State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria
State Library of Victoria
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia - 20090418.jpg
Established 1854
Location Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Size 2M books[1]
Other information
Budget $48.7M (FY 2008-09)[2]
Director John Cain (President)
Staff 295[3]

The State Library of Victoria is the central library of the state of Victoria, Australia, located in Melbourne. It is on the block bounded by Swanston, La Trobe, Russell, and Little Lonsdale streets, in the northern centre of the central business district. The library holds over 2 million books and 16,000 serials, including the diaries of the city's founders, John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, and the folios of Captain James Cook.



Lithograph depicting the original vision for the State Library complex, including the original Victorian reading room dome as part of the never-realised Russell Street annexe
A panoramic view of the library facade, forecourt and lawns from Swanston Street
Overview from high above Swanston Street
A view of the library from the left side facing Swanston Street
The La Trobe Reading Room

In 1853, the decision to build a state library was made at the instigation of Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe and Sir Redmond Barry. A competition was held to decide who would design the new building; local architect Joseph Reed, who later designed the Melbourne Town Hall and the Royal Exhibition Building, won the commission.

On 3 July 1854, the recently inaugurated Governor Sir Charles Hotham laid the foundation stone of both the new library and the University of Melbourne. The library opened in 1856, with a collection of 3,800 books chosen by Sir Redmond, the President of Trustees. Augustus H. Tulk, the first librarian, was appointed three months after the opening.

The first reading room was the Queen's Reading Room (now Queen's Hall), which opened in 1859. Temporary buildings built in 1866 for the Intercolonial Exhibition remained in use by the library until 1909, when work began on a new annexe building to mark the library's Jubilee. This new building was the landmark Domed Reading Room, which opened in 1913 and was designed by Norman G. Peebles.

Plans for the original annexe were scaled back due to the money running out and the annexe, to house a new museum were gradually built during the Interwar years in an austere stripped classical style.

The reading dome's original skylights were modified and covered in copper sheets in 1959 due to water leakage.

The library complex also held the State's Gallery and Museum until the National Gallery of Victoria moved to St Kilda Road in the late 1960s, and the current Melbourne Museum was built in the Carlton Gardens in the 1990s.

The library underwent major refurbishments between 1990 and 2004, designed by architects Ancher Mortlock & Woolley. The project cost approximately A$200 million. The reading room closed in 1999 to allow for renovation, during which natural light was returned. The renamed La Trobe Reading Room reopened in 2003.

The redevelopment included the construction of a number of exhibition spaces which are used to house the permanent exhibitions The Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas and The Changing Face of Victoria as well as a display from the Pictures Collection in the Cowen Gallery. As a result of the redevelopment the State Library of Victoria could now be considered one of the largest exhibiting libraries in the world.

In 2009, work began to re-develop the southern wing of the library on Little Lonsdale St to create the Wheeler Centre, part of Melbourne's city of literature initiative. The centre officially opened in February 2010.

Front lawn, forecourt and statues

The grassy lawn in front of the library's grand entrance on Swanston Street is a popular lunch-spot for the city's workers and students at the adjacent RMIT University. Originally enclosed by a picket fence, then by a wrought iron fence and gates in the 1870s, the space was opened with the removal of the fence in 1939.

A number of statues are in the entrance area. A pair of bronze lions graced the park from the 1860s until 1937. There are statues of Sir Redmond Barry, designed by James Gilbert and built by Percival Ball, installed in 1887; Saint George and the Dragon, by the English sculptor Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, installed in 1889; Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), a replica of the statue by French sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet, installed in 1907; and Charles La Trobe, by Australian sculptor Peter Corlett, installed in 2006.

On Sundays between 2:30 pm and 5:30 pm, a speakers' forum takes place on the library forecourt, where orators take turns in speaking on various subjects.


Reading Room and Dome

The landmark Domed Reading Room, which opened in 1913 and was designed by Norman G. Peebles. Its octagonal space was designed to hold over a million books and up to 500 readers. It is 34.75 m in both diameter and height, and its oculus is nearly 5 m wide. The dome was the largest of its type in the world on completion.

In 1965, the La Trobe Building annex was opened to house the Library's Australiana collection, which has since moved to the La Trobe Reading Room.

Australian band Faker recorded their music video for 'Hurricane' inside the reading room in 2005.

Arts Library

The library maintains an extensive, world-class collection of books, periodicals, recordings and other materials pertaining to art, music and the performing arts.

Chess room

The library has a chess room that houses a wide range of materials dedicated to the history, study and practice of chess. It contains a collection of items from the Anderson Chess Collection, one of the three largest public chess collections in the world. In addition to bookshelves containing an extensive range of books and periodicals relating to chess, the room has game tables with chessboards and pieces, and a few glass cabinets containing historical chess paraphernalia. The room is a multi-purpose room intended also for reading and studying.



Many of the library's electronic databases are available from home to any Victorian registered as a State Library User. Databases include the full Encyclopædia Britannica; Oxford Reference dictionaries and encyclopaedias; multi-subject magazine and journal article databases; newspaper archives of most major Australian and international papers from 2000 onwards; and specialist subject databases.



External links

Coordinates: 37°48′35″S 144°57′53″E / 37.809801°S 144.964787°E / -37.809801; 144.964787

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