• arts & culture

21 September 2018

State Library Victoria’s historic Russell Street entrance opened today after being closed for more than a decade – signalling the halfway point of the library’s $88.1 million Vision 2020 redevelopment.

State Library Victoria Russell Street entrance Photo: Patrick Rodriguez

The historic Russell Street entrance, now open.  Photo: Patrick Rodriguez

The new entrance opens to a vibrant new welcome zone, one of a number of new public spaces revealed today, along with two new reading rooms, set in stunning heritage galleries, and a dedicated new event space..

The redevelopment has also seen the expansion of Readings bookshop, with a 60 per cent larger store and the installation of a large-scale original artwork by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith.

Formerly housing the Museum of Victoria from 1906 to 1997 and the NGV from 1999 to 2002, the redeveloped library spaces are now accessed by two new entrances – the historic Russell Street entrance and a new accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.

From today these two new entrances are the main entry points for library visitors. The Swanston Street entrance is temporarily closed for construction and will reopen in spring 2019 when the 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 leading architectural practices.

When this ambitious project is complete, public space at the library will increase by 40 per cent and seating by almost 70 per cent. Iconic heritage spaces including Ian Potter Queens Hall will also return to public use and a brand new world-class exhibition gallery, the Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, will open in May 2019.

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

More about the new spaces and features:

  • Russell Street entrance, was the original entrance to Melbourne Museum, built in 1906;
  • The Russell Street Welcome Zone includes a lounge and meeting space inside the Russell Street entrance, it seats 56 and is designed for visitors to meet, study, work or relax;
  • The Arts Reading Room moves into a beautiful heritage gallery seating 52 people, with new technology including AV stations and listening posts to access the library’s vast multimedia collection;
  • The Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms also move into a stunning heritage gallery seating 76 and, along with the Arts Reading Room, are designated quiet spaces for reading and research;
  • Isabella Fraser Room, named after the Library’s first female employee, is a heritage events venue now available for hire and is supported by state-of-the-art AV technology and a new production kitchen;
  • Readings bookshop moves from the west end of the Library to the east, increasing in size by 60% with an expanded children’s section;
  • New cafe, Guild is operated by Melbourne’s Almond Milk Co.
  • A large-scale artwork installed inside the Russell Street entrance by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith, titled Open Book.

Read more about Vision 2020