For thousands of years the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains have told their stories and kept their memories of this place alive in their oral tradition. Today, a greeting stone by Uncle Lewis O’Brien of the Kaurna people at the entrance to the State Library of South Australia welcomes visitors to a place that also keeps the memories of the state alive.
South Australia differed from other Australian colonies by planning a library for public use even before settlement. Just two weeks after the passing of the South Australia Act by the British Parliament on 14 August 1834, an enthusiastic group of prospective colonists led by Richard Hanson and Robert Gouger formed the South Australian Literary Association on 29 August. Its object was 'the cultivation and diffusion of useful knowledge throughout the colony'. The members donated a collection of useful books as the basis of the colony’s library, and two years later brought the books out on the Tam O'Shanter in an iron trunk, which also contained the constitution of the colony, arriving on 18 December 1836.
A reconstructed list of the South Australian Literary and Scientific Association is given below. About 40 of the books have survived as the Gouger Collection, and some are on display in the State Library as seen below.
360o panorama of the Circulating Library in the Institute Building at the State Library of SA.
Read more about the history of this room in our Library Guide.
360o panorama of the Mortlock Chamber at the State Library of SA.
Read more about the history of the Chamber in our Library Guide.
360o panorama of the Spence Library at the State Library of SA.
Read more about the history of this wing in our Library Guide.
The story of the State Library of South Australia and its three buildings is rich and complex, and this Library Guide can only touch the surface. The Library's history is summarised in an extensive chronology here.
The State Library of South Australia family tree
The State Library commemorates distinguished South Australians in its naming of the buildings, rooms and other areas of the redeveloped State Library. All names commemorated before the redevelopment began in 2001 continue to be used.
The building names were suggested by senior State Library staff from among a number of South Australians with connections to the State Library of South Australia. A consultation process followed with family or estates of the people selected. The formal approval process involved the Libraries Board of South Australia and in the case of the building names, the Geographical Names Board and the Minister for the Arts.
The names of sponsors are recognised on a Sponsors Board in the foyer. There are many benefactors to the Library who have donated money or collections who are not named here, and enquiries about these donors should be made at the Information Desk or Ask Us service. Further information is also available in the Benefactors and donated collections guide.