The Original of the National Library of Myanmar is Bernard Free Library which was established by Sir Charles Edward Bernard, British Commissioner for Lower Myanmar. He founded his private library with the cooperation of Sir John Jardin, Chairman of Education Syndicate for Lower Myanmar, with his books at his own building (now BEHS No.1) on 21 February 1883 and opened to the public for freely use the library.
The collection of Bernard Free Library was increased by the publications in various subjects from west countries which were added by Sir John Jardine and Professor Childers from the Pali Department of Yangon University. U Po Hmyin and U Myo from Yangon also donated palm-leaf manuscripts and parabeik, and books in Mon, Myanmar and Pali languages for a value of 10000 kyats of that period. In addition, the library purchased palm-leaf manuscripts and parabeikcollections of Bagan MinisterU Tin and KinwonMingyi U Kaung which were moved from Mandalay Palace.
In 1920, the library purchased manuscripts and books from KinwunMingyiPitakataik with 15000kyats. In 1924, collection from Bagan Minister U Tin Pitakataik for 5000 kyats were added to the library.
After Independence, in 1952, the Ministry of Union Culture was established and the Bernard Free Library was transferred under the Ministry as government organization. On 1 June 1952, the Ministry of Union Culture opened the library as “State Library” under the name of State Library, Museum, Art Gallery and Theatre at the Jubilee Hall in Yangon. The State Library inherited the collections of Bernard Free Library which comprised printed publications of 1900 in Europe, oriental books, and manuscripts from Mandalay Palace of Yadanapon period.
Opening as the National Library
In June 1962, the State Library was moved to the second and third floors of the building in Pansodan Street. During the period of Revolutionary Council, in 1964, the library was changed the name as “National Library” and moved to the third floor of City Hall in August 1964. The National Library opened its general reading room and provided services to its public at the City Hall on 4 January 1965.
In August 1984, the National Library was moved to the Six Storeyed Building, Strand Road by sharing spaces with other governmental organizations and undertaking its library functions.
On 15 July 1995, foundation of the new building for the National Library was laid down at No.18/51, corner of East Racing Road and Laydaungkan Road, Tarmwe TSP.
On 2 May 2008, the library building was destroyed by the Cyclone Nargis. Some printed books collections and other non-printed collections were damaged by the cyclone but most of them were recovered as much as possible. As the damaged building was not able to be restored, the National was moved to No.85-A, ThiriminigalarYeiktha Lane, Kabar Aye Pagoda Road Yankin TSP, Yangon.
Since 2010, the National Library has been established as two National Libraries; (NLM/Naypyi Taw) and (NLM/Yangon). The Ministry of Culture allocated budget to the National Library to build a new building at Naypyi Taw, where the new Capital City of Myanmar. The new building was opened on May 3, 2013, which to be the main library of national level. In currently the National Libraries of Myanmar are under the Department of Historical Research and National Library, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture. There are two Directors of the National Libraries and Directors are responsible for the administration.
Characteristics of the National Library
Since the National Library is State level library that represents the State, it has following significant characteristics that differ from other libraries in the country:
National level library of the country
Library with biggest collection of local publications to be provided for Myanmar citizens
Institution of repository for national literary heritage, and center for researchers, as well as concerning agency between literature and the public
Institution of studying and doing research by any citize