State Library of NSW | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


State Library of NSW

Item details

Name of item: State Library of NSW
Other name/s: Mitchell Library
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Education
Category: Library
Location: Lat: -33.8664008721 Long: 151.2131279690
Primary address: 1 Shakespeare Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St James
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT7028 DP1077148
LOT11 DP1177504
LOT33 DP39586
LOT1 DP51387
LOT1824 DP841390
LOT19 DP859014
LOT20 DP859014


Macquarie Street, Sheakespeare Place, Hospital Road and Parliament House
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1 Shakespeare PlaceSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
Macquarie StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
State Library of NSWState Government06 Nov 98

Statement of significance:

The public library of New South Wales houses a public facility initiated in 1869, and is one of the most important libraries in Australia. It was the second purpose built library and the only one remaining public library in Sydney dating from the early twentieth century. The building is still in use and has a lengthy association with several historically important persons such as Government Architect WL Vernon. It is significant for the prominent position it occupies at the termination of one of the most historically important streetscapes in Australia. The building is of aesthetic significance reflecting important stylistic influences on architecture of the twentieth century. The library is a recognised symbol in Sydney having had a long association with the provision of library services to the local and regional community of New South Wales. The building development and interior layout of the progressive stages of building reflects the changing attitudes to library planning theory. It is significant as one of the only Government buildings in the Federation Academic Classical styles. Only two of these are cultural buildings, the other being the Art Gallery of NSW. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
Date significance updated: 21 Mar 01
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Walter Liberty Vernon assisted by H.C.L. Anderson, Principal Librarian
Builder/Maker: Howie Bros - 1939; FWC Powell & Sons - 1959, Mellocco Bros - 1964
Construction years: 1905-1910
Physical description: The Mitchell Wing is a masonry building with Maroubra sandstone and trachyte external walls, and plaster finished brick internal walls. The building was completed in several construction phases between 1906 and 1964, comprising two storeys and a basement level. The Mitchell Wing in its current configuration exhibits the characteristics of the Inter-war Academic Classical style. It houses a series of galleries and libraries, together with administrative and storage areas, and is linked below ground and at first floor level by a glass walkway to the Macquarie Wing. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good condition but requiring maintenance to stonework and roof levels. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
Date condition updated:21 Mar 01
Modifications and dates: 1910 - completion of Mitchell Library
1929 - completion of Dixson Wing
1939-42 - Public Library, entrance and northern office
1959 - Vestibule and stair case
1964 - South East Wing
1988 - Refurbishment and Dalgety walkway to Macquarie Wing
Further information: The library combines work of a series of NSW Government Architects and was the result benefaction by a number of prominent citizens. It houses the most important collection of Australian and Pacific Island material in the world. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
Current use: Public Library - special collections and exhibitions
Former use: Public Library


Historical notes: Construction commenced in 1906 and was built in stages up to 1964. Involvement of NSW Government architects - Walter Liberty Vernon, Cobden Park, Richard McDonald Seymour Wells and Edward Herbert Farmer.

Construction work continued during World War II.

Faade design changed from Renaissance to Neo Classical.

Change of function following completion of Bicentennial Macquarie Wing and relocation of General Reference Library.

For detailed history refer to 'A Source of Inspiration and Delight' by David J Jones published by the NSW Library Council and 'Historical Summary in Conservation Plan' by Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners Architects Pty Ltd. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Mitchell Wing has been in continuous use as a public library since its completion in 1907. The building is the second purpose built library in Sydney, and the earliest remaining. The Mitchell Wing is specifically associated with a number of prominent Sydney residents who have acted as benefactors, llibrarians, architects and craftsmen on the building. The bequests of three people, namely Edward Wise, David Scott Mitchell and William Dixson formed the basis of the collections. The Mitchell Wing houses a unique collection of Australiana and reference material held in Trust by the State Library of New South Wales for the general public. The building is closely associated with the development of the NSW Government Architect's Office and particularly with the work of Walter Liberty Vernon, Richard McDonald Seymour Wells, Cobden Parkes and Edward Herbert Farmer. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building, as the repository of a unique collection of Australiana, is crucial to the community's sense of place. The importance of the building to the community is demonstrated in part by its completion in the early 1940s, when other public works had been severely reduced by World War II. The inclusion of the Mitchell Wing on a number of Commonwealth, State and Local heritage registers indicates the value placed on the building by the community. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The original Mitchell Stack of steel and glass was regarded as highly innovative at the time of its construction. The two storey stack area is now a unique example of a highly resolved design solution addressing structure, lighting and aesthetics. The building was the first public building in New South Wales, apart from hospitals, to have been fully air conditioned. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
SHR Criteria f)
The building is a rare example of the Academic Neo Classical style used for public buildings in Sydney. It is also a rare building type within the State. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
Integrity/Intactness: The building is substantially intact with minor modifications. The main reading room was partially refurbished in 1988 for use as the Mitchell reading room. (Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners, 1999)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementThe Mitchell Wing State Library of NSW Conservation Plan Conservation Management Plan endorsed by Heritage Council 10 April 2002 for a period of five years, expires 10 April 2007 Apr 10 2002
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for commentThe Mitchell Building, State Library of New South Wales Oct 16 2017

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0107102 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register  01 Nov 97   
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 2012I1950   
National Trust of Australia register NTA (NSW) Suburban Register item638611 Feb 74   
Register of the National EstateState Library of NSW184721 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007State Library of NSW View detail
WrittenDavid J Jones1988A Source of Inspiration and Delight
WrittenGraham Brooks & Associates1997Section 170 Register Report
WrittenNBRS Architecture, Heritage2016Conservation Management Plan: Mitchell Building, State Library of NSW: Vol.1: Report
WrittenNBRS Architecture, Heritage.2017Conservation Management Plan: Mitchell Building, State Libary of NSW: Vol.1, Report; Vol.2, Inventory Sheets
WrittenNoel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners1999NSW State Library Conservation Plan
WrittenNoel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners1999The Mitchell Wing State Library of NSW - Report on Heritage Curtilage
Management Plan (HC endorsed)Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners Pty Ltd2002The Mitchell Wing State Library of NSW Conservation Plan
TourismTourism NSW2007State Library of New South Wales View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

rez rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045212
File number: 10/03835

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.