Culture and heritage

Beyond the bookshelf: how libraries change lives

3 January 2023

Our libraries are places full of joy and creativity, where the future is now.

City of Melbourne libraries have evolved in many ways over recent years.

Demand for books remains high, and use of digital resources like ebooks, audiobooks, films, music and games surged during lockdowns. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Our library offerings can’t be contained by walls or websites. They pop up across the central city and hit the road to visit people in their neighbourhoods.

A woman holding books standing in front of a red van. The words 'MEL-VAN' are written on the side.
Stella with the Mel-van

Here are seven special ways to engage with our library services:

  1. Look out for our Mel-van mobile library visiting public housing, community hubs and festivals near you with books, workshops and wi-fi in a suitcase. We also bring our ‘Books and Biscuits’ program to older people, with curated pre-loved books and discussions about short stories, poems, essays and articles. Read what locals Stella and Irene had to say about the beloved red van.
  2. Find pathways out of homelessness thanks to library social worker Erin McKeegan. She helps people in need access the support services they need amid the welcoming, non-clinical library environment. You can also pick up a copy of the Need to Know zine – made by people with lived experience of sleeping rough – from our libraries and community hubs.
  3. Watch the new Munro Library take shape in close consultation with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal artists. This epic library will be located opposite the iconic Queen Victoria Market.
  4. Use state-of-the-art creative technology for free in our makerspaces. Devotees have designed games, 3D-printed lizard
    skeletons for museum exhibits and prototyped groundbreaking medical devices.
  5. Share your love of reading, practice French and learn how to do your tax at online and in-person library events. Our book clubs, conversations clubs and life-skills workshops build community and counter isolation.
  6. Borrow technology kits to make your life easier, cheaper and less wasteful. We have microphones, guitar pedals, robotics equipment, laptops and accessibility tools like the C-Pen Reader, which reads text out loud.
  7. Co-work, run meetings, tinker on a creative project, shape-up your startup or just make a cuppa at Micro-Labs, a vibrant, flexible space on Bourke Street. Drop by to enjoy a curated library collection, mini makerspace, kitchenette, movable furniture, pop-up shop and cosy courtyard.
Two people weaving using a small loom
Locals get creative in the Micro-Labs mini makerspace

Our permanent and pop-up library locations include the central city, East Melbourne, Carlton, North Melbourne, Docklands and Southbank.

Need more inspiration? View the books, ebooks and audiobooks of the month and browse library events.

Share this story

You may also like
Big skies: Bebe Backhouse in Aboriginal Melbourne

Big skies: Bebe Backhouse in Aboriginal Melbourne

A lifetime’s worth of creative thinking infuses Bebe Backhouse as he works to shift power back to Aboriginal communities in Narrm. Even as a child growing up in a tiny town on a remote peninsula in the Kimberley, a powerful force called Bebe Backhouse to Narrm. “I was...

Five unforgettable experiences from First Nations creatives

Five unforgettable experiences from First Nations creatives

Hear techno played on a colossal organ, express yourself with “a Faboriginal kid from the bush” and be transported to Saskatchewan when YIRRAMBOI festival returns in May.  YIRRAMBOI means "tomorrow” in the languages of the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung people. The...

Meet the world for Cultural Diversity Week in Melbourne

Meet the world for Cultural Diversity Week in Melbourne

Did you know our municipality is home to people from 160 cultural backgrounds, who speak 150 languages and practise 80 faiths? This includes our city’s Aboriginal people who represent the oldest continuing living culture in the world. Fifty-five per cent of...

Female filmmakers shine with new arts funding

Female filmmakers shine with new arts funding

Be mesmerised by stunning films made by women, see epic photography adorn city streets, and unleash your inner author thanks to arts organisations we’re supporting with two-year funding. Our Arts and Creative Investment Partnership program backs small to medium arts...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the City of Melbourne by subscribing to the Melbourne newsletter.

You have successfully subscribed!