Nassau Public Library is uniquely housed in one of the oldest, and only octagonal historic building in The Bahamas. The edifice was originally completed between 1798 – 1800, as the first ‘gaol’ and correctional work house by Mr. Joseph Eve, a loyalist. Conveniently located near downtown Nassau at Bank Lane and Shirley Street, (Parliament Square), this towering frame stands four stories high with all the original ‘native stones’. It comprises a basement being the ‘dungeon’, the two middle floors being – the main library – museum – reading rooms, and the upper floor also known as ‘the Board Room.’ The outer section of this room is surrounded by a picturesque ‘Veranda’ that has a breath taking view of the city of Nassau.
In 1873 when a new prison was built, the building in downtown Nassau which once housed prisoners was converted and became home to the Nassau Public Library. The original cells that once housed prisoners, are today peaceful, well lit and well ventilated alcoves lined with modern bookshelves and their contents.
The Nassau Public Library today remains a historical and reference library housing Bahamian history from Colonial times to the present. The lower floor contains the Children’s Department and adult fiction and paperback novels along with computers for public use. The upper floor contains non-fiction and reference books. There is also a display of Bahamian artifacts and books. The level above the second floor that was once thought to be the General’s Office now functions as an attic where old artifacts are kept. On the outside is the balcony where a picturesque scene of the surrounding neighborhood can be viewed.
Since its conversion in 1873 from a hectic prison environment to that of a tranquil place of study, the library has seen an extensive increase in a variety of services, numerous technological advancements, vast expansion in study material, and many added special features all fully accessible to the general public.
Over the years, the library has operated under the Nassau Library rules 1961. It is governed by an annually appointed Board of Trustees, four (4) of whom are nominated by the Governor General and three (3) others are elected by the subscribers. However, in March 2009 the rules were amended and updated by the Bahamas Parliament in a new National Library and Information Services Authority Act.
Today, The Nassau Public Library, headed by Mrs. Winifred Murphy, along with a friendly helpful staff is very important to the island of New Providence. It functions as a Bahamian and International resource centre to many primary and high school and tertiary level students, and caters to more than 5,000 subscribers, who are attracted to its diverse collection of novels and other reading materials.