In the year 1840, after numerous petitions and interventions, and upon the urgent suggestion of Archduke Johann of Austria, the "Steiermärkisch Ständische Montan-Lehranstalt" (Styrian Estates Mining Institute) was founded in the town of Vordernberg near Leoben. The founder and first director, the renowned European iron expert Peter Tunner, had included a library as the basis of studies in his curriculum. Therefore, this year is also considered the founding year of the Leoben University Library. However, it turned out that initially there was no money available for books. Besides the urgently needed acquisitions for the building itself, funds had to be diverted from the book budget to set up the laboratory. Thus, the first academic year in Vordernberg started without any specialized literature.

The Joanneum in Graz, to which the new institution belonged, was requested to provide specialized literature from its holdings, which was promised. However, due to the considerable distances, nothing further happened beyond a correspondence with the commitment to deliver books. In order to make the required literature from the curriculum available to the students, the director Peter Tunner, the school's initiator and at that time the wheelmaster in Vordernberg, opened his private bookshelves. He made important works such as Christoph Traugott Delius' "Anleitung zur Bergbaukunst" (Guide to Mining Art) available. Exlibris, Supralibros, and other ownership marks testify to this. From these and the lectures, students created their own scripts, as evidenced by a "Lehrbuch der Bergbaukunde" (Textbook of Mining Science) preserved today at the University Library, written by the student Alois Neubauer in 1842 and lithographed for reproduction.

When the school moved to Leoben in 1849, an initial inventory was created, listing the holdings of the "library room," amounting to 575 books, including 13 journals and periodicals. The institution "library" continued to expand. The fact that it was only a sparsely furnished room with a table and a few chairs, inadequately lit with tallow candles, is of secondary importance.

Meanwhile, the state had taken over the school, and in 1861, it was elevated to the status of a mining academy. However, the library still remained under the control of the director of the institution, with an assistant responsible for the supervision and organization of the library room. The selection of books was handled by the professorial staff, viewing literature only as a tool for teaching.

The modest budget increased only in the 1870s, allowing for the consideration of acquiring valuable historical works alongside specialized literature. This included the third edition of Agricola's "De re metallica" from 1621, supplementing the editions of 1557 and 1561, a mining ordinance from Salzburg in 1551, Lazarus Ercker's "Beschreibung der allerfürnemisten mineralischen Ertzt und Bergkwerchsarten" from 1580, and the most valuable piece in the Leoben Library, the "Schwazer Bergbuch" (Schwaz Mining Book). This illuminated manuscript from the 16th century, covering all aspects of silver mining in Schwaz, Tyrol, was acquired for 37 guilders from a Vienna antiquarian. Today, a total of 11 copies of this work are known.

With a total inventory of more than 390,000 volumes, the library currently houses around 7,000 titles from before 1900. Approximately one-third of these focus on mining and metallurgy, an equal number on geosciences, and the rest cover basic and auxiliary sciences, energy economics, charcoal production, and forestry. Notably, the library features a relatively extensive collection of travel descriptions and exhibition reports for a technically oriented library. Special mention goes to the reports of the physician and naturalist Belsazar Hacquet de la Motte (1739 - 1815), whose travel descriptions are considered groundbreaking works for the geology of the Eastern Alps and also contain amusing details about the contemporary folk life.

To go beyond the normal subject cataloging of this historical collection, which includes mainly 19th-century journals, the Montanhistorische Literatur- und Bilddokumentation (Mining Historical Literature and Image Documentation) was established.