A library whose members pay annual dues or a subscription fee which entitles them to use library materials and services. Ownership is by the members acting as a single person, in the manner of a corporation, not individually in shares. Compare with proprietary library.
Subscription libraries were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in several countries around the world. Books were costly and many did not have access to them. These libraries made books more affordable. As modern day public libraries emerged, the number of subscription libraries declined.