State Library of Tasmania

Laying the foundation stone of the new Public Library, 1904 (ALMFA, SLT)

The 'Tasmanian Public Library' opened in 1849 in a house on the corner of Barrack and Davey Streets, Hobart, funded by a government grant for books and the yearly subscription of members. It was legally established by an Act of Parliament in 1850; became freely accessible to the public in 1860; but closed, heavily in debt, in 1867. In 1870 a newly constituted free public reference library opened in the Hobart Town Hall. Funding from the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie enabled a move to new premises in 1907 and required the establishment of a free lending service.

The Libraries Act (1943) established the State Library of Tasmania, administered by the Tasmanian Library Board (which in 1949 also took control of the State Archives). It had many branches round the state, taking over some private libraries such as the Bellerive Institute's, which in 1945 became the Bellerive Public Library. The Library eventually had branches in most towns around the state, though some were closed in rationalisations. In 2004 the Library has fifty service points.

In 1962 the Library's headquarters moved to newly built premises at 91 Murray Street, to which a further building was added in 1972. Responsibility for local library services moved from municipal to state government in the 1970s. The Libraries Act (1984) created a State Library Service and established the Tasmanian Library Advisory Board.

The State Library now encompasses the full range of library services –reference, lending and heritage. The Heritage Collections have been enriched by several gifts and bequests, of which the most significant are the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts (bequeathed to the people of Tasmania) and the WL Crowther Library.

Further reading: J Levett, The origins of the State Library of Tasmania, Hobart, 1988; 'Libraries', Tasmanian Year Book 2000.

Tony Marshall