Kensal Rise Library was built in 1900 as a Public Reading Room, as part of an effort to improve a predominantly poor area. Following the building boom in London at the end of the previous century, the housing and population in Kensal Green had become much denser. The land was donated to Willesden Council by All Souls College, Oxford, under a restricted covenant stating that it could only be used as a free public reading room and library. Cricklewood architects Done, Hunter & Co. designed the building and it was built by a firm from Exeter.
Mark Twain, who was staying at nearby Dollis Hill House that summer, and had educated himself in public libraries, was invited to openthe public reading room and donated five of his own books. The building would have been gas lit, with open coal fires, and it made newspapers available for everyone in the local area to read.
In 1903, Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated £3,000 to extend the building, and the following year the public reading room became a library. In 1922, it became the first library in Willesden to allow people to choose their own books from the shelves. In 1934, a Children’s Library and study room were created upstairs.