Northern Territory Library history

This page has a brief history of the Northern Territory Library. 


The State Reference Library was opened on 10 November 1980 on the first floor of a government building in Cavenagh Street. 

Ron Davis was the first Director of the Northern Territory Library Service and the initial collection consisted of 15,000 volumes.


The library grew rapidly during the 1980s and in 1982, two public-access computer terminals were installed in the library.


In 1985, responsibility for the library moved from the Department of Community Development to the Department of Education. 

Centralised services such as a shared catalogue and a circulating collection were established.


By 1986 the library had extended its premises over all three floors of the Cavenagh Street building. 

The extended facility was officially opened by Northern Territory (NT) Chief Minister Steve Hatton in July of that year. 

The first Eric Johnston lecture was delivered in November 1986. The lecture series was named after the Territory’s Administrator who also delivered the first lecture. 

The lecture topic is open, but can cover any subject providing the central theme relates to the NT.


The State Reference Library became the State Library of the Northern Territory in 1991. 

This change was in line with the other states of Australia dropping the 'reference' from their names.


Collecting work expanded to include community content. 

In 1993, the Territory Images database contained around 50,000 photographs.


1995 The State and Parliamentary Libraries were combined and the service relocated to the new Parliament House State Square complex in January 1995. 

The Northern Territory Library was officially opened by Minister for Local Government, Steve Hatton.


After a restructure in 1997, the joint-use service from Parliament House was renamed Northern Territory Library.


A new library management system, Virtua, was introduced on 4 July 2000. 

Free internet access was provided at the library.


The Northern Territory Library assumed the administration of the Northern Territory Literary Awards from the Northern Territory University.


The Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT) was passed in Northern Territory Parliament, which needs a copy of all NT publications to be deposited at the Northern Territory Library.


Northern Territory Library’s Public Libraries and Knowledge Centres Program won the Chief Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management.


Northern Territory Library became the first Australian organisation to win the US$1 million ‘Access to Learning Award’ from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative.


Early images of the 1869 Goyder survey expedition were acquired by the Northern Territory Library.


Thirtieth anniversary celebrations included the curation of a new exhibition from the library’s collection, Thirty Treasures.


The national significance of the Northern Territory Library’s unique item, the Burstow Diary, was recognised on 14 May 2013, when it was officially accepted into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Australian Memory of the World registry.

Last updated: 28 November 2017