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La Trobe Reading Room

When asked to name their favourite space in the State Library, most visitors nominate the glorious La Trobe Reading Room. No visit to Melbourne is complete without a Dome selfie, whether taken from the floor of the reading room looking up to the dome, or from an elevated perch on the 6th-floor balcony.

Opened in 1913, the magnificent octagonal reading room is six storeys high and can house 32,000 books and 320 readers at its desks.

When it was built, the enormous reinforced-concrete structure was the largest in the world. Known as the Domed Reading Room until it was refurbished and reopened in 2003, the building is an architectural feat.

The upper galleries were originally serviced by spiral metal staircases, which can still be seen in the corners of the room.

The reading room is a quiet space for study, with radiating reading desks featuring their trademark green glass lightshades and original silky oak chairs.

Levels 4 and 5 house the permanent exhibitions World of the book and The changing face of Victoria. A viewing platform on level 6 offers a fabulous panorama of the dome and the reading room below.

The La Trobe Reading Room can be accessed by stairs or lift from both the Swanston Street Welcome Zone and Cowen Gallery. Lifts run to the Dome Galleries.

About the La Trobe Reading Room

The La Trobe Reading Room is a prime example of Edwardian splendour, whose design was inspired by the British Museum in London and Washington's Library of Congress.

This section of the Library was formerly occupied by the Great Hall and Rotunda, exhibition spaces built to house the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition.

Between 1959 and 2003, the dome's skylights were hidden behind copper sheathing. The redevelopment program that removed this sheathing was meticulous – so much so, that the new brown linoleum flooring was sourced from the same Scottish company that had supplied the original flooring back in 1913. For more glimpses into the reading room's history, see our research guide.

Hours

Monday to Thursday 10am–9pm
Friday to Sunday 10am–6pm

Facilities

  • catalogue PCs (in foyer)
  • printer (in foyer)