The Arkansas Library Commission was established by the Arkansas General Assembly in Act 139 of 1935. Funds for its operations were not appropriated until 1937. The Commission was authorized to provide guidance to the libraries across the state, to administer state aid to libraries, and to encourage the establishment of county libraries. Following the reorganization of state government by Act 38 of 1971, the Library Commission became a division of the Arkansas Department of Education (along with the Educational Television Commission and the Arkansas School for the Blind).
Act 489 of 1979 created the Arkansas State Library as a division within the Department of Education, abolished the Library Commission Board and transferred its functions and duties to the State Library Board. The Board, which appoints the State Librarian, consists of seven Governor-appointed members.
Today the Arkansas State Library serves as the information resource center for state agencies, legislators and legislative staffs. It also administers state and federal funds appropriated for libraries and library development, and provides effective administration and leadership needed to improve public libraries and library services.
The Arkansas State Library maintains a research collection containing over 2.6 million items, including reference materials, federal and state documents, state regulations, a patent and trademark collection, and other items (maps, periodicals, microfiche, etc.) to support Arkansas state government. It is the designated State and Local Government Publications Clearinghouse, Regional Depository Library for U.S. Government Publications, Patent and Trademark Depository Library, and the Arkansas Center for the Book (a subsidiary of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress). The Library for the Blind includes materials in cassette tape, digital and Braille format.
The Arkansas Library Commission was located in various locations throughout downtown Little Rock during its first four decades. In the 1970’s, a great deal of effort went into the movement for a more permanent location. Act 1223 of 1975 outlined details for a new building on the State Capitol grounds that would house the Arkansas Library Commission, the History Commission and Archives, and other state agencies. In August of 1978 the Commission moved into the new building, occupying 63,000 square feet of the building’s fifth floor.
In January 2010, the Arkansas State Library moved from its location on the State Capitol grounds to 900 West Capitol Avenue, where the Agency occupies 65,838 square feet on the first and second floors.