The Austrian National Library is the legal successor to the Imperial Royal Court Library of the Austrian Empire. The beginnings of the former court library go back to the second half of the 14th century when the Habsburgs began to collect manuscripts or to commission them. The splendid baroque library constructed between 1723 and 1726 at Josefsplatz housed all the court library's manuscripts, incunabula, autographs, printed books, maps, globes and copper engravings until the late 19th century. The various special collections were then transferred to buildings adjoining the imperial library. The library was named the Austrian National Library in 1945 (from 1920-1945 it was called the National Library). In 1967 central reading areas (catalogues, the main reading room and the periodicals reading room) were moved to the new imperial palace at Heldenplatz. In 1992 the subterranean area with large subterranean depots and additional reading rooms (for large formats and micro forms) was opened.
The library's main legal obligations include:Archival storage and accessibility to all writings from Austria (legal deposit copies in accordance with media law)Collecting and making accessible further literature on Austria or Austrians from abroadMaking accessible and complementing valuable special items in the special collectionsFulfilling various central obligations to Austrian librarianship (e.g. publication of the Austrian bibliography, Austrian periodicals data base, training in librarianship, etc.)