The library's building itself was built in 1911, by the architects Z. Kliave and A. Krivosheyev. The library itself was first founded in 1866. During the library's 140 years of existence, it has obtained over 4 million items in its collection (which started out as a private collection). During its existence, it has collated a large collection of early prints, and rare and valuable books.
During the Second World War, the library suffered serious damage and more than 50,000 publications were taken out from its stock. The library building was set on fire by retreating Nazi troops in November 1943, and during only one night of burning, the library lost more than 300,000 editions including 7,000 manuscripts, rare books and pre-revolutionary periodicals.
Since 1944, the library collection was rebuilt anew.