The Gibraltar Garrison Library was founded in 1793 by Captain (afterwards Colonel) Drinkwater, the historian of the Great Siege of Gibraltar, 1779-1783. Drinkwater had, during the Siege, ‘lamented the want of a public library in Gibraltar’, especially under siege conditions when little by way of newspapers and reading material reached Gibraltar.
Work on the current building commenced in 1800 under the auspices of General Charles O’Hara, Governor of Gibraltar. These were completed in 1804 under the governorship of the Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria’s father. The Librarian at that time was Captain Fyers (afterwards Major-General) of the Royal Engineers, but his role in the Library’s evolution went much further in that he was the architect and the driving force behind the Garrison Library building as we see it today.
The Library flourished as a meeting place for the officers of the Garrison. This early history gives us a clear indication of purpose of the library as a place for training and recreation. As an outpost (albeit a European one) of Empire, Gibraltar served as a first posting for many young officers who would, during their stay, continue in their military training before being sent further afield.
The Gibraltar Garrison Library remained as a military library up until September 2011, at which point the Library was handed-over to the Government of Gibraltar. This historic move has ensured the continuity of the Library and the preservation of its collections. The Library is open daily and functions as a reference library and a research centre, providing open access to the collections and archives that form part of the catalogue.