Orkney Library is the oldest public library in Scotland.
In 1683, William Baikie bequeathed his library of over 150 books to the "Publeck Liberarie of Kirkwall" which, as former head librarian David Tinch says in his publication The Orkney Library 1683 - 1983, suggests that a public library already existed in Kirkwall. However, we are satisfied to date our inception from this year.
The Rev. James Wallace, Minister of Kirkwall, kept the library at his home for a while before transferring the tomes to St Magnus Cathedral, which were moved again to the new Tolbooth in 1740.
This collection of mainly theological publications was added to in 1815 when several subscribers decided to establish 'The Orkney Library' which was officially to be for the use of subscribers only, but often lent books to those who were not, including visitors to Orkney.
In 1889, the man who makes an appearance in many library histories, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, made a large donation to Kirkwall library and the next year, the 1850 Public Libraries Act was adopted and Kirkwall now had a Free Library to be used by all.