Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Reading Room, 1956

The origins of the National Library of Australia go back to the early years after Australian Federation in 1901, when the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library served both Federal Parliament and the nation. In 1927 the Library was moved from Melbourne to Canberra with the relocation of Parliament.

An Act of Parliament in 1960 formally separated the National Library from the Parliamentary Library and a new building for the National Library’s growing collections and services was opened on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra in August 1968.

In 2001 the Library celebrated its centenary by publishing Our Nation's Album, a website portraying the Library's first one hundred years in text and pictures, and the book Remarkable Occurrences: The National Library of Australia's First 100 Years 1901-2001 .

A history of the collections prepared in 1981 by C. A. Burmester outlines the development of the Library's collections from its foundation to 1980.

Former directors-general

  • 1901 - Arthur Wadsworth, Interim Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian
  • 1927 - Kenneth Binns, CBE, Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian
  • 1947 - Sir Harold White, CBE, National Librarian
  • 1970 - Allan Fleming, OBE, National Librarian
  • 1974 - George Chandler, Director-General
  • 1980 - Harrison Bryan, AO, Director-General
  • 1985 - Warren Horton, AM, Director-General 
  • 1999 - Jan Fullerton, AO, Director-General
  • 2011 - Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, AM, Director-General