About Us

Until the end of June 2023, KNLS played dual roles in managing both the National Library and the Public Library System. Although established to carry out the functions of the National Library that were clarified by the revision of Cap 225 through Act No. 12 of 1984, the KNLS Board found itself in a precarious position since there was no structured way of establishing public libraries in Kenya. This became more critical given the dire need within the county to promote a reading culture among the Kenyan communities. In this regard, the Board approached various stakeholders and well-wishers including development partners, local authorities, communities, and individuals who facilitated the establishment of 61 public libraries in spread in 33 counties. Until the time of devolution, the Board was still advocating for the establishment of public libraries in the remaining 14 counties. However, having the public library function transferred to the County Governments, we are optimistic that a sustainable structured way of establishing accessible library services will be put in place by the respective authorities as a matter of priority.


In implementing the mandate of the National Government, the Kenya National Library Service carries out the following 7 key functions:

  1. Develop a national policy, legislation, and set Norms and standards for the library sector.
  2. Capacity building and technical assistance to the county governments.
  3. Carry out and promote research in the development of libraries and related services
  4. Promote literacy in the country.
  5. Domesticate international standards.
  6. Publish KNB and KPD
  7. Establish the national WebCat comprising catalogs for all libraries

Who We Are

The Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) is a Government State Corporation, established by the KNLS Board Act Cap 225 of the Laws of Kenya in 1965 – revised [Act No. 12 of 1984].  KNLS’ headquarters is at Maktaba Kuu Building located in Upper Hill Nairobi and has two other facilities at Buruburu in the Eastland Areas of Nairobi, and Nakuru in Nakuru County. KNLS also manages the virtual library https://vtabu.knls.ac.ke/ to allow the public wide access to information resources and sources.

The National Library mandate is undertaken at the three KNLS library facilities. Being the national bibliographic agency, KNLS is a rich repository of all the books published in Kenya and on Kenya. This facilitates the publication of a comprehensive Kenya National Bibliography and, thus, contributes to preserving Kenya’s diverse culture and heritage for present and future generations. KNLS ensures that these national documentary resources are collected, preserved, and made accessible at the National Library facilities, on the virtual library platform, or through collaborative arrangements with other libraries. KNLS’ work is indeed essential for research, education, and advancing a knowledge economy. The library collections comprise rare books, manuscripts, books published in Kenya and on Kenya, periodicals, microfilms, government publications, bound old newspapers, maps, technical reports, and Africana collection among other diverse information resources. Capacity building and consultancy on library matters and related subjects also form the core functions of the KNLS Board.

To enhance the KNLS mandate, the Board manages a Digitization Lab, Data Center, and the Virtual Library vtabu. Through these digital platforms, KNLS promotes universal access to Kenya’s national documentary heritage.

In supporting the book publishing industry, KNLS issues the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to all Kenyan publishers/authors, a mandate given by the International ISBN Agency, in London, UK. In Kenya, KNLS is the National ISBN Agency. Details of the ISBN application are available at https://www.isbn.ac.ke/.

Construction of the National Library facilities at Maktaba Kuu, Buruburu, Nakuru were funded by the exchequer to enable the Board to establish a purposeful full-fledged National Library of Kenya that would measure up to the global principles of a National Library.  Further, the amalgamation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, presented a significant opportunity to clearly distinguish between the roles of the National Library of Kenya from those of the Public Library System. The Public Libraries were listed as a devolved function in Schedule 4 of the Constitution, and thus, the 61 (former KNLS) branch libraries were transferred to the County Governments with effect from 1st July 2023.

Our Core Values

The following values act as a unifying and inspiring factor in our daily operations and service delivery to the public.

Technology driven

We will continually integrate technology in all our operations and service delivery


We will embrace new ways, ideas and products to satisfy our customer needs

Customer Focus

We will serve our customers with passion, integrity and professionalism

Knowledge Based

We will continually review our services and products to support social economic Development

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