St. Louis Public Library was established in 1865 as the Public School Library Society of St. Louis. In the beginning, it was a subscription Library available only to paying members. Then it opened to the public for reference and reading on the premises in 1874.
In 1901, Andrew Carnegie made a substantial gift to the St. Louis Public Library which allowed for the construction of Central Library and six neighborhood Branches, four of which still exist today (Barr, Cabanne, Carpenter and Carondelet) and are still in use. The original collection owned by the Library in 1865 included 1,500 books.
Today the system consists of Central Library and 16 neighborhood locations (Baden, Barr, Buder, Cabanne, Carpenter, Carondelet, Central Express, Charing Cross, Compton, Divoll, Julia Davis, Kingshighway, Machacek, Marketplace, Schlafly and Walnut Park) with more than four million items in its collection, 85,000 cardholders, more than 300 staff members and two million visitors annually.