Prior to enactment of the West Bengal Public Libraries Act in 1979, the library activities on Govt, side were looked after by the Social Education Branch under the Directorate of Public Instruction under the-then undivided Education Department. 762 libraries in all the categories started functioning during that period either as Govt, or Govt. Sponsored libraries.
In 1979, on 12 September, the West Bengal Public Libraries Act was enacted. Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharastra were only the four other states which enacted the Libraries Act prior to West Bengal.
In 1980, the Directorate of Library Services was set up under the undivided Education Department. In 1982, the West Bengal Public Libraries Act was amended. In 1985, further amendments were made to the said Act. In 1988, Mass Education Extension Department was created with the Adult and Social Education Directorate of the erstwhile Education Department and with Directorate of Library Services and other functional wings like special Education for the Physically Handicapped and running of Social Welfare Home, which was subsequently added. Thus the Mass Education Extension Department started to be the administrative department for two separate Directorates - one for Library Services and other for Mass Education Extension.
After enactment of the West Bengal Public Libraries Act in 1979, 1712 libraries in all categories have started functioning either as Govt, or Govt. Sponsored libraries. These 2474 (762 + 1712) Govt, or Govt. Sponsored Libraries apart, 7 (seven) other libraries run by the Non-Govt. Organizations have started to be aided by the Govt, under the Directorate of Library Services.
Public Library system in the State at present comprises of 12 Govt. Libraries with State Central Library at the apex, 2462 Govt. Sponsored Libraries at different levels, and 7 Govt. Aided Libraries. There exists 3 tier Library system in districts namely, Rural / Primary Unit / Area Libraries, Town / Sub-Divisional Libraries, District Libraries.
In 1993, 1994 and 1998, further amendments were made to the West Bengal Public Libraries Act, 1979. In 1999, the concept of Community Library cum Information Centre came over with the principle to set up such centres in the Gram Panchayats having neither a Govt, nor a Govt. Sponsored Library. 319 such centres have been set up upto 2008-09. In 2003, West Bengal Public Libraries Act was further amended.
Directorate of Library Services is headed by the Director of Library Services who is assisted by a Deputy Director and an Assistant Director in the Head Office and District Library Officers in the Districts and other staff members.