The best libraries in Melbourne

Melbourne’s best libraries boast serene reading rooms, fast internet access, recording studios and futuristic technology

Photograph: Benjamin Ashton

Been to a library lately? If you're not a student, a freelancer or just someone who loves reading in quiet spaces, then it might have been a while. These state-of-the-art and historic libraries are quite a bit different to the places you remember.

While we're talking books, it pays to know about Melbourne's best bookshops and second-hand booksellers

Melbourne's best libraries


Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre

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.


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Law Library of Victoria

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.

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The Library at the Dock

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.

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Melbourne Athenaeum Library

Tucked upstairs above the Athenaeum Theatre in a building constructed in 1839 to house the Mechanic’s Institution, the library is a semi-secret reading room. Here, you’ll find quality new releases and classics and one of Victoria’s best crime fiction collections. There’s 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.

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State Library of Victoria

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. Daily free tours will show you the library’s hidden reaches like the Queen’s Hall, a grand old reading room ordinarily closed off to the public. 

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