Melbourne's best libraries
Step into the Dome Reading Room, the most extravagant room in the State Library of Victoria, and you can hear mental cogs turning: people are studying, examining old books and expanding their knowledge on anything from rare birds to architectural history. The library was established in 1856 and is a grand presence on Swanston Street with interior spaces to match. Our favourite room? It's the La Trobe Reading Room. It's a six-storey-high domed room that is magnificent to look at (and study in).
Who could resist the opportunity to read out in the fresh air, surrounded by greenery, on a glorious sunny day? Bargoonga Nganjin, or ‘gather everyone’ in Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurunjuri people, was opened to the public in 2017. The North Fitzroy facility offers a modern design and multiple reading and study spaces including the first-of-its-kind, dedicated rooftop garden. Combine this with the library’s extensive range of youth and health services, events such as author talks, panel discussions, music performances, Indigenous language activities and children’s storytime sessions, and Bargoonga Nganjin is sure to fulfil its inherent goal.
The Bunjil Place Library is located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, nestled into the community of Narre Warren. This award-winning building is spread out over three levels and boasts a digital games area, outdoor reading garden, reading amphitheatre and an allocated youth and kids space. Come for the awe-inspiring architecture, stay for the atmosphere.
This new library with waterfront views boasts more than 200,000 books on shelf, subscriptions to daily newspapers and hundreds of magazines, as well as massive DVD, CD and eBook collections. It’s a well-rounded community hub with state-of-the-art facilities including a gallery, pro-editing suites, a recording studio, practice rooms and community spaces that can be booked for meetings. Check the website for regular free workshops, events and lunchtime concerts.
The modern and spacious Melton Library was the first library in Australia to be awarded a five-star Green Star rating for environmental sustainability. The design features a staggering amount of over-sized timber beams and floor-to-ceiling windows. Visitors can book meeting rooms, as well as recording and editing studios. There's also a parents room, maternal and child health services, a theatre auditorium and a dedicated lounge for teens. Plus, there's no need to venture far when feeling peckish with the library's own adjoining café CommuniTea close by.
Founded in 1839, the Melbourne Athenaeum is an art and culture hub located above the Atheneum Theatre on Collins Street. The library is like a semi-secret reading room. Here, you’ll find quality new releases and classics and one of Victoria’s best crime fiction collections. As well as the enormous book collection, the library also hosts a program of events and book clubs throughout the year. There is a modest membership fee attached ($30-$99), but it’s worth it – you’ll feel like the member of a thoroughly civilised private club from yesteryear.
In the heart of the William Street's legal district is a library so beautiful it’s worth a squiz, even though you can’t borrow as a member of the public. Arcane law volumes line the walls and junior solicitors scale wooden ladders to retrieve them.
Settle into Dandenong sunlit library for some serious study time. This community facility offers a huge south-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling windows along with ample reading, study and kids spaces. The latter is eqyupped with bean bags and cute kids-sized furniture, too.
The 139-year-old Kathleen Syme building is home to an Oculus Rift – a piece of virtual reality technology that’s been programmed to enable participants to experience snow falling in a forest. Thanks to a multi-million dollar refurb, the library is also an excellent workspace with great internet access, plentiful desks, private meeting rooms, free WiFi and fab coffee from the Wild Timor Coffee Co.
The heritage-listed Eltham Library boasts an award-winning design and is surrounded by parklands and cafés. What's not to love? The communal stace features a garden and dedicated children's room. There's also a reading lounge complete with a fireplace and a local art gallery showcasing work from local Eltham residents.