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. It took 10 years however before the first reading rooms were opened for the officers of the Garrison. These were based at premises opposite The Convent, the Governor’s residence, with an initial catalogue of around 460 volumes. Books continued to be purchased for the library and by 1799 is was decided that larger premises were needed to house the fast growing holdings of the library. 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 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. This new chapter has also brought the Library well and truly into the twenty-first century.
Recently Gibraltar’s International Literary Festival has selected the Garrison Library as its epicentre, where world class writers and speakers come together for a few days of public events within this historic building and some others in the city.