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History and vision

Our history

Established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, State Library Victoria is Australia's oldest public library and one of the first free public libraries in the world.

Our founders believed that access to knowledge was critical for the development of a civil and prosperous community, and created the Library as 'the people’s university' – a place of learning and discovery for all Victorians. They also charged the Library with preserving Victoria's heritage by collecting items of historical and cultural significance for future generations.

These are responsibilities that remain a critical focus today. Each year we add more than 70,000 heritage items to the Library’s rich collection and lead the sector with our ambitious digitisation programs. We also work hard to adapt and remain relevant to our Library users, as well as reach out to new audiences. As a result, Library patronage has continued to increase, with almost two million physical visits to the Library annually and over 4.3 million annual online visits.

Our vision

We want the Library to be a place for all in a changing world and to inspire possibilities. We want to be a cultural and heritage destination for Victorians, and a catalyst for generating new knowledge and ideas.

The State Library will make a major contribution to the continuing development of a knowledge and creativity-based economy for Victoria, and a socially and culturally rich society.

We aim to:

  • play a greater part in the lives of our increasingly diverse community
  • be the cultural and knowledge centre of Victoria through our collections, programs, events and debates
  • open up the riches of our collections to a vast range of audiences
  • bring the world to Victoria
  • be a leader in digital library developments

We will be true to our vision by reaching out to and engaging with an increasingly diverse community – a community of all ages that includes researchers, students, families, young and lifelong learners, culture creators and seekers, and regional Victorians.

We want our resources to be available both on-site and online, through our physical facilities and improved digital access, tools and communication.

This vision, as well as our goals, values and strategic direction from 2016 until 2020, are covered in our strategic plan. Find out more about the Library's strategic plan.

Vision 2020 redevelopment project

The State Library's five-year Vision 2020 redevelopment project transformed our public spaces, programs and facilities to better meet the changing needs of the community. The $88.1 million project was supported by funding from the Victorian Government and philanthropic contributions.