National Public Library's History

A Brief History of Library Services in St.Vincent and the Grenadines

The beginning of library services in St. Vincent and the Grenadines dates back to the latter part of the 1800s.  Since that time the provision of library service has continued to develop and the library network has established itself as an integral part of the community.

The Public Library, which was housed in a building in the Market Square, was opened in March 1893 but was initially used as a free Reading Room. From April 1st however, persons were required to pay a quarterly subscription of one shilling and six pence to use the library.

The first Librarian was Benjamin Scott Wilson, who served in that capacity until 1901.

In 1906, the Chairman of the Kingstown Town Board, the body responsible for the library at that time, submitted a request to Andrew Carnegie, a philanthropist, for assistance in establishing a permanent library building.  This request was granted in the sum of two thousand pounds.

Construction began on September 9th, 1907 when the foundation stone was laid and on February 1st, 1909 the Carnegie Free Public Library was officially opened.

In 1908, during the construction of the building, an ordinance to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a Free Public Library in the town of Kingstown was moved in the Legislative Council.  In spite of this ordinance, when the library was opened, a subscription was still charged.  Library service was not free until 1950 when the administration of the library was taken over by the Central Government.

The upper floor of the building was used as a lecture room and concert hall for cultural activities while the library was located on the ground floor. When a reference service was introduced, the upper floor was converted to a Reference Library and an Adult Lending Library.  Children’s Library Service was not introduced until the 1950s.

Due to the deterioration of the building, the library had to be relocated, in 1989, to Lower Middle Street.

In a quest to develop a national information system, the Department of Libraries, Archives and Documentation Services was established.  This initiative began to take shape when the National Documentation Centre was established in 1982 followed by the National Archives in 1990.   

Today, the library has a new permanent home, officially opened in December 2010, and located at Richmond Hill.  It is now called the National Public Library. Services and programmes continue to be improved, developed and implemented in order to serve the needs of the public.

The National Archives and Documentation Centre are located in a building next to the National Public Library.