The history of the State Library of Victoria

How to research the history, development, architecture, collections and management of the State Library of Victoria.

Introduction

In 2015 the Library embarked on a five-year redevelopment project (Vision 2020), funded by a $55.4 million budget allocation from the Victorian Government and $28 million in philanthropic contributions.

In August 2015 the Library received a $10 million donation from the Ian Potter Foundation, to fund the refurbishment of Queen's Hall. This will allow the Library to reopen the space to the public for the first time in more than 12 years.

In December 2016 a $13 million funding boost for the redevelopment project was announced. The John and Myriam Wylie Foundation donated $8 million to reopen the Library’s Russell Street entrance and transform the eastern end of the building, including creating a new world-class exhibition gallery, the Victoria Gallery. The Victorian Government committed an additional $5 million to enhance all Library entrances and surrounding streetscapes. This funding was used to increase access to the Library with a new universally accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.

In March 2017 a $3 million donation by philanthropists Maria and Allan Myers QC was announced.

In early June 2017 the Library announced a $2 million donation by Christine Christian, one of Australia’s leading business women, to establish StartSpace – a new centre designed to boost opportunities for budding entrepreneurs in Victoria.

In early September 2017 Jane Hansen and Paul Little AO, two of Australia’s foremost business leaders and philanthropists, made a $3.5 million donation towards two redeveloped spaces in the Library. In recognition of this generous support, Palmer Hall was renamed Hansen Hall; and the Courtyard (Events Space) was renamed the Conversation Quarter, endowed by the Hansen Little Foundation.

In late January 2019 the Library received a generous donation of $2 million from John and Pauline Gandel, through Gandel Philanthropy, to help deliver the new Children’s Quarter and provide free literacy programs created by children, for children. In recognition of this gift, the Children’s Quarter was renamed the Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter.

The architectural designs for the redevelopment were made available to the public on 30 March 2017. Works began in 2017. The new spaces were opened on 5 December 2019. (StartSpace, housed in the Ideas Quarter and the mezzanine above, was launched on 12 March 2020).

This significant redevelopment project has transformed the Library so we can better meet the current and future needs of the community. The focus has been optimising sections of the building to open up an additional 1000m2 space for public use, as well as developing programs and facilities that provide vital and improved economic, cultural and education opportunities for all Victorians. A major achievement of the project has been to increase the space available to the public by 40%.

On 10 July 2020 the Architectus + Schmidt Hammer Lassen team won three awards for the redevelopment project at the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Awards. This included the coveted Melbourne Prize as well as awards for Heritage – Conservation and Public Architecture.

Project milestones

Architects were announced April 2016:

Architectus
Schmidt Hammer Lassen

These two architectural firms were supported by Andronas Conservation Architecture, IrwinConsult and Steensen Varming Engineers.

The builders appointed to the project were Built. Their appointment was announced on 5 August 2017.

Construction began in 2017.

21 September 2018 saw the opening of the new Russell and La Trobe Street entrances, Russell Street Welcome Zone, relocated Newspaper and Family History Reading Rooms, relocated Arts Reading Room, Cowen Gallery information desk, and the Isabella Fraser Room.

The Victoria Gallery (formerly the La Trobe Gallery) opened to the public on 24 October 2019.

Redeveloped spaces opened to the public on 5 December 2019: Ian Potter Queen's Hall, Swanston Street Entrance (formerly the Foyer), The Quad (formerly Trescowthick Information Centre/Information Centre), Hansen Hall (formerly Palmer Hall), Pauline Gandel Children's Quarter (formerly Experimedia), Conversation Quarter (formerly the Courtyard), Ideas Quarter (formerly the Family History & Newspapers Room/staff space), Create Quarter (formerly the Arts Library).

StartSpace, housed in the Ideas Quarter and the mezzanine above, was launched (re-opened) on 12 March 2020.

Redevelopment designs

Ballarat Offsite Store

In 2017, Hansen Yuncken was announced as the builder for BOSS2, the Library's $21.4 million second offsite collection storage facility at Federation University Australia (Ballarat), with funds provided by the Victorian Government as part of its Collection Storage Victoria and Creative State strategies.

BOSS2 will join the Library's current storage facility, BOSS1 (Ballarat Off-site Store), at the University’s Mount Helen campus, near Ballarat. BOSS1 already holds more than half of the Library's physical collection, at 50 linear kilometres, and BOSS2 will add more than 25 linear kilometres of storage space - enough space until 2027.

State Library Victoria

LIBRARY CLOSURE  

In line with the stage 3 restrictions announced by the Premier, State Library Victoria closed on Thursday 9 July.

We will advise when there is any update to this situation.

Our Ask A Librarian  reference service is still available to assist with your research inquiries.

Sources

During the redevelopment, the most detailed and up-to-date source of information was the official website:

State Library Victoria, Vision 2020 [online]
Website with updates and answers to questions about the redevelopment project.

Architects' reviews

Hamann, Conrad, May/June 2020, State Library Victoria Vision 2020: Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen, Architecture Australia
Feature article on the Library by an Associate Professor in Architectural History at RMIT. Reviews the Library’s Vision 2020 redevelopment and delves into the history of the Library’s buildings. Hamann says, ‘What marks this refurbishment is the architects’ willingness to go with the building’s idiosyncrasies and episodes. The work recognises that large institutional buildings such as this carry inside them their own history and culture, and that refurbishment is as much a weaving, a negotiation, as an outright renewal'.

Coverage of the opening:

The Age 13 Mar. 2020, p. 18 Rebuilt State Library is now open for business.

Backhouse, Sarah and Newton, Clare, 9 Dec 2019, State Library Victoria proves libraries aren’t just about books: they’re about community, The Conversation

Robin, Jo and Sutherland, Isla, 5 Dec 2019, The State Library has finally reopened after its $88.1 million revamp, Broadsheet

Webb, Carolyn, 5 Dec 2019, The quiet achiever: State Library's lost landmark is hidden no more, The Age

Before and during the redevelopment:

Architectus, 6 May 2016, Outline of the project  [online]

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Outline pf prroject

Bailey, Michael, Pioneering businesswoman to fund start-up incubator. The Australian Financial Review  01 June 2017: p.47.

Bailey, Michael, Wylies hit on the winning formula to entice millennials to the library. The Australian Financial Review 22 September 2018 p.8

Brown, Simon Leo, Five items you may see in the State Library's new Victoria Gallery, ABC News 14 December 2016

Creative Victoria, 30 March 2017, Victorian kids help architects design their dream library

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, 30 April 2015, State Library of Victoria redevelopment announcement 

Edwards, Jean, State Library of Victoria to receive $83 million facelift, including rooftop terrace, 29 April 2015 ABC News

Major Projects Victoria, State Library of Victoria

Minister for Creative Industries, 5 August 2017, Next steps for State Library Victoria’s vision

Minister for Creative Industries, 4 September 2017, Works start on State Library Victoria’s transformation

Munday, BrookeA new entrance to the State Library of Victoria opens today, Time Out 21 September 2018

State Library Victoria, 23 April 2016, Architects announced for State Library redevelopment

Tabet, Ted, 24 September 2018, First look at State Library Victoria’s $88 million revamp, The Urban Developer

Newspaper searches    Searches across a range of Australian newspapers between 2015 and 2017

Heritage impact statement

This statement was published on the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure (DTPLI) website.