Skip to Content

Coronavirus: Get complete details about the university's response to COVID-19.

University Libraries

  • Long-billed Curlew print

Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is committed to preserving the materials in its collections and making them accessible to students, scholars and the wider community.

Search Library Collections

COVID-19 and the Hollings Library

The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is currently closed in accordance with the closure of all University of South Carolina campuses for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. For remote research assistance or to plan a future visit, please make a virtual research appointent or contact


Our holdings include approximately 275,000 items and over 50 archival collections, ranging from early medieval manuscripts and incunabula to historical scientific works and modern literature. You can explore our holdings by searching the library catalog or by using one of our finding aids. You can also browse a selected list of the department’s named collections, all accessible through the catalog and finding aids, but also made available through this keyword searchable list.

Access Our Collections



World-class Collections Shine New Light in the Classroom

Frankenstein is never a dull read, but when Dr. Jeanne Britton unrolls enormous 18th- and 19th-century maps for her English 419 class, Mary Shelley’s novel really springs to life.



Policies and Procedures

Researchers need to register in the Smith Reading Room on their first visit during the academic year. Be sure to bring a photo ID (academic identification, driver’s license, or passport). The registration form describes the special conditions under which Irvin Department materials may be used.

Researchers and other visitors should also be aware of the general policies of the Hollings Library, including the prohibition on food and drink. Only pencils, paper, laptops and cameras are generally allowed in the Smith Reading Room. Self-service lockers are available for securely storing coats, purses, bags and other personal items.

Researchers request items by completing individual call slips for each item, which will then be brought to the Smith Reading Room for supervised use. Descriptions of items are available in the libraries’ online catalog and through finding aids.

Some materials in the department’s care are housed offsite in remote storage and may need to be recalled one day in advance of use. These items generally appear in the library catalog as: “Columbia Annex: Ask at Rare Books & Special Collections, Thomas Cooper Library (Library Use Only).”

Researchers not connected with the university, or traveling from a distance, are asked to contact the department ahead of their visit to ensure that the needed items and relevant staff help is available when they arrive. Researchers can request materials from the Irvin Department stacks and/or Irvin Department materials from the Annex in advance of their visit by emailing

We encourage class visits to support teaching and learning at the University of South Carolina. Instructors are welcome to schedule visits to enhance their courses, and we are also glad to welcome class visits from colleges and universities from across the state and region. Class visits should be scheduled reasonably well in advance.

Each visit can be tailored to the needs of the class. Classes of less than 20 can explore the department and its materials in seminar format. Classes of up to 35 can generally be accommodated lecture-style. With more advanced notice, large lecture classes of up to 150 may be able to use our large meeting room for a class session. Additionally, we are willing to place materials from our collections on reserve in our reading room for part of a semester to support class use and assignments.

To schedule a class visit and/or plan an assignment that makes use of the Irvin Department’s materials, please contact Michael Weisenburg.

In addition to our work with university classes, faculty and students, the Irvin Department regularly welcomes visiting groups and conferences to our library and often speaks with community groups and organizations at their own meetings. If your organization or community group would like to visit our library for a tour of our current exhibition, to meet with our faculty and staff, and to explore our collections, please email

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.