2021 Building Plan: FAQs

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. 

 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 this work, the staircase in the floor of the Mitchell Library Reading Room, which was installed in the late 1980s, will be removed. The floor of the Reading Room will then be restored to its original 1940s glory, at the same time providing 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.     

Will I still be able to use the Mitchell Library Reading Room when the building works are taking place?     
The Mitchell Library Reading Room will be open throughout the building works, except for a period in early 2022 when work on the reading room floor is being carried out. We will endeavour to make this period of closure as brief as possible, and advance notice will be advertised on our website and via our social media channels. Other reading rooms in the Library will remain open.  

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 proposed small rooftop bar (to accommodate a maximum of 120 people) will offer Sydneysiders and visitors — both local and international, once travel restrictions are lifted — a unique experience while at the same time helping to encourage people back into the CBD. Everyone over the age of 18 will be welcome. 

Will the rooftop venue impact the local building environment?  
No. It will be 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 development application for the rooftop bar and improved accessibility has been approved and work is now underway. See our timeline for more details.

When will the rooftop venue open? 
The Library bar is expected to open in mid-late 2021. 

Will there be future consultation opportunities?     
As plans progress development applications for upcoming works will go on public exhibition for comment. We also encourage you to submit your feedback to us via email at mitchell.feedback@sl.nsw.gov.au.

If you have any questions about the Library’s plans, please email: