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Mitchell Library Reading Room from above with bookcases and desks

Success story: the Mitchell campaign

Refurbishing and renewing the Mitchell Building

How the campaign started

The Library's iconic Mitchell Library is a jewel of Sydney architecture and one of the grandest spaces in the city. It is one of Australia’s finest public sandstone buildings.  Yet refurbishing and renewing such a majestic building is extremely expensive and requires a lot of resources.

The Mitchell Campaign was established to mark the 25th Anniversary of the State Library of NSW Foundation in 2014 with the goal of supporting the refurbishment of the Mitchell Library building. It was also aimed at addressing the necessities of today’s educational expectations of our scholars, students, visitors, friends and volunteers. 

A passionate group of benefactors collaborated to support the refurbishment of the ground floor of the Mitchell wing.   

One initiative was the chance to ‘sponsor’ a study table or chair in the iconic Mitchell Reading Room.  The campaign was exceptionally well received with over 150 items of furniture supported by a diverse group of individual donors, giving the contributors a real sense of being part of the Library community.  Each sponsored study table or chair has been engraved with a brass plaque dedicated to a family, partner, grandchild, loved one or in memory of a special individual. 

In 2015 the Library completed Stage 1 of The Mitchell Campaign which encompassed the restoration of the Mitchell building’s ground floor heritage spaces.  Throughout the year we had a strong response to our general appeal and have reached our overall target of $1.15 million. 

Empty Friends Room

How the Mitchell Building was renewed

The work involved in renewing and upgrading such a splendid edifice required highly skilled workers and designers, specialised in working within such historical buildings, to carefully tailor and renovate it. The images below show the amazing progress and refurbishment effort. 


The result has been outstanding. The magnificent Mitchell Reading Room has been elegantly refurbished with a glass partitioned scholars area located at the rear of the expansive floor plan. The detailed stained glass windows surrounding the upper level of the room have been restored to their former glory, the lighting upgraded and new sustainable flooring has been installed. 

Lady in chair in Mitchell Reading Room

The newly enhanced suite of spaces include the Friends and Volunteers rooms and a new gallery space for public use. These grand spaces have been designed to be inviting and contemporary yet sympathetic to the 100 year old building.  The Friends Room started its life as the original Mitchell Reading room. It now resembles an intimate club with a historic ambience nestled in the heart of the CBD, completed with bespoke furniture and soft furnishings - a quiet space to read, research or catch up with friends.  Dr Haneman’s extraordinary collection of 1100 editions of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote lines the walls, contained within the original Mitchell Library art deco cabinetry.  A special thank you is extended to Cadrys Carpets who translated a selection of iconic art-deco-inspired designs by Florence Broadhurst, into exquisite hand-knotted rugs.

The new Gallery space, originally part of the Mitchell Library, is now a large elegant room for the public to learn about our collections through events or exhibitions.

These newly restored spaces were made available to the public in March 2015 and provide wonderful areas for over 1500 Friends, 100 volunteers and for the general public.

We heartily thank all donors for their support of this important work, in particular Geoffrey and Rachel O’Conor, the Abbott Foundation, Rob Thomas AM, the Nelson Meers Foundation, Kim Williams AM, Belinda Hutchinson AM and David Anstice, and are extremely appreciative of the support we have received from so many loyal supporters of the Mitchell Library in helping us reach our ambitious goal.

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