Melbourne

State Library of Victoria

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At Yale we were blessed with an array of libraries from which to choose: handsome rooms outfitted in dark wood and cracked leather, of course, but also sleek spaces with Saarinen chairs and a monumental chamber of translucent marble that in the waning hours glowed warmly, like Christmas decorations coming alive at night. It’s a shame I spent most of my time dozing in armchairs.

I still wax nostalgic about college, and sometimes when I need to do work, I forego the neighborhood cafe and go to a library instead. Not all of them are glamorous. Sometimes they are overrun with passersby leeching free air conditioning and Wi-Fi. But always there is the student flipping mindlessly through his phone and the other one sprawled face-down on the table, echoes of a former self.

Once, with a project proposal deadline pending, I stationed myself in the State Library of Victoria. Through the La Trobe Reading Room I paced, crisscrossing through rows of heavy chairs and green-glass lamps that were all the same, really, but not convincingly same enough to deter me from the self-important deliberateness of marking out a space as my own. I know what shoes I wore that day because I can still hear the clack of my heels reverberating through the chamber, up into the webbing of the dome.

I did choose a seat, and I did open my laptop, but productivity never took hold—I wrote maybe two emails—and then my friend materialized, and we went off to get lunch.

Libraries, in the end, are havens for procrastinators. And so all libraries need one of these spaces: luminous, spacious, endlessly distracting.

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A magnificent neoclassical building originally constructed in 1856, the State Library of Victoria has continued to expand and renovate its chambers over the years. Most iconic is the La Trobe Reading Room; the octagonal space extends six stories up to the glass dome, and rows of desks and islands of tables radiate out from the center like spokes on a wheel. Also worth checking out are the paintings exhibited in the Cowen and Keith Murdoch Galleries and the strikingly hued Red and Blue Rotundas. Throughout the day, the front lawn is a popular congregation point for locals. The nighttime illuminations are lovely.

Address
328 Swanston St, Melbourne
Hours
Mon-Thu: 10:00-21:00; Fri-Sat: 10:00-18:00
Phone
03 8664 7000
Price
Free

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