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.
Choosing the best library in Melbourne or the best library for kids in Melbourne is too hard – so here’s my list of the 18 best libraries in Melbourne for kids. Places that aren’t just repositories for books but that offer library children’s activities, are learning, community and cultural hubs and with interesting architecture and/or interior design elements.
Happy exploring and reading!
Best Libraries in Melbourne CBD / Docklands
We are big fans of the City of Melbourne’s cool libraries and the Kathleen Syme Library is a favourite Melbourne library.
A $15.5 million restoration transformed the 139-year-old Kathleen Syme building into a creative, learning and community space. 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. A library with a cafe is a perfect match!
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 as far as a Melbourne city library is concerned. The three-storey timber building is Australia’s most sustainable public building and the setting on Victoria Harbour is stunning.
This Melbourne library reminds me of being in Scandinavia – and it features the best kids library with curved library shelving!
The Library at the Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands 03 9658 9998
The Athenaeum Library is a private library in Melbourne’s CBD. 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
State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest and busiest public library, the biggest library in Melbourne and probably the most famous Melbourne library. In late 2019 it reopened the doors after a 5 year, $88.1 million redevelopment as part of the Vision 2020 project.
New spaces, programs and services include the wonderful Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter. This children’s library is designed with a two-level storybook castle, reading nooks, a makerspace, a running track, pram parking, upgraded family rooms and a brand new browsing children’s book collection and study space upstairs.
Because of its size and separation of areas for older and younger children, it’s probably one of the best libraries for toddlers.
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.
State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne 03 8664 7000
The newly established narrm ngarrgu Library and Family Services stands prominently in the heart of the Queen Victoria Market precinct, extending across three floors. This multifaceted facility is designed to cater to diverse community needs and the impressive library boasts a dedicated space for children’s literature and learning activities.
In addition to the extensive literary resources, the family services centre offers essential amenities, including a parent room, playgroup area, and a secure outdoor play space. The community rooftop terrace is stunning and provides a scenic overlook of the bustling market precinct. Kids can climb and play in this beautifully designed outdoor space, which also includes a water play feature for the warmer months.
To further cultivate community arts and education, the facility features a creative makerspace equipped with advanced tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, paint booths, and sewing machines. Two dedicated sound studios cater to podcast and audio recording enthusiasts. For collaborative endeavors, there’s a community study and events space, along with bookable meeting rooms.
narrm ngarrgu Queen Victoria Market Library, 141 Therry Street, Melbourne 03 9322 3700
Best Libraries in Melbourne – NORTH / NORTH-EAST
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.
Image via Yarra Plenty Regional Library
Eltham Library, Panther Pl, Eltham +61 3 9439 9266
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
Bargoonga Nganjin means ‘‘Gather Everybody’ in Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people. It’s a fitting name for North Fitzroy’s cool library, with its distinctive facade and rooftop garden.
It also houses maternal child and health services, council customer services and community spaces and activity rooms for hire.
Bargoonga Nganjin, 182-186 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North VIC 3068 1300 695 427
Best Public Library Melbourne – SOUTH/ SOUTH-EAST / BAYSIDE
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.
Image via ARM Architecture
St Kilda Library, 150 Carlisle St, St Kilda +61 3 9209 6655
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.
Image via Weekend Notes
Dandenong Library, 225 Lonsdale St, Dandenong +61 3 8571 1000
11. Carnegie Library
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.
Image via Glen Eira City Council
Carnegie Library, 7 Shepparson Ave, Carnegie +61 3 9524 3700
12. 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
Best Libraries Melbourne – EAST
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
Best Libraries in Melbourne – WEST
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.
Image via City of Maribyrnong
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
17. 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
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 distinguished by curved library shelving, 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
Nestled at the rear of Central Square Shopping Centre, the STEAM Centre of Excellence is housed within the Altona Meadows Library and Learning Centre. Following a recent refurbishment, this cutting-edge facility serves as a hub for state-of-the-art technologies and programs, with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
Boasting two technology pods, a media podcasting space complete with lights and a green screen, and a purpose-built makerspace for collaborative creation, the centre offers an interactive and dynamic learning environment.
The expertly curated Library of Things collection encompasses STEAM, Content Creation, and Accessibility technologies, including a wide range of fun science and robotic activities for children which can be borrowed and taken home.
Altona Meadows Library & Learning Centre, Central Square Shopping Centre, 2 Newham Way, Altona Meadows, 1300 462 542
20. Melton Library
Opened in 2013, 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 review.
Melton Library 31 McKenzie Street, Melton +61 3 9747 5300
As well as finding a good libraries in Melbourne 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!
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