We’ve covered Europe's, Asia's, Africa's, North America's and South America’s most beautiful libraries; now it’s time to take a look at Australia and, while it isn’t technically a part of the continent, New Zealand as well.
Victorian State Library, Australia
This library is not only massive – containing over 2 million books – it also has some fantastic rarities, including the diaries of the city’s founders, folios of Captain James Cook, and the armor of famed outlaw Ned Kelly. The library also houses a chess room containing materials on the history and study of chess and a number of game tables allowing students of the game to practice as they learn.
The building was first opened in 1856 with a collection of 3,800 books, and the famous domed reading room was opened in 1913. While the dome’s skylights were covered with copper sheets in 1959 due to water leakage, they have since been renovated, allowing beautiful natural light to once again fill the reading room.
The State Library of New South Wales, Australia
The oldest library in all of Australia, the State Library started as the Australian Subscription Library in 1826. In 1869, it was purchased by the government and became the Sydney Free Public Library. The name was changed to the Public Library of New South Wales in 1895, and in 1975 it was given its current title.
The building was built in 1845, but the most famous, and most stunning, part of the library is the Mitchell Wing, which was completed in 1910. The wing was named for David Scott Mitchell who had a fantastic collection of older books, including original journals of James Cook. The pictures included here are all from the Mitchell Wing.
Another wing was added twenty years later to add gallery space for a large collection of historical paintings donated by Sir William Dixson. The three library buildings were connected in 1942. In 1988, the library expanded once again and the library now houses over 5 million items, including 2 million books and 1.1 million photographs.
The State Library of South Australia
The State Library of South Australia is not as large as some of the other Australian State libraries, but it does have the distinction of having the largest collection dating from pre-European times in its South Australiana collection.
This collection is mostly contained within the Mortlock Wing, which is also the oldest and most gorgeous part of the library. Opened in 1884, the building originally held 23,000 books and employed three librarians. Since then, the collection has expanded so much that two massive buildings had to be added to the library, although the Mortlock Wing remains the most visually impressive.
Victorian Parliamentary Library, Australia
The Parliament House was built in stages, starting in 1855, and the library was one of the first things completed after the Legislative Assembly and Council. While construction continued all the way through 1929, the building’s Roman Revival design is fluent and smooth so the whole thing seems like one single entity rather than a series of extra wings tagged on throughout the years.
Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide, Australia
In 1927, the last heir to a prominent philanthropic Australian family offered £20,000 to the University of Adelaide for a new library, on the condition that it be named after his father, Robert Barr Smith. The red brick library was completed in 1932, complete with two friezes commemorating the donations of the Barr Smiths.
Unfortunately, the building was only designed to hold half a million volumes and, since the collection expanded quite quickly, addition after addition had to be added. These days, the library holds over two million volumes and now spans over almost 21,000 square meters. To ensure it doesn’t continue to fill up too quickly, lesser-used volumes are now transferred to the Universities’ Research Repository.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia user pdfpdf
Tuggeranong Library, Australia
Lake Tuggeranong is a man-made body of water created by a dam in 1987. As a result, the suburban town built around the lake is equally new, but with their lovely scenery, it’s no wonder that the local architecture is a step above typical suburban towns. The Tuggeranong Town Center Library is no exception and is, in fact, one of the most picturesque buildings in town – particularly when viewed from the water where you can see its reflection. While it might not be particularly old or have an impressive collection of rare books, with a view like this, it certainly deserves its place on this list.
Image courtesy of Flickr user longreach
University of Otago Central Library, New Zealand
There are ten different libraries at the University of Otago, three of which are not even located on campus. When it comes to looks and impressive collections though, the Central Library stands above the rest, with its gorgeous, modern architecture that lets in ample natural light and its Special Collection containing over 9,000 books printed before 1801. The library offers over 2,000 study spaces for students and over 500,000 books, periodicals and microfilms.
Image courtesy of Flickr user petahopkins
The George Forbes Memorial Library at Lincoln University, New Zealand
Lincoln University isn’t huge, nor is the George Forbes Memorial Library located at the heart of campus inside Ivey Hall, but what they lack in size they make up for in beauty. Ivey Hall was opened in 1880, and while the library was originally opened in the George Forbes Memorial Building in 1960, it was moved into Ivey Hall in 1988 after the building underwent a major refurbishment.
Do any of our readers from Down Under have some suggestions for extraordinary libraries that I left off this list? If so, please let us know about them in the comments.