Guidebook The State Library

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The State Library

A venerable institution inside an imposing building, the Library hosts 1.8 million visitors a year, more than the US Library of Congress, “but most never get to see much of the sprawling complex,” reports the ABC. “A vast network of corridors, many of them underground, weave through sections of the library that are off limits to the public.”

When its doors first opened in 1856, writes Hannie Rayson in The Sydney Morning Herald, Redmond Barry realised his dream of a free library for the working people of the colony -- and one of the first such libraries in the world. There were just 3846 books in the collection, many of which Barry had unpacked himself the night before … the crowd streaming across the foyer is as diverse as Melbourne itself. Old people, mothers with pushers, students, toddlers, the homeless and the eccentric. People of all ethnicities. There are 4500 visitors a day, 1.8 million per year. That is more than the British Library. More than the Library of Congress in Washington.”

“Reading is to Melbourne what peanuts are to butter and jelly,” writes Lucy Perera in Hide Seek Melbourne, and the Wheeler Centre is “a magnet for the city’s literati.” Nestled alongside the State Library, in Little Lonsdale Street, the centre runs events most nights of the week – “from author talks to public debates, book launches and poetry readings. Best of all, most events are free.”

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