The largest public library system in Arkansas, the Central Arkansas Library System serves all residents of Pulaski County and Perry County, including Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Maumelle, Perryville, Sherwood, and Wrightsville.
The Main Library in downtown Little Rock is the main branch of the system. The Main Library campus also includes the Arkansas Studies Institute Building, which includes the offices of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, and the UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture. CALS Ron Robinson Theater, Cox Creative Center, and River Market Books & Gifts are also located on the Main Library campus.
The first Little Rock Public Library was one of four Carnegie Libraries in Arkansas. The Carnegie Corporation of New York made a grant of $50,000 in 1906, but increased the grant to $88,100 in 1907. The library was opened on February 1, 1910, at West 7th Street and South Louisiana Street in downtown Little Rock.
The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) was born of a 1975 merger agreement between the trustees of the Little Rock Public Library and of the Pulaski-Perry Regional Library; the trustees of the North Little Rock Public Library, now known as the William F. Laman Public Library, chose not to join CALS.
Today, the Central Arkansas Library System, with its headquarters at the Main Library, serves a local population of 402,853. Nine of CALS' fourteen branches are located in Little Rock, with additional branches located in Jacksonville, Maumelle, Perryville, Sherwood, and Wrightsville. Through the Gateway Project, residents of Arkansas, Bradley, Chicot, Clark, Cleburne, Cleveland, Conway, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Lonoke, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry, Pike, Polk, Pope, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline, Van Buren, and White counties may also access the 1.5 million items in CALS' collection at no additional cost. In 2015, the Central Arkansas Library System welcomed over 2 million visitors, while cardholders checked out over 2.7 million items.