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’. The library was 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. A library was essential for young officers in training, and this is reflected in the collections which cover a number of areas such as the military sciences, travel narratives, of Mediterranean countries and cultures and of histories of countries such as India and Africa. The Gibraltar Garrison Library remained as a military library until September 2011, at which point the Library was handed over to the Government of Gibraltar.
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 a few others in the city.