The history of the National Library

Our history

The following timeline shows significant events in the formation and growth of the National Library.

Mā mua ka kite a muri; Mā muri ka ora a mua | Those who lead give sight to those who follow; Those who follow give life to those who lead.

2011 The National Library is integrated into the Department of Internal Affairs, alongside Archives New Zealand.

2003 The National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa) Act is passed. More about the National Library Act

2001 The publication of Te Kaupapa Mahi Tahi – A Plan for Partnership affirms the
Library’s commitment to Māori clients.

1992 Ian Grant establishes the New Zealand Cartoon Archive in the Turnbull Library.

1991 The Oral History Centre is created within the Alexander Turnbull Library when the New Zealand Oral History Archive (which had been housed in the Turnbull Library as an independent organisation since 1987) is disestablished.

1990 The National Film Library becomes part of the National Library.

1988 The National Library becomes an autonomous government department, no longer
administered by the Department of Education. The Library takes on the name Te
Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa – the wellspring of knowledge.

1987 Library staff and collections are moved from 14 sites around Wellington to the new
National Library building on Molesworth Street. The building is officially
opened in August.

1985 The General Assembly Library separates from the National Library. It is now known as the Parliamentary Library.

1974 The Archive of New Zealand Music is established at the suggestion of Douglas Lilburn.

1974 Construction begins on the new National Library building, but is suspended between 1976 and 1981.

1965 The National Library Act (1965) brings together the General Assembly Library, the
Alexander Turnbull Library and the National Library Service to form the
National Library of New Zealand.

1945 The Country Library Service and the School Library Service are amalgamated to form the National Library Service.

1942 The School Library Service is established.

1938 The Country Library Service is formed, the first step towards creating a national

1934 The Munn-Barr report recommends a national library service.

1920 The Alexander Turnbull Library, based on the collections bequeathed to the Crown by Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull in 1918, is opened to the public.

1858 General Assembly Library is formed to serve Members of Parliament.