Facade of classical style sandstone building with large sign at front with name of institution.

State Library of NSW, exterior. Photo courtesy State Library

State Library of NSW

Sunday 3 November

Macquarie Street, Sydney

See on map

Built

1910

Architect

Walter Liberty Vernon, NSW Government Architect’s Office

Additional architects

R M S Wells (1929, Dixson Collection)

Cobden Parkes, Government Architect (1934–42, Main Reading Room)

Andrew Andersons (1988, Macquarie Street Wing)

HASSELL (2018, Mitchell building redesign)

Awards

1988 AIA (NSW) - Public Architecture Award

The State Library of NSW is the oldest library in Australia. It started out as a small subscription library in Pitt Street in 1826 for colonials who were desperate to read books. From these early beginnings it became the world class, global library it is today.

In 1869 the NSW Government purchased the library, then located on the corner of Bent and Macquarie streets, to form the Sydney Free Public Library, the first truly public library for the people of NSW.

In 1898 David Scott Mitchell promised to bequeath the NSW Government his extraordinary collections of Australian books and art (40,000 items), on the proviso that a new building was constructed to house them. Designed by the NSW Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon, the Mitchell Library was opened in 1910 on the corner of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place. Sadly, DS Mitchell died before the building was completed.

In 1919 another benefactor, Sir William Dixson, offered the Library an extensive collection of historical paintings. The Dixson Wing, completed in 1929, was added to the south side of the Mitchell Wing to provide storage and gallery space for Dixson’s collection.

To rationalise the Library’s growing collections, the building was again extended in 1942. Cobden Parkes, the NSW Government Architect from 1935 to 1958, added the portico, the ornate vestibule with its reproduction of the Tasman Map in marble mosaic, and the main reading room. The name was changed to the Public Library of New South Wales.

In 1964 the Domain Wing was added to the southeast corner, and in 1975 the name changed again to the State Library of NSW. A final round of changes saw the Macquarie Wing addition in 1988 by Government Architect Andrew Andersons, bringing a new reading room (now the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room), as well as upgrades to the public space and amenity.

Visitors should keep an eye out for the statues of Matthew Flinders and his faithful cat Trim, located outside the Library on the Macquarie Street forecourt.

The Mitchell Building has recently undergone a remarkable transformation. Heritage areas never before open to the public have been reimagined with beautiful new galleries, a learning centre and casual seating. Six new exhibitions stretch across the entire first floor of the Mitchell Building, including an impressive salon hang of over 300 paintings on permanent display for the first time.

The Mitchell Building has been a prominent Sydney icon since 1910, so improving public access to it while respecting its heritage features remains a priority for the Library. The building project uncovered some lovely heritage elements which have become features in the new spaces. Beautiful arch windows now provide previously unseen views onto The Domain. Ornate 1940s wooden doors removed from the Level 1 northern corridor of the Mitchell have been repurposed, and will now open up into the Michael Crouch Room.

  • Newly refurbished western wing galleries showing portraits from the collection at the State Library of NSW
  • Western wing gallery at the State Library of NSW
  • Interior photograph of State Library of NSW, taken during Sydney Open 2018.

On Sunday 3 November


What’s open?

New Michael Crouch Family Galleries, Dixson Galleries, Shakespeare Room, Mitchell Reading Room, Mitchell Vestibule, Friends Room & John B Fairfax Learning Centre.


Talks, tours & more

10.30am

Behind the Scenes Tours: Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in Australia’s oldest library? Join our curators for an exclusive tour of the hidden places and locked away spaces in the Library. Hear about our curious history while exploring the rich and remarkable collection seven floors below street level. View precious maps, rare books, manuscripts, photographs and paintings close to the hearts of those who work with them, and discover their surprising stories. Good walking shoes are required as there will be lots of stairs to climb. Participants should be 12 years and older. Maximum of 15 people per tour. Please arrive early to secure your place. Tours last for approximately 1 hour and leave from the Information Desk in the Macquarie Street Building Foyer. Please note that coats and bags (including handbags) cannot be taken into the studios. There are lockers in the Macquarie Street Building & Mitchell Building.

60 mins

11am

History & Heritage tours: Drop-in tour hosted by State Library of NSW volunteers.

20 mins

12pm

Behind the Scenes Tours: Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in Australia’s oldest library? Join our curators for an exclusive tour of the hidden places and locked away spaces in the Library. Hear about our curious history while exploring the rich and remarkable collection seven floors below street level. View precious maps, rare books, manuscripts, photographs and paintings close to the hearts of those who work with them, and discover their surprising stories. Good walking shoes are required as there will be lots of stairs to climb. Participants should be 12 years and older. Maximum of 15 people per tour. Please arrive early to secure your place. Tours last for approximately 1 hour and leave from the Information Desk in the Macquarie Street Building Foyer. Please note that coats and bags (including handbags) cannot be taken into the studios. There are lockers in the Macquarie Street Building & Mitchell Building.

60 mins

12.30pm

History & Heritage tours: Drop-in tour hosted by State Library of NSW volunteers.

20 mins

1.30pm

Behind the Scenes Tours: Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in Australia’s oldest library? Join our curators for an exclusive tour of the hidden places and locked away spaces in the Library. Hear about our curious history while exploring the rich and remarkable collection seven floors below street level. View precious maps, rare books, manuscripts, photographs and paintings close to the hearts of those who work with them, and discover their surprising stories. Good walking shoes are required as there will be lots of stairs to climb. Participants should be 12 years and older. Maximum of 15 people per tour. Please arrive early to secure your place. Tours last for approximately 1 hour and leave from the Information Desk in the Macquarie Street Building Foyer. Please note that coats and bags (including handbags) cannot be taken into the studios. There are lockers in the Macquarie Street Building & Mitchell Building.

60 mins

2pm

History & Heritage tours: Drop-in tour hosted by State Library of NSW volunteers.

20 mins

3pm

Behind the Scenes Tours: Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in Australia’s oldest library? Join our curators for an exclusive tour of the hidden places and locked away spaces in the Library. Hear about our curious history while exploring the rich and remarkable collection seven floors below street level. View precious maps, rare books, manuscripts, photographs and paintings close to the hearts of those who work with them, and discover their surprising stories. Good walking shoes are required as there will be lots of stairs to climb. Participants should be 12 years and older. Maximum of 15 people per tour. Please arrive early to secure your place. Tours last for approximately 1 hour and leave from the Information Desk in the Macquarie Street Building Foyer. Please note that coats and bags (including handbags) cannot be taken into the studios. There are lockers in the Macquarie Street Building & Mitchell Building.

60 mins

3.30pm

History & Heritage tours: Drop-in tour hosted by State Library of NSW volunteers.

20 mins


Need
to know

  • Photography allowed

  • Toilets available

  • Food & drink available

  • Pram friendly
    The library has a drop in space for families on the ground floor of the Mitchell Library.

  • Accessible


Opening hours

10am-4pm

Last entry

3.30pm

Address

Macquarie Street, Sydney

Entry via

Shakespeare Place


Acknowledgements

Find out more about the State Library of New South Wales.