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New spaces open 5 December

Media release

This is an archived media release. Links were correct at the time of publication, but may have changed or expired.

Thursday 05 December 2019


The Ian Potter Queen's Hall
First opened to the public in 1856 as the Library’s original reading room, the reopening of The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall brings one of Melbourne’s most breathtaking historical venues back to life after a 16-year closure. In keeping with the architects’ intent to allow the heritage space to ‘stand out in its raw beauty’, the double-storey nineteenth century interior has been carefully restored. Integral features of the original design have been reinstated, with layers of paint scraped back to reveal the original decorative paintwork and the skylights reactivated to flood the hall with natural light.

Celebrating the city’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the majestic 1019-square-metre space houses more than 10,000 pieces of Australian literature including poetry, drama, young adult fiction, books in languages other than English and the Library’s significant chess and bridge collections – which are among the largest in the world. Acting as a tranquil reading room by day, the hall transforms into an opulent venue for special events at night. Accessible via heritage marble staircases from the Swanston Street entrance, or via a lift.

Swanston Street entrance
While the façade of the Library remains largely unchanged, the revitalised Swanston Street foyer is brighter and more welcoming than before with lighter wood tones, slimmer pillars and new lighting. New digital technology makes it easier to access the Library’s collection and find out what’s on, while new way-finding signs and clear views between spaces enable easy access to Hansen Hall, a new collaborative space, and the reopened marble staircases leading to The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall.

The Swanston Street foyer gives onto a space called the Quad, which includes the central information centre – complete with bookable PCs, self-service points, meeting rooms for visitors and a range of seating. It is also the entry point to four new areas: Conversation Quarter, Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter, Ideas Quarter and Create Quarter, as detailed below.

Hansen Hall
Adjacent to the Swanston Street foyer, the new Hansen Hall is a collaborative working space supported by the Hansen Little Foundation. Filled with natural light, Hansen Hall will be a new focal point for Library visitors, similar in utility to the Russell Street Welcome Zone. Combining heritage architecture with a contemporary look and feel, it will be a place in which to meet, connect, collaborate and even have a coffee. From here, it is easy to access Mr Tulk café.

Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter
The Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter is a free, purpose-built space for children and families to read, learn and play. Designed with input from children and children’s book authors, it features a two-level storybook castle, with the top floor dedicated to kids aged 9+. Those aged 0-8 are catered for downstairs with a tactile, sensory landscape and easy-to-access family rooms. It houses a new children’s book collection of around 4000 titles including non-fiction, junior readers, picture books and board books. With reading nooks, a makerspace and a range of kid-designed programs on offer, the focus here is on stimulating a love of reading, learning and play.

Conversation Quarter
Endowed by the Hansen Little Foundation, the Conversation Quarter provides a state-of-the-art public forum for lectures, dinners, conferences and workshops. Melding three centuries of architecture, the courtyard space features the Library’s original bluestone wall, backed by the Edwardian arched windows of the La Trobe Reading Room and topped with a spaceframe roof that lets in plenty of natural light. Equipped with two-way broadcast technology, it supports the Library's ability to livestream educational programming and events to regional areas and connect to international speakers and organisations.

Ideas Quarter
A dedicated co-working space specifically for new and early-stage business founders, the Ideas Quarter is home to StartSpace, a new, member-based service enabled by the Christine Christian Foundation. StartSpace provides inspiration, information and practical guidance to help new businesses grow from concept to reality. Free membership enables access to the ground floor co-working space on a drop-in basis, as well as core services, events and training programs. Paid members have exclusive access to the upstairs co-working space, meeting rooms and kitchen facilities. All members will have access to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Expressions of interest to tour the space and become a member open on 5 December.

Create Quarter
The Create Quarter features spaces and programs supporting innovation and group work. With access to recording suites and space for creative community groups to meet, the establishment of the Create Quarter shows the increasing importance to have the space, skills and time to explore the technology of the future. Two new collaboration rooms are also accessible from here.

Existing spaces:
These new spaces join those already opened as part the Library’s redevelopment:

·         Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation – a world-class exhibition space currently showcasing Velvet, Iron, Ashes (until 12 July 2020)

·         Russell Street Welcome Zone – a collaborative space home to Readings and Guild café

·         The new Arts Reading Room – for anyone interested in music, film, art, etc.

·         The Newspaper and Family History Reading Rooms, including the Herald and Weekly Times Newspapers Reading Room and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust Family History Reading Room – housing one of the largest family history collections in Australia, where just about any newspaper can be accessed, and home to the Ask-a-Librarian desks

·         Isabella Fraser Room – a heritage events venue

·         A commercial kitchen to service all event spaces.

Find out more here.

Spanning one whole city block, the new spaces join the Library’s existing and much-loved spaces, including:

·         La Trobe Reading Room – Built in 1913, the domed reading room is an awe-inspiring place to visit, work and explore

·         Dome Galleries – showing permanent free exhibitions, World of the book and The changing face of Victoria

·         Redmond Barry Reading Room – once home to Melbourne Museum, now a popular place to study and work

·         Cowen Gallery – currently displaying portraits and landscapes, around two broad themes: regional Victoria and Melbourne’s urbanisation and home to the Ask-a-Librarian desks

·         Heritage Collection Reading Room – to access rare and precious items requiring careful handling

·         Village Roadshow Theatrette – available for events, lectures and conferences

·         Mr Tulk café.

Vision 2020 is an $88.1 million project funded by $60.4 million from the Victorian Government, with the remainder raised through philanthropic support. It offers the opportunity to reimagine what a Library can be, and enables this Library to meet the needs of future generations of Victorians.

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