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Melbourne's Best Free Libraries

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by Emily Finlay (subscribe)
A freelance writer and editor living in Melbourne, I'm an avid fan of film, television and literature.
Published August 21st 2012
Melbourne has a rich literary history. One of the best ways to enjoy Melbourne's literature is through its amazing libraries. Whether you are looking for somewhere to study, somewhere to relax or somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the best thing about these libraries is that they are free.

The State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria (courtesy Wikimedia images)

State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is not just a library, it's a Melbourne icon. Located on Swanston Street in the bustling heart of Melbourne's CBD, the State Library is an oasis of calm. Opened in 1856, the library holds over 2 million books and 16,000 serials, including the diaries of the city's founders, John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, and the folios of Captain James Cook.

The building is gorgeous, especially the landmark Domed Reading Room, which opened in 1913. And on a lovely sunny day, the front garden is a fantastic place to have a mini picnic.

Melbourne City Library
Tucked away on Flinders Lane, the City Library offers community spaces for everyone, including meeting rooms for community groups to hire. Its collections include community languages, music and film collections, local history, reference, nonfiction and fiction.

The City Library is a great community hub, offering programs that support lifelong learning and include programs for children and families, bookclubs, and other events.

One of the best things about the City Library is that it has free internet, which means you can pop in, relax and browse the net to your heart's content. And when you are sick of browsing books, you can pop down to Degraves Street for a coffee break.

Melbourne's Best Free Libraries
Baillieu Library

Baillieu Library
If you don't mind the swarms of students around the Melbourne University campus, the Baillieu Library is a great place to visit. It is the University of Melbourne's largest discipline library, housing impressive collections relating to teaching and research in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Even if you are not a student, the library has some great (and quiet) places to relax and browse the collection. You can also check out some of the library's older collections on display on the first floor.

Melbourne Athenaeum Library
The Melbourne Athenaeum, founded in 1839, is one of the oldest public institutions in Victoria. The building on Collins Street was completed in 1842. The building has been used for multiple events, including film screenings, theatre, comedy shows and opera.

The library exists as a large subscription library with members throughout Victoria. The building itself is well worth a look; it was added to the Register of Historic Buildings in 1981 and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
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Where: In and around Melbourne
Cost: Free
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