A library was first founded in 1946 at 218 Sussex Gardens, near Hyde Park, which was, between 1945-47, the headquarters of the Ukrainian Relief Association (the forerunner of AUGB) and the centre of Ukrainian community life for both the Ukrainian-Canadian servicemen who were stationed in Great Britain and Ukrainian ex-servicemen who had served in the Polish armed forces who found themselves in Great Britain at the end of the Second World War. Records show that the small library and reading room was visited by 12 people a day.

In mid-1947, the library moved to its current home at 49 Linden Gardens, taking with it the existing collection of the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association and material donated by ex-servicemen from the Ukrainian Division. 

In the early 1960s, when the Ukrainian community celebrated the centenary of the death of Taras Shevchenko – Ukraine’s greatest poet – the library was named in his honour.

Many distinguished Ukrainians worked to establish the library, including:

  • Dr Petro Kovaliv, a lawyer from Switzerland, and part of Ukraine’s diplomatic corps during its brief period of independence in 1919, who donated many rare documents and items from that period and also donated £3000 (a huge sum then) to provide a budget for the library;
  • Dr P Yuzyk, a doctor of law and member of the Canadian Senate – one of the early curators of the library;
  • Professor V Svoboda of the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies of the University of London – another of the early curators;
  • Volodymyr Shayan, a distinguished philosopher and philologist, student of Sanskrit and European language and literature, and author of works on early Ukrainian religion and culture.

In 2000, the library was renovated and re-catalogued to ensure that the whole collection was accurately recorded and to make the library more easily accessible by readers and students.