State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 16 October 1975

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Relocation of Services in the State Library

The State Library is at present undertaking a major relocation programme to use additional space which has become available and improve conditions for readers and staff.
The rehousing of the Art, Music and Performing Arts Library in the Queen's Hall on the first floor of the Swanston Street building is the most significant development to date, and a gratifying one in the light of the Library's history and the architectural importance of the building.
The centre portion of the Queen's Hall (50 feet square), together with the foyer below, formed the original Melbourne Public Library building, designed by Joseph Reed and opened in 1856. The south and north wings were added in 1858–9 and 1863–4 respectively.
The Swanston Street building is recognized as the most distinguished architecturally in the State Library-Museum building complex, and the complex as a whole has been classified by the National Trust.
Restoration of the Queen's Hall to its original Victorian classical splendour has entailed a long period of painstaking work by staff from the Public Works department. Apart from the usual work associated with building conversion, many hundreds of broken mouldings had to be cast and replaced, and redecoration of the ornate ceiling was a major undertaking. The design of the chandeliers was based on the original gaslight fittings, and much of the original furniture was refurbished and reinstalled.
The Public Works team which carried out the work was responsible for similar work at the Mint, Parliament House and Government House, and is now working on Werribee Park.
The greater part of the arts, music and performing arts book collection and the associated reading facilities were transferred to the Queen's Hall in late August. A piano has been installed in a sound-proof room to allow users to try out sheet music in the Library's collection, and audio equipment and shelving for discs and tapes are to be installed soon.
When work in the area is complete, there will be a total of 10 channels for listening to discs, reel tapes and cassettes. Outlets for broadcasting music have been provided in the piano room and in a separate group listening room, and additional listening facilities with headphones will be available at a number of points. Six of the channels can be switched into from any outlet; the remainder are reserved for the playing of oral history tapes, many of which are subject to restrictions imposed by the interviewers.
In keeping with the general nature of the Arts, Music and Performing Arts Library, the disc and tape collections will be research and reference collections rather than popular collections. It is hoped to play works from the Library's collections on a programmed basis as well as in response to the needs of individual users.
Other important changes planned for the Library's buildings include the transfer of the Map Collection from the North-West Wing to the old Art Library, the establishment of a new Reference and Information Centre on the ground floor in place of the present News-paper
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Room, the transfer of current newspapers to the first-floor reading-room, the establishment of a new reading room for micro-records and restricted newspapers on the second floor of the La Trobe Library and the building of a Rare Books Reading-Room and stacks and general meeting-rooms in the North-West Wing.
In addition, the State Library will acquire the La Trobe basements and part of the Verdon basement when the Public Record Office completes its move to new premises in Laverton. These areas will be used to rehouse parts of the overcrowded ground floor serials collection, set up a duplicates disposal centre, enlarge staff amenities and provide increased storage.
The transfer of the Map Collection should occur shortly, as the North-West Wing has to be vacated to allow work to commence there. It is hoped that the opening of the Reference and Information Centre and the Micro/Newspaper Reading Room will be the next step, but this will depend on the availability of materials and labour and other projects in progress at the time.
The relocation programme will in no way obviate the Library's need for a new building, but it will provide a breathing-space until a new building can be erected, and the experience gained through the reorganization of services and collections will be invaluable as a basis for future planning.
Margery C. Ramsay Principal Librarian