Mitchell Library Reading Room

Located on Ground floor in the Mitchell Library building, visit this light-filled space to study, browse the shelves or use the Special Collections area.

The Mitchell Library Reading Room

About the room


Located on Ground floor in the Mitchell Library building, the Mitchell Library Reading Room is a Sydney landmark that has been welcoming readers and visitors since 1942.

It holds an unrivalled research collection relating to Australia and the South-West Pacific, with more than 50,000 books lining the shelves.

Many great Australian works on the page, stage and screen have been researched and written here.

Visit the Special Collections area to view original material and to speak with Library staff.

Visiting the Reading Room

Visit the Mitchell Library Reading Room to:

  • read and study
  • use the Library's free wi-fi on your own device – most tables have power outlets
  • use the Special Collections area to view original material and rare printed material from the Library's collections.

What you can bring into the Reading Room

You'll need to be aware of what you can and can't bring into this room.

You can bring:

  • bags
  • bottled water
  • books, magazines and other material.

You can't bring:

  • food and drinks (except bottled water).

Security staff at the reading room entrance can answer questions about what you can bring in.

The Special Collections area has more restrictions. Make sure you read those and the Special Collections conditions of use before you use the area.


In 1898 David Scott Mitchell left his entire collection to the Library in his will – along with a substantial endowment – on the condition that a building would be constructed to house it. At that stage the Library was called the Public Library of NSW.

On 11 September 1906 the NSW Government laid the foundation stone for the new building. 

Sadly, 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 opened to the public on 9 March 1910, in the north west corner of the building – the area that now houses the Friends Room. It included a reading room for the study of items from the Mitchell collection.

Mitchell Library Reading Room, 1911-1912

In 1988 the General Reference Library Reading - now called the Marie Bashir Reading Room - moved to its current location on Macquarie Street. The Mitchell Library Reading Room then moved to the vacated space.

Visitors with a reader's ticket could now study the very large Mitchell Library collection and special collections in this new location.

The reading room has since undergone two major restorations. A 2001 renovation replaced the glass ceiling, refreshed the original 1942 design and modernised the technology and services.

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.