The Public Library of Victoria (later the State Library of Victoria) was one of Australia's first public libraries. In 1853, at the instigation of notable citizens like Sir Redmond Barry and Governor Charles La Trobe, it was decided to establish a library in Melbourne. A competition for design of the building was won by Joseph Reed (whose later work included the Melbourne Town Hall and the Exhibition Building). Most of the Swanston Street frontage of today's Library is his original design.
Governor Hotham set the foundation stones of the Library on 3 July 1854. The Library was formally opened in early 1856, housing 3800 books personally chosen by Redmond Barry. It was called the Public Library or the Free Public Library. The first Librarian, Augustus H Tulk, was appointed three months after its opening.
The Library continued to expand. Three years after it opened the Queen's Reading Room (now Queen's Hall), a new wing on the central hall, was opened. In 1866 buildings were constructed on the Library site for use by the Intercolonial Exhibition. These soon housed the new Industrial and Technological Museum, as well as mining and agricultural collections formerly housed at the University of Melbourne. The site became known as the Library, Art Gallery, and Industrial and Technological Museum.
In 1899 the collections of the National Museum were transferred from Melbourne University to Swanston Street to join the collections of the Industrial and Technological Museum. They were housed in the large brick building at the rear of the Public Library in Swanston Street, later called McCoy Hall.
The 1866 buildings remained in use until 1909 when work began on the landmark Domed Reading Room, opened in 1913. It was designed by architect was Norman G. Peebles and emulated the two great libraries of the era: the British Museum Library in London and the Library of Congress in Washington. In 1915 the Industrial and Technological Museum re-opened in Queens Hall. Now four cultural bodies - the State Library, the National Museum, the National Gallery and the Industrial and Technological Museum - shared the buildings on the site in Swanston Street.
In 1965 the La Trobe Building was opened to house the Library's Australiana collection. In 1968 the National Gallery moved to new premises in St Kilda Road. In 1983 the National Museum and the Science Museum (formerly Industrial and Technological Museum) merged to become the Museum of Victoria. The Museum vacated the site in the late 1990s.
The Library was re-developed in the early years of the 21st century. It now occupies an entire city block bounded by Swanston, Russell, La Trobe and Little Lonsdale Streets.
State Library of Victoria website http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/visit
Face of Victoria exhibition http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/event/changing-face-victoria-exhibition
Museum Victoria website http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/history