Toy libraries spread joy in Carlton, North Melbourne and Docklands

7 February 2024

It’s the first week of toy library openings for the year and the Hotham Hub in North Melbourne is a hive of excitement, laughter and discovery.

New toys and old favourites – trucks, slides, a miniature post office box – the City of Melbourne toy library collection spans 3000-plus items for ages zero to eight, across three locations.

At the Hotham Hub, there’s space for borrowers and their families to stay and play. Toy library attendants notice patterns in families forming relationships – the children get along, so they tend to come at the same time each week or fortnight.

Beyond a centre for fostering play and curiosity, the libraries have become social spaces for kids and their parents.

Child plays at Toy Library
Families flock to the toy libraries from across the City of Melbourne

“The children are able to play together, and you notice parents chatting and forming friendships, too,” said Bernadine Nolen, a team leader in our library and children’s services branch.

“We watch kids develop their social skills through learning to share with others, especially in a new environment.

“The collections are carefully curated and reviewed – informed and updated with the help of feedback from the experts, children. We focus on toys that are fun, help to develop skills and imagination and support brain, muscle and language development.”

City of Melbourne’s toy libraries are free to access – all you need is a library membership.

The City of Melbourne runs three toy libraries across the municipality: alongside Hotham Hub, locations include The Chapel in Carlton, and Library at The Dock in Docklands.

It’s free to join and free to borrow from our toy libraries. About 250 families use the service each year – a membership base that has been steadily expanding since the Council removed annual membership fees in July 2023.

Since then, 6759 items have been borrowed, enjoyed and returned by 552 families.

Families come from across the city to visit the libraries, because they recognise the benefits, Bernadine said.

“They’re free, they’re a social space for kids and families, they give parents the chance to trial toys before they commit to buying them, and they’re good for the environment because they reduce waste.”

Toy library opening hours 

The Chapel, 469 Cardigan Street, Carlton

  • Monday: 3pm to 6pm 
  • Wednesday: 9.30am to 12.30pm 
  • Saturday: 10am to 2pm  

Hotham Hub, 113 Melrose Street, North Melbourne

  • Tuesday: 9.30am to 12.30pm 
  • Thursday: 3pm to 6pm 
  • Saturday: 10am to 2pm 

Library at The Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands 

  • Click and collect

To access the toy libraries, join up to the City of Melbourne libraries network. Available to all Victorians, this free membership, also gives you access to a huge range of books, ebooks, audiobooks, music, games, films and much more.

To learn more City of Melbourne services and facilities for families, read our Guide to Melbourne for children, parents and libraries. Plus, don’t forget to explore the new children’s library and play areas at narrm ngarrgu Library and Family Services, now open in the Queen Victoria Market precinct.

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