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New spaces unveiled at State Library Victoria as part of $88.1 million redevelopment

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State Library Victoria today officially opened the first of its redeveloped spaces as part of Vision 2020, an ambitious $88.1 million transformation that will increase public space by 40% and seating by 70%.

Two new reading rooms were unveiled along with a dedicated special events venue supported by a state-of-the-art production kitchen, and a vibrant new lounge and meeting space, which is also home to a 60% larger Readings bookshop and new cafe, Guild.

This shared space, designed for working, collaborating and relaxing, will also feature a large-scale original artwork by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith, spanning a 29x5 metre wall.

Formerly housing the Melbourne Museum from 1906 to 1997 and the NGV from 1999 to 2002, the redeveloped sites are now accessed by two new entrances – the historic Russell Street entrance, which was closed for more than a decade, and a new accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.

A brand new, world-class exhibition gallery, the Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, will also open in May 2019 as part of Vision 2020.

President of the Library Board of Victoria John Wylie said today’s opening marked an exciting milestone in the once-in-a-generation redevelopment of Australia’s oldest and busiest public library.

“The Library is thrilled to open the first of its transformed spaces, which feature world-class design and allow us to reimagine what a library can be,” Mr Wylie said.

“Visitors are at the heart of everything the Library does and we can’t wait to see people using these magnificent new Library facilities, whether they are researching the collection, collaborating with peers, browsing Readings bookshop or meeting friends for coffee.”

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said: “This visionary project will ensure our State Library continues to be a welcoming and inspiring place for all Victorians, as it has been for the past 162 years.

“State Library Victoria is responding to the needs of the community by opening up more of this beautiful, iconic building to the public – providing additional reading rooms, public spaces and function capacity.

“We’re now at the halfway point of this landmark project and this is our first look at the stunning transformation of State Library Victoria.”

From today the Russell Street entrance and accessible entrance on La Trobe Street are the main entry points for Library visitors.

The Swanston Street entrance and ground floor are now closed for construction, reopening next spring when the Vision 2020 redevelopment is complete.

The design for Vision 2020 was led by multi-award winning Australasian firm, Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, one of Scandinavia’s most recognised architectural practices.

The $88.1 million project is funded by $60.4 million from the Victorian Government, with the remainder raised through philanthropic support.

More about the new spaces and features:

  • The Russell Street heritage entrance, the original entrance to Melbourne Museum, built in 1906

  • The Russell Street Welcome Zone, a lounge and meeting space inside the Russell Street entrance seating 69 and designed for visitors to meet, study, work or relax, also housing Readings bookshop and new cafe, Guild

  • The Arts Reading Room moves to a heritage gallery seating 52, with new technology including AV stations and listening posts to access the Library’s vast multimedia collection

  • The Herald and Weekly Times Newspapers Reading Room and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust Family History Reading Room share a stunning heritage gallery seating 76 which, along with the Arts Reading Room, is a designated quiet space for reading and research

  • Isabella Fraser Room, a heritage events venue now available for hire, named after the Library’s first female employee seating 156 banquet style, 200 conference style and 220 cocktail style and is supported by state-of-the-art audio-visual technology and a new production kitchen

  • Readings bookshop moves from the western end of the Library to the eastern end, increasing in size by 60% with an expanded children’s section

  • New cafe, Guild is operated by Melbourne’s largest distributer of fresh almond milk, Almond Milk Co., offering plain and flavoured almond milk, a seasonal menu of salads and sandwiches, coffee by Sensory Lab and coffee day passes for all day supply of filter coffee

  • A large-scale artwork installed inside the Russell Street Welcome Zone by Melbourne artist, Tai Snaith, titled ‘Open Book’ was selected from 77 artist submissions, with Snaith awarded $20,000 to produce the piece, which is her largest work to date

  • Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation is a 500m2 international-standard exhibition space that will showcase collection material using cutting-edge technology creating an immersive and interactive experience for visitors. The inaugural Victoria Gallery exhibition will open in May 2019.

For more information about Vision 2020 visit vision2020.slv.vic.gov.au