The Central Library was initially a part of the personal library of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III and located at the Laxmi Vilas Palace. It was later shifted to its present location near Mandvi, the then Sarkar Wada, for public use.
In 1910, Sayajirao Gaekwad appointed William Alanson Borden – the Librarian of the Young Man’s Institute of New Haven in United States and lecturer at the Columbia University – as the Director of State Libraries. Borden converted this palace library with a collection of around 20 thousand volumes, into the Central Library for the whole state.
The library was the first mobile library unit and training centre for professionals in India.
A representative collection of newspapers and periodicals of the world was put on display in the library in 1915. In 1916, the library held a Shakespeare exhibition to commemorate the tercentenary of the poet.
The library’s stack area is a three-tier arrangement, with each stack being 85 feet long and 34.5 feet wide. Each level is separated from the other with flooring of 9-mm thick glass imported from Belgium. Adjustable steel shelves with a four-tier arrangement that can store about 3 lakh volumes occupy each level. Three fumigation chambers in the library help to keep books free of insects.
The library houses around 2,55,333 books and has around 29,620 books in its Copyright section. The library has a student’s reading room, separate library for children’s books and a reference section. The lifetime membership fee to avail other benefits of the library is Rs. 40 with an annual renewal fee of Rs. 2.