In 1899, during the British colonial administration, the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery building was first built to meet the administrative needs of Kuala Lumpur, the newly founded capital of the Federated Malay States. It replaced the Government Printing Office in Taiping, which was closed down. The government printer at the time, J. Russell, helped the Public Works Department architect A. C. Norman design the ideal printing office to house large printing press machines. The exterior façade was designed based on neo-Renaissance principles, with exposed bricks, plastered columns, and large semi-circular windows decorated with keystones; while the interior had a structural support system of cast iron columns and trusses. The building did not have a pronounced entrance or front porch, but just a simple door located on the western side. Canopy roofs were added above the first floor windows in the 1940s, as protection against the harsh tropical sun.
For years, the printing office produced official government reports, government books and train tickets. In 1961 the Ministry of Labour took over the building, and later in 1977, the building was converted to the Metropolitan Postal Security Office.
In 1986, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall bought the building for over RM3 million, then renovated and furnished it with quality library equipment, making it the first public library in Kuala Lumpur. The Kuala Lumpur Memorial Library, as it was named, also acted as a research centre on all things related to Kuala Lumpur – its history, administration and development, as well as exhibitions on objects and artifacts connected to the heritage of the city. After opening its doors in 1989, the library grew quickly and after three years, it made history by being the first public library in Peninsular Malaysia to go on-line.
The library was renamed the Kuala Lumpur Library in 2000, and a new annex was added on in 2004.