Henry Steel Olcott founded the "library Olcott" in December 1886. Olcott's small private collection of approx. 200 books in 24 languages was the core of library. During his travels in Asia, Olcott acquired more and often rare books for the library. After Olcott's death in 1907, the library was continued by other theosophists. Today, the library has approx. 250,000 books and 20,000 palm leaves. The library is today among the most important orientalist libraries in the world.
The library was at first situated inside the headquarters of the Theosophical Society. In 1966 it was moved to a separate building, the Adyar Library Building. It also has a public museum that shows old books and manuscripts. The Adyar library is also used by post-graduate students in Sanskrit and Indology of the University of Madras.