History - The National Library of Jamaica

History of the National Library of Jamaica

The National Library of Jamaica was established in 1979 under the Institute of Jamaica Act of 1978. It originated from the collection of the West India Reference Library (WIRL) which was founded in 1894 as a section of the Public Library of the Institute of Jamaica. This public library was the first of its kind in Jamaica. It began operations in 1879 when the Institute of Jamaica was established for the encouragement of literature, science and art. The West India Reference Library began as a small collection of Jamaican and West Indian books, under the guidance of Frank Cundall, the Secretary/Librarian of the Institute from 1891 until his death in 1937. It developed into a comprehensive collection, rich in primary source materials covering all aspects of Caribbean life and society. WIRL formed the nucleus of the National Library.

The establishment of the National Library was influenced by proposals which date back to the 1960’s when the need for such an institution was identified by the Jamaica Library Association and other interested organizations. The establishment of a national library was one of the principal recommendations of the Plan for a National Documentation, Information and Library System for Jamaica, produced in 1977 by the National Council on Libraries, Archives and Documentation Services [NACOLADS]. NACOLADS itself had been established in 1973 to advise the government on the planning and coordinating of library and archive services in Jamaica. A National Library of Jamaica Act was drafted in the year 2003 but came into law on 31st December  2010. The Act is entitled The National Library of Jamaica Act, 2010. This law confirms the autonomy of the National Library; establishes the National Library as a corporate body and provides the legal framework to formalize the mandates and operations of the library.

The National Library of Jamaica Act 2010