Major building plan: Your questions
Why does the Library need a building plan?
Our aim is to make the State Library of NSW fully accessible to the public for the first time, from underground spaces, right up to parts of the historic Mitchell building rooftop. We want to ensure all of our readers and visitors — local and international — can enjoy what this great institution has to offer, including its collections, services, programs and facilities. Our new plan will make this aim a reality.
How is the plan being funded?
With $24 million in funding support — over two years — from the NSW Government, the State Library of NSW will be able to meet the following challenges:
1. Accessible entry, Mitchell building
There is no satisfactory access to the entrance of the State Library’s historic Mitchell building for people with mobility issues and finding the right solution without damaging the building’s heritage profile has been challenging. We have consulted with heritage experts and architects to come up with an elegant design for lift access next to the external Mitchell stairs. It will involve very minor alterations to one small part of the building’s façade. The proposed lift will open directly into the Mitchell building foyer through an existing room.
A very small ramp will also be installed next to the garden bed, near the State Library sign, to provide easy access to the Mitchell forecourt. The Development Application, including heritage approvals, was received on 14 April 2021 and amendments to the design were approved in May 2021.
2. New accessible link between the Mitchell and Macquarie St buildings
A new internal gallery will be created through a currently unused area of the Library’s basement, in order to provide level access, connecting the Library’s Mitchell and Macquarie St buildings. This spacious area will be used as an additional, permanent gallery which will allow us to show highlights from the Library’s vast photographic collection.
As part of these works, we recently restored the reading room to its original 1940s glory. This involved removing the stairs that were installed in the floor of the Reading Room in the 1980s. In addition, the entire footprint was recarpeted. These work have provide much-needed additional space for readers.
3. Improved access to the Macquarie St building
The entrance ramp leading from Macquarie Street into the Library’s Macquarie St building is steep and does not comply with current standards for disability access. The Library proposes the creation of a new, ramped access route to rectify this issue. The public exhibition for this development application is complete and we are awaiting approval.
Additionally, the Macquarie St building foyer will be renovated, to better welcome and service the growing number of readers and visitors. The Library plans to expand its bookshop, improve the cafe and build better facilities.
4. A new auditorium with improved capacity
The existing Metcalfe Auditorium in the Macquarie St building, which only seats around 120 people, is regularly booked out, as are other public venue hire spaces. The Library plans to build a state of the art, 344-seat auditorium for large gatherings and conferences (replacing the existing Metcalfe Auditorium) within a lightly used stack area beneath the Mitchell Library Reading Room. The Development Application for this work was approved on 14 April 2021.
Will the building works affect the Library’s opening hours?
No. The Library will remain open and will operate as usual throughout the building works, however, access to some areas of the building may be temporarily restricted. Noisy works will be scheduled outside of Library opening hours wherever possible, to minimise disruption to readers, visitors and neighbours on Macquarie Street. Measures will also be taken by our collection care experts to ensure that any collections housed in the surrounding areas are properly protected.
What is being done to protect the heritage of the building?
The Library is working with expert heritage consultants and architects at every stage of this project.
Why does the State Library need a rooftop venue?
Since the end of July 2017, we have been successfully turning the Library ‘inside out’ so our readers and visitors can access and enjoy the Library’s collections, services, programs and facilities. The Library’s vision to be fully accessible to all includes providing access to parts of the historic Mitchell building rooftop. The Library Bar, a small rooftop venue (accommodating a maximum of 120 people) opened to the public on 16 December 2021. It offers Sydneysiders and visitors a unique experience while at the same time helping to encourage people back into the CBD. Everyone 18 years and over is welcome.
Will the rooftop venue impact the local building environment?
No. It is accessible from the Domain and designed simply, so that no alteration to the envelope of the building will be visible from below.
Will there be live entertainment?
The approved DA allows for limited live entertainment under strict conditions.
When will the work start?
The dates for key stages of the Library’s plan can be found here. Updates on works, including any changes to building access or disruptions to Library services can be found here.
Will there be future consultation opportunities?
The Development Application, including heritage approvals, was received in April 2021 and amendments to the design were approved in July 2021.
If you have any questions about the Library’s plans, please email: