The Mitchell Library Reading Room is in the Mitchell Library.
In 1898 David Scott Mitchell bequeathed his entire collection and a substantial endowment to the Public (now State) Library of NSW on the condition that a building would be constructed to house it.
On 11 September 1906 the NSW Government laid the foundation stone for the new building. David Scott Mitchell didn’t get to see the building completed as he died less than a year later on 24 July 1907.
The Mitchell Library (the north west corner of the building, that now houses the Friends Room) opened to the public on 9 March 1910. The Mitchell Library included a reading room for the study of items from the Mitchell collection.
In 1988 the General Reference Library Reading - now called the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room - moved to its current location on Macquarie Street. The Mitchell Library Reading Room then moved to where the General Reference Library Reading Room had been located. Visitors with a reader’s ticket could now study the very large Mitchell Library collection and special collections in this new location.
In honour of David Scott Mitchell’s generous bequest, the reading room was named the Mitchell Library Reading Room. Since moving to the current location, the reading room has undergone two major restorations, in 2001 and 2014.
The restoration in 2001 replaced the glass ceiling, refreshed the original 1942 design and modernised the technology and services provided.
In 2014, as part of the Restoring the Mitchell Library project, the Mitchell Library Reading Room was refurbished to restore the heritage features. In keeping with the original design and architecture of the building, the space was revitalised through:
restoring the original chairs and tables
cleaning and repairing the stained glass windows and fittings
opening up the room by removing the glass barrier around the central stairs
creating a larger space for the Special Collections area.
In late 2014, for the first time, the Mitchell Library Reading Room began opening for use on Sundays.