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Britain's House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries have a lengthy history beginning with small collections of books and papers in the eighteenth century and evolving into today's large organizations offering a sophisticated range of services. The central theme of this article is the conservatism of these institutions over most of their history, with the creation of modern library facilities only beginning in 1945 for the Commons Library (a process that did not accelerate until some three decades later) and in 1976 for the Lords. By way of comparison I will discuss: the U.S. Library of Congress (founded in 1800); Japan's National Diet Library (created in the postwar reconstruction in 1948); and, to offer an example of a smaller country, Ireland's Oireachtas Library. In summarizing the history of the British parliamentary libraries, I have also tried to indicate some ways in which we might draw upon this historical experience to identify fruitful new future directions for libraries supporting legislatures throughout the world.