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18 Best Libraries in Melbourne

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

1. Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre

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!

City of Melbourne Libraries and Community Hubs, such as Kathleen Syme Library, are temporarily closed.

You can continue to access library collections online, using your library membership number. This includes thousands of free e-books, eAudiobooks, eMagazines and learning resources.

If you don’t have a library membership you can sign up online as an eLibrary member.

As book return chutes are closed, all loans will be extended until libraries reopen.  All reservations will be held until libraries reopen.

The library has collated resources and ideas for your time at home, with ebooks, streaming services and an online zine demonstration with Ashley Ronning.

And another page, dedicated to children’s resources, eKids suggests literacy games, stories and characters to play along with.

Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, 251 Faraday St, Carlton +61 3 9658 7310

2. The Library at the Dock

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!

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 at the Dock.

City of Melbourne Libraries and Community Hubs, such as The Library at the Dock, are temporarily closed.

You can continue to access library collections online, using your library membership number. This includes thousands of free e-books, eAudiobooks, eMagazines and learning resources.

If you don’t have a library membership you can sign up online as an eLibrary member.

As book return chutes are closed, all loans will be extended until libraries reopen.  All reservations will be held until libraries reopen.

The library has collated resources and ideas for your time at home, with ebooks, streaming services and an online zine demonstration with Ashley Ronning.

And another page, dedicated to children’s resources, eKids suggests literacy games, stories and characters to play along with.

The Library at the Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands  03 9658 9998

3. Melbourne Athenaeum Library

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.

The Melbourne Athenaeum Library is temporarily closed. eBooks are still available during this period.

Melbourne Athenaeum Library, Level 1, 188 Collins St, Melbourne (03) 9650 3100

4. State Library of Victoria

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.

The State Library Victoria is temporarily closed until 30 June 2020. In the meantime, there are a number of resources available:

State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne 03 8664 7000

Best Libraries in Melbourne – NORTH / NORTH-EAST

5. Eltham 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.

Image via Yarra Plenty Regional Library

Eltham library is temporarily closed.  Return chutes are also closed.  However, the Yarra Plenty Regional Library service has launched Your Library at Home Program, including the same services and children’s programs, all in a new format.

Library members can access a digital library of ebooks and audio books, film and TV streaming services and a Book Valet for personalised recommendations.

Virtual Storytime is happening on Facebook weekdays:

  • 10am – Baby Storytime
  • 10:30am – Toddler Storytime
  • 11am – Preschool Storytime
  • 6pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday – Bedtime Storytime

The Yarra Plenty Regional Library has also launched a Homework Help program!  Book a session online and a librarian will conference with your child online to assist with learning at home.

Eltham Library, Panther Pl, Eltham +61 3 9439 9266

6. Craigieburn Library

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 is temporarily closed. However, Hume Libraries Express is bringing the library to you with contact-free delivery services to existing library members residing in the Hume municipality.  You can reserve items from the library catalogue and they will be delivered to your home from the Broadmeadows, Craigieburn and Sunbury branches.

Additionally, you can access Hume Libraries’ digital resources online, and storytime (as well as other children’s activities) will be live on the Hume Libraries Facebook page at 10am.

Craigieburn Library, 75-95 Central Park Avenue, Craigieburn +61 3 9356 6980

7. Bargoonga Nganjin

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, as part of Yarra Libraries, is temporarily closed. However, they are offering lots of services virtually:

Bargoonga Nganjin, 182-186 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North VIC 3068 1300 695 427

Best Public Library Melbourne – SOUTH/ SOUTH-EAST / BAYSIDE

8. St Kilda Library

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

Image via ARM Architecture

St Kilda Library is temporarily closed.  Return chutes remain open, but all loans have been extended until the library reopens.  Any current reservations will be held.  However, as part of Port Phillip Libraries, there are lots of virtual resources available:

St Kilda Library, 150 Carlisle St, St Kilda +61 3 9209 6655

9. Dandenong Library

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.

Image via Weekend Notes

Dandenong Library is temporarily closed and all existing loans are extended until 31 May 2020. However, they have virtual resources available:

Dandenong Library, 225 Lonsdale St, Dandenong +61 3 8571 1000

10. 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

All Glen Eira Libraries, including Carnegie Library, are temporarily closed. No late fees will apply to existing loans.

Members can browse and borrow from their digital resources, including audiobooks, eBooks, films and music.

Carnegie Library, 7 Shepparson Ave, Carnegie +61 3 9524 3700

11. 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, as a City of Casey Library, is temporarily closed.  However, there are still digital and other services available:

  • Home Delivery of up to 10 books every 14 days for existing Casey Cardinia Library members who live within the City of Casey and Cardinia Shire
  • Online resources including audiobooks eBooks, Storybox Library, access to digital newspapers / magazines and more
  • Library At Home including virtual storytime, baby time, STEAM club videos and writing competitions

Bunjil Place,  2 Patrick Northeast Drive, Narre Warren

12. Frankston Library

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 City Libraries are temporarily closed. However, their online resources are available, library members can access StoryBox Library, ebooks and audiobooks.  Also, see the Frankston City Libraries Facebook page for virtual storytimes and FrankTALKs.

Frankston Library, 60 Playne Street, Frankston

Best Libraries Melbourne – EAST

13. Realm

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, as one of the Eastern Regional Libraries, is currently closed.  The return chute at Realm remains open, however all late fees will be waived until the library reopens. A number of virtual resources are available in the meantime:

Realm, 179 Maroondah Hwy, Ringwood +61 3 9800 6430

Best Libraries in Melbourne – WEST

14. Braybrook Library

Braybrook Library is part of the Braybrook Community Hub 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.

Image via City of Maribyrnong

Braybrook Library, as part of Maribyrnong Libraries, is temporarily closed. However there are still multiple services available:

  • If you're not a Maribyrnong Libary member, you can sign up online
  • Access eBooks, audiobooks and other digital resources online with the eLibrary Portal
  • Reserve books online and have them delivered by the new Home Delivery Service by Maribyrnong Libraries
  • Access digital resources especially for kids with Maribyrnong Libraries' Kids Online

Braybrook Library, 107-139 Churchill Ave, Braybrook (03) 3 9188 5800

15. Williamstown Library

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.

Hobsons Bay Libraries, including Williamstown Library, are temporarily closed.  However, there are still resources available for library members to access:

  • Access the eLibrary from home
  • Book a Book with the Home Delivery Service (maximum of 25 items per household per delivery), available to all Hobsons Bay Library members who reside in Hobsons Bay municipality
  • Participate in the Autumn Book Binge, and go in the draw to win a Readings voucher
  • Enjoy virtual Storytime with Hobsons Bay Libraries Say-at-Home Storytime, accessible via the Hobsons Bay Libraries Facebook page

Williamstown Library, 104 Ferguson St, Williamstown +61 1300 465 542

16. 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.

Brimbank Libraries, including Sunshine Library, are temporarily closed.  Library chutes are open, but all loans will be automatically extended until the libraries reopen.  Access library resources by:

Sunshine Library, 301 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine +61 3 9249 4640

17. Julia Gillard Library Tarneit

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.

All Wyndham City libraries, including Julia Gillard Library Tarneit, are temporarily closed to the public. Library return chutes are also closed.  In the meantime, access Wyndham City Libraries digital resources, such as:

Julia Gillard Library Tarneit, 150 Sunset Views Blvd, Tarneit +61 3 8734 0200

18. Melton Library

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 review. 

City of Melton Libraries are temporarily closed.  They ask that you hold onto items you currently have at home, and loan dates will be extended until after libraries reopen.

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!

100 best things to do in Melbourne with kids

Best bookshops in Melbourne for kids

CBCA Book Week 2020 Best Kids Books Shortlist

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I hope this post has helped or inspired you! Subscribe to my weekly newsletter to find out more ways for your family to have fun together!

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Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned serial entrepreneur.

As well as being the founder of TOT: HOT OR NOT she helps businesses with their SEO, email marketing & social media as BrightSmart.com.au; she owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au and develops and produces creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com. She used to publish another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne.

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband, two children and seven bikes.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. The La Trobe University library in Bundoora is pretty excellent as well. Well, at least for serious research. But for kids, the Eltham library (next to a good playground) is the best bet for anyone living in the northern region.

  2. We love the Eltham library and also Diamond Valley – it has a lovely outdoor community garden and fantastic kids storytimes and activities with enthusiastic and friendly staff

  3. Thank you so much for collating this list together, looking for somewhere to take the kids tomorrow and also to search for a new author I’m interested in (Jason Webster). :-)

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