The German Library was founded in the 19th century by private intiative. Since 1955 the library is maintained by the German Library Association (Saksalainen kirjastoyhdistys).
The library is open for everyone and offers approximately 40 000 books in German language, of which all can be loaned except for reference works. The usage of the library is free of charge and it is possible to borrow books outside of Helsinki.
The library offers guided tours for different groups and hosts literary evenings and other events. Since 1991 the library has been a literary centre for German-speaking countries and 2008 the library joined the Austriaca-database for Austrian literature. In 2007 the library received the award "Kulturpreis Deutsche Sprache".