Melbourne is one of only twenty UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world so it’s fitting that Melburnians love and appreciate their libraries. Apparently more people borrow books from libraries in Melbourne than anywhere else in Australia.
So here’s my list of the 17 best libraries in Melbourne for kids. Places that aren’t just repositories for books but that are also learning, community and cultural hubs with interesting architecture and/or interior design elements.
Happy exploring and reading!
City of Melbourne / Central
We are big fans of the City of Melbourne’s libraries but the Kathleen Syme Library is a particular favourite. A $15.5 million restoration has transformed the 139-year-old Kathleen Syme building into a creative, learning and community space. As the library is new the children’s area is spacious, with lots of shiny new titles plus toys and puzzles. We also regularly drop into the cute social enterprise Wild Timor cafe adjoining the library.
Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, 251 Faraday St, Carlton +61 3 9658 7310
We’re regulars at Kathleen Syme Library but The Library at the Dock has our heart. The three storey timber building is Australia’s most sustainable public building and the setting on Victoria Harbour is stunning. It reminds me of being in Scandinavia.
Add to that an unusual play area outside with water play and the excellent Saluministi cafe on the corner and we’re can easily spend half a day at the library.
The Library at the Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands 03 9658 9998
The Athenaeum Library is a private member’s library in the heart of Collins Street. The quiet, inviting reading room is a place to hide away from the hum of the city and there is a small children’s area piled with mostly classics. An annual subscription ($99 full, $30 for under 16s) allows you to access the library’s hand-picked collection and helps support a part of Melbourne’s history. It also has open days several times a year.
Melbourne Athenaeum Library, Level 1, 188 Collins St, Melbourne (03) 9650 3100
The gorgeous State Library of Victoria is a landmark but did you know they have a special area for kids called Play Pod? It’s a drop in area filled with children’s books, toys, dress ups and craft actvities.
While the SLV is not a borrowing library if you join as a member (for free) you can access the library’s over two million books, photos, artworks, documents, maps, manuscripts and more. Members can also log in to thousands of online databases, journals, magazines, ebooks and newspapers.
NORTH / NORTH-EAST
Image via Yarra Plenty Regional Library
The award-winning, heritage listed Eltham Library is situated next to parklands and cafes. It offers a unique children’s garden and a beautiful children’s room, a reading lounge with fireplace and community art space. It was designed by Greg Burgess and won the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ Institutional Architecture Award in 1995.
Eltham Library, Panther Pl, Eltham +61 3 9439 9266
Image via FJMT
Craigieburn Library includes an integrated local art gallery, café, childcare centre, computer training centre and meeting and function spaces. The building uses locally sourced earth as the primary building material and the design by architecture office FJMT won International Public Library of the Year in 2014.
Craigieburn Library, 75-95 Central Park Avenue, Craigieburn +61 3 9356 6980
SOUTH/ SOUTH-EAST / BAYSIDE
Image via ARM Architecture
ARM Architecture’s’ St Kilda Library extension to Enrico Taglietti’s 1970s Brutalist building won two Royal Australian Institute of Architects awards in 1995, commended for both its architecture and interior architecture. The facade facing the Town Hall plaza is a stone book and the pages of the book are penetrated by an S-profiled window..
In the children’s section where the bookshelves are child-sized versions and low colourful lights are hung from the ceiling.
St Kilda Library, 150 Carlisle St, St Kilda +61 3 9209 6655
Image via Weekend Notes
A bright, sunlit municipal building that also houses the Council offices, the library’s childrens area has flexible curved shelving, reading nooks, kids-sized furniture, bean bags and children’s computers. It won a Victorian Architecture Award in 2015 and has a similar look and feel to Sunshine Library because it’s by the same architects, Lyons.
Dandenong Library, 225 Lonsdale St, Dandenong +61 3 8571 1000
Image via Glen Eira City Council
The entrance to Carnegie Library features a unique forecourt and playspace for kids. Children can climb and slide down the structures, listen to and make sounds while also learning sign language and the bookworms provide auditory and sensory cues.
Carnegie Library, 7 Shepparson Ave, Carnegie +61 3 9524 3700
10. Bunjil Place
This massive, architecturally stunning three-storey library features a whole ground floor dedicated to children. There’s a huge collection of picture books and chapter books as well as cosy reading nooks set into the walls, bean bags and dress up and games to play.
Bunjil Place, 2 Patrick Northeast Drive, Narre Warren
You can’t miss this magical library as its walls are covered with murals inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Inside snuggle up in the giant chair (which looks rather magical) in the children’s area, which also has some toys and of course books to enjoy.
Frankston Library, 60 Playne Street, Frankston
REALM is one of the gateways to the redeveloped Eastland shopping centre precinct and it houses a cafe, curated art space, customer service and library. The children’s area is on the second level and it’s cosy and child-sized, with tiered seating and computers at children’s height.
Realm, 179 Maroondah Hwy, Ringwood +61 3 9800 6430
Image via City of Maribyrnong
Braybrook Library is part of the Braybrook Community and as it’s the newest library within Maribyrnong City Council it has a great collection of children’s books. The hub also includes community centre and spaces, cohealth community health services, maternal and child health services, Melbourne City Mission early years centre, a sports pavilion, Braybrook Men’s Shed, community gardens, public art installations and the Australian College of Optometry.
Bonus: A large and imaginative aeroplane-themed playground is right next door.
Braybrook Library, 107-139 Churchill Ave, Braybrook (03) 3 9188 5800
Williamstown Library has been named among the best in the world. Williamstown’s maritime heritage is reflected in the building’s architecture a timber bridge and curved form with wooden beams. The library includes gallery space and community meeting spaces; a dedicated Heritage Room, cafe and a lovely children’s area with reading nooks.
Williamstown Library, 104 Ferguson St, Williamstown +61 1300 465 542
15. Sunshine Library
The new Sunshine Library is set over the first two floors with double height reading areas. The bright children’s zone includes an outdoor area with a slide and a toy collection for borrowing.
Sunshine Library, 301 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine +61 3 9249 4640
Image via Raeco
The library at Tarneit Community Learning Centre is named after Australia’s first female prime minister. The brightly coloured interior includes large children’s and youth spaces, an area for community activities, study rooms and a social reading area.
Julia Gillard Library Tarneit, 150 Sunset Views Blvd, Tarneit +61 3 8734 0200
17. Melton Library
Image via FJMT
Opened in 2103, the building was one of the first 5 star green-star as built public buildings in Australia. The two-storey height includes maternal child heath nurses offices, children’s library, cafe, magazine area, incubator spaces for local organisations, theatrette and study/meeting spaces.
Melton Library 31 McKenzie Street, Melton +61 3 9747 5300
Other notable regional libraries close to Melbourne include Geelong Library and Heritage Centre
And don’t forget the community book swaps all around Melbourne’s Free Little Libraries!