Located on North Street in the Charing Cross district of central Glasgow, the Mitchell Library was built between 1906 and 1911. This grand Edwardian Baroque building brims with civic confidence, featuring a fine marble and stone staircase and a vast reading rooms with elaborate joinery and plasterwork. The former St. Andrew's Halls at the rear were converted to form an extension to the library and the Mitchell Theatre, following a serious fire in 1962.
The Mitchell Library opened its doors to the public in 1877 initially in Ingram Street, financed by a bequest of £70,000 from wealthy tobacco manufacturer, Stephen Mitchell (1789 - 1874). Mitchell had directed the residue of his estate be used to found a large freely-accessible public library in Glasgow. He stipulated that no books should be excluded on political or religious grounds and that contributions could be accepted but that collections of books should be kept together and known by the donor's or other distinctive name. The constitution laid down that the library should represent every phase of human thought and variety of opinion. From an initial stock of 14,000 volumes, the collection has grown to make the Mitchell one of Europe's largest public reference libraries, with almost 2,000,000 volumes.
Run by the Glasgow City Council, the library holds an unrivalled collection of material relating to the city. This includes the city archives, dating from the 12th C., maps and a local-studies collection. The Arts Department includes the noted Robert Burns Collection, together with material donated by Sir Thomas Lipton (1850 - 1931). Other departments include Science and Technology, with technical standards and newspapers, Social Sciences and Business Information, which includes market research and patents. There is also a Family History and Genealogy Centre.