The construction of what is now known as the South Caroliniana Library was part of President Robert Barnwell’s plan to update college facilities. When the building that housed both the original campus library and the science department was found to be in a state of disrepair, a committee on college repairs concluded that the only solution was to construct a new and distinct library facility. Upon this recommendation, the college’s board of trustees requested $15,000 from the state legislature to build a new “library hall.”
The construction of the library was contracted out to Charles Beck and James Boatwright at a price of $20,000, slightly larger than the requested amount from the state legislature. Evidence found in Robert Mills’s diary indicates that he participated in the architectural design competition; however, his design totaled around $64,000 and was scaled down significantly. The building, completed in May 1840, was the first college library in the United States operating in a separate building that was completely devoted to its functions. Although no information exists regarding the role of slaves in the construction of the South Caroliniana Library, it is likely that their labor was used to construct this building.