The Timrod Library: Stepping Back in Time (Summerville, SC)

By The Retired Mensch

The Mensch stepped back in time when he visited the Timrod Library in Summerville. The Timrod Library is in a colonial-style brick building with a porch and double doors set on high ground on Central Avenue. It is a steep walk from the street to the steps up to the porch. In Brooklyn we called those steps a stoop.

The Timrod is like no modern library. Most libraries are free. Dorchester, Charleston and Berkeley Counties all have free public libraries. The Timrod is unique in that it is a subscription library, meaning there is a fee to be a member and borrow books. The fee is not exorbitant, $15 for a family.

The Mensch paid a family subscription fee and in a few days the mailman delivered a typewritten letter thanking me for the subscription along with two library cards without barcodes or magnetic stripes.

When I checked out a book, the librarian asked for my library card, I forgot it. “No problem, just print your name here on the book card.”
For younger readers, the cabinet in the picture with all the drawers is a card catalog. Every book in the library is inventoried by the Dewey Decimal System, by author, by title and by subject. You need to know your alphabet to thumb through the cards to find a book of interest. There is no Google look-up here.

The Timrod has an interesting history. Originally there was a Ladies Reading Circle in Summerville in the 1890’s. That morphed from a Chautauqua group to chartered library in 1907. Timrod refers to Henry Timrod, the so-called poet laureate of the Confederacy, who was a school teacher in Summerville.

It is a quaint place to visit if you are looking for something different for your literary tastebuds. The Timrod is deceiving in that there is an extensive collection of modern fiction along with a plethora of South Carolina history and geography along with artifacts.


Although there are rocking chairs right inside the front door on the left, the more inviting reading space is over on the right where there are two lovely armchairs with their backs to the window. This is the path to the children’s reading room and historical collection, so be prepared for some foot traffic. Of course, if you are caught up in a good book, you’ll hardly notice.

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