MELBOURNE NEWS

Shaping our city

Discover narrm ngarrgu: your guide to Melbourne’s new library in the Queen Victoria Market precinct

20 November 2023

Browse 30,000 books, use high-tech creative gadgets or bliss out on the rooftop terrace while your children play at narrm ngarrgu, the City of Melbourne’s new library and family services centre in the Queen Victoria Market precinct.

narrm ngarrgu is located on Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country, and we have worked closely with Elders, artists and community members to bring this warm, welcoming space to life by drawing on deep knowledge systems.

The name, the materials, artworks – even the design of the carpet – honour and celebrate the First Nations community. narrm ngarrgu (pronounced nahm nar-GUW) means ‘Melbourne Knowledge’ in Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung language.

Spanning three levels and 3000 sqm, narrm ngarrgu is an urban oasis for families designed so everyone in our diverse community can explore their interests, learn something new and access integrated family support.

The place is our first new library in almost a decade.

Our Future Libraries Framework has three key principles: to honour, celebrate and acknowledge Aboriginal culture, to support a thriving city, and to amplify social access and equity. We carefully designed narrm ngarrgu with these priorities in mind.

The project is part of the broader Queen Victoria Market precinct transformation and the $1.7 billion Gurrowa Place development, with support from the Victorian Government, the Living Libraries Infrastructure Program and Changing Places.

Read on to take a virtual journey through narrm ngarrgu’s inclusive spaces, and discover some of the powerful ways libraries change lives.

You can also follow these links to jump to sections of interest:

Welcoming, accessible spaces

The entryways to narrm ngarrgu set the scene for a very special library experience – both peaceful and vibrant, sophisticated and informal.

The front counter is staffed with caring workers who ensure everyone visiting the library feels welcome. Community outreach, social work, digital literacy and Aboriginal liaison staff members support this commitment to inclusivity across the library.

Venture further inside to discover lofty spaces for reading and study that transform into grand event spaces with retractable tiered seating. Subscribe to the libraries newsletter to be first in-the-know about author talks and other activities that will set this space buzzing with activity.

Around the corner there’s a computer lab where training and digital literacy workshops will be held, and lockers with laptops you can borrow to use throughout the library.

The library also offers many different spaces you can use for events and meetings. These spaces are low-cost to book, and free for First Nations people.

Last but not least, help yourself to water or a cuppa from the stations dotted throughout narrm ngarrgu. We want you to feel at home.

A peaceful spot to read at narrm ngarrgu

Changing places

For library users who need mobility support, narrm ngarrgu offers a state-of-the-art bathroom fitted with a hoist and full-size change table. To find more Changing Places facilities in the City of Melbourne, visit Accessing recreation, entertainment and cultural venues.

Aboriginal artwork

Maree Clarke, a Mutti Mutti / Yorta Yorta and Wemba Wemba / Boon Wurrung artist from north-western Victoria, collaborated with other creatives and designers to shape immersive spaces that tell the stories of the site and its context.

Designed to invite reflection, learning, ceremony and play – the artworks at narrm ngarrgu celebrate the rich contribution First Nations people make to the life of the city, share stories of Country and speak to the impact of colonisation.

Naomi Hobson’s A warrior without a weapon #10 (2018) is one of the striking artworks that lines the walls of narrm ngarrgu, alongside fascinating artefacts discovered during construction

Maree described the expansive library space as a super-giant blank canvas.

“In the Children’s Library I’ve designed the carpet to represent the seven seasons of the Kulin Nation through plants and animals,” Maree said.

“And I’ve also designed the forest on the mirrored glass that’s down the passageway, so children again will be able to see themselves reflected in the forest on the way to the beautiful library.”

“We also cast my husband’s coolamon in cast iron and fabricated a six-metre eel trap with a three metre flute, which is on the terrace for the children to climb on and crawl through.

“Through the main library carpet – with the beautiful watercolour and the maps over the top – people will get to learn about the five clans of the Kulin Nation. And what better place to learn than in a library.”

Artists Maree Clarke, Hilary Jackman, Nicholas Hovington and Ellen Sayers with the coolamon
Listen to a story about the First Nations artwork at narrm ngarrgu from our print magazine, recorded by Vision Australia

Books and collections

​The library has over 30,000 books – 22,000 for adults and 8000 for children. There are books in a variety of languages including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. narrm ngarrgu also offers an English as an Additional Language collection.

In the time leading up to the grand opening of narrm ngarrgu, passionate librarians were hard at work establishing collections specifically designed for children, local history lovers, different language groups and avid readers of all kinds.

The library collections include something for everyone, from mysteries to manga

When you return books inside the new library, pause at the window above the slot and watch – like a child at a chocolate factory – as a state-of-the-art machine automatically sorts the titles into their correct categories.

To whet your appetite for your next library visit, browse the City of Melbourne’s library catalogue online. You can also search, reserve, renew, research and more using the City of Melbourne Libraries app, available from the App Store and Google Play.

The library carpet represents the topography of the five Eastern Kulin Nations

No more library fines

Two years ago, we made the decision to abolish library fines and introduce an automatic renewal of loans to reduce barriers to borrowing. Not only has this made our library services more accessible, overdue items have fallen by 40 per cent.

Children’s library

On the way to the dedicated bubup wilam Children’s Library, follow a trail of blue ants that weave among images of native animals and plants, including sugar gliders, koalas and golden billy-buttons. 

An atmospheric hallway builds anticipation on the way to the Children’s Library

When you reach your joy-filled destination, grab a colourful cushion from the stack and make yourself comfortable with books from local and international authors, in multiple languages.

During the preparation of this special space, rows of plush wombats were lining the shelves of one of the Children’s Library storerooms – waiting in anticipation to delight local children. See if you can find them around the library.

Discover a treasure trove of stories for children, from Australian and international authors

The bubup wilam Children’s Library features stories galore, access to a play area on the terrace and a large space that will host storytime, craft sessions, book clubs and more.

The library also hosts a social work outreach program, which provides support and referrals to families in need. 

To browse events for all ages across all our libraries, visit Library events.

Family Services centre

Our family services centre is a modern, purpose-built safe space for families in our busy city. It offers a generous playroom,, outdoor play area and accessible parent room.

The dynamic space is also home to a holistic range of services, including maternal and child health services, parenting services, immunisation, family support and counselling.

To learn more about family services in the City of Melbourne, browse our Guide to Melbourne for children, parents and families.

A maternal and child health nurse meets with a local family

Creative makerspace and sound studios

Explore your passions or start a new creative side-hustle in our decked-out makerspace. Think 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing and embroidery machines, airbrushing, electronics, sound studios and much more.

The City of Melbourne offers makerspaces at several of our libraries. narrm ngarrgu has all the features of the other makerspaces, plus a little bit more. And expert support is on hand to help you learn how to use all of the equipment.

So if you’re dreaming of creating a podcast, learning graphic design or just wanting to make-do and mend, come along to explore what’s on offer.

Other makerspace users have woven poems into fabric, 3D-printed lizard skeletons and even prototyped medical devices, so the sky is the limit. To learn more, read 10 ways our makerspaces are changing lives.

A makerspace user with a sewing machine

Rooftop terrace

After all the excitement of narrm ngarrgu’s lower levels, you’ll need a break in a sky garden.

When you reach the spectacular rooftop terrace, crawl through the giant eel trap, breathe in the native plants and pause to reflect by a coolamon cast from a giant eucalyptus burl which will be used for smoking ceremonies by Wurundjeri Elders.

Stretch out on the grass and gaze out over the expansive rooftops of Queen Victoria Market’s historic sheds. Over the years, the trees planted on the roof will reach eight or nine metres, providing an ever leafier spot to sit, read and reflect.

The rooftop terrace also features an outdoor play area, and even a water-play space for the warmer months.

The rooftop terrace at narrm ngarrgu

More City of Melbourne library locations

The opening of narrm ngarrgu Library and Family Services adds to our five neighbourhood libraries​, City Library and the Mel-Van mobile library service.

  • City Library, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
  • East Melbourne Library, 122 George Street, East Melbourne
  • Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre
  • Library at The Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands
  • narrm ngarrgu, 141 Therry Street, Melbourne
  • North Melbourne Library, 66 Errol Street, North Melbourne
  • Southbank Library, 207 City Road, Southbank

To learn more, visit Libraries.

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