open at 1:30 p.m. for our famous "fill-a-box-with-books for $10.00 day." The sale ends at 5:00 p.m. This year's selection is the best that I have seen, so get here early.

We have great news for researchers. The CLS online catalog is up and running and can be accessed from our website. Researchers now can view records for our manuscripts, pamphlets, and rare books prior to visiting.

On the good news/bad news front, our new HVAC unit is installed in the main library building and is working well, but the elevator in that building now needs to be replaced. We have started a fund-raising campaign to pay for the new elevator, and, as always, your gifts are both needed and appreciated.

Read a book (and buy one this weekend)!

W.G. Hinson

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Welcome to Shh!

This is the Charleston Library Society's inaugural blog, and we would like to welcome those members and interested parties, who, after this initial posting, will be thrilled that our organization is rapidly distancing itself from the nineteenth century. For the rest of our members, we apologize deeply for the introduction of technology into the life of the Library Society. We hope (fingers crossed) that the experience will not be too traumatic. If it is, this blog is actually the work of hackers intent on slandering the reputation of the South's oldest cultural institution.

Big events (other than this blog) are at hand! On April 5-6, 2008 the Library Society will hold its Annual Spring Book Sale. The doors of the Barnwell Building will open at 9:30 a.m., and book dealers are welcome after noon on Saturday. On Sunday, April 6, the doors will open at 1:30 p.m. for "Fill a Box with Books for $10 Day." All items will be half price, or customers can pay $10 for the books that they can fit into one of our boxes.

The Library Society recently received a significant grant ($25,000) from the Post and Courier Foundation. With contributions to the Annual Appeal Campaign, this grant will help the Library Society pay for a new HVAC system for the main Library building. The Library Society will be closed from April 17-April 22 to complete the installation of the new unit, and we hope to be up and running again by April 24 (again, fingers crossed).

I appreciate your tolerance of my ramblings, and I hope that you will join us again in the future.

Read a book!

W.G. Hinson