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The history and future of the Mitchell Library

Changes to the Library’s Research Area

The current special collections area will be extended for researchers and readers to use the following materials and services:

  • Mitchell and Dixson collections
  • State Reference Library books relating to special collection items which are being studied
  • Mitchell reference collection on the shelves
  • A dedicated service desk where expert librarians will provide advice and assistance
  • Card catalogues for Manuscripts and Mitchell Printed Books
  • To ensure the security of Library collections and the comfort of readers, a delicate glass partition will be returned to separate the research and general reading areas.


1826 – The Australian Subscription Library, precursor of the State Library of New South Wales, opens in Pitt Street. It moves three times until finding a permanent home on Bent and Macquarie Street in 1845.
1869 – NSW Government takes responsibility for the Library, it becomes the Sydney Free Public Library.
1895 – The name changes to the Public Library of New South Wales.
1898 – David Scott Mitchell offers his entire Australian collection to the NSW Government, on the condition a new building in constructed to house it.
1906 – NSW Government lays the foundation stone on 11 September.
1907 – David Scott Mitchell dies in July.
1910 – The new Mitchell Library [now the Friends Room] opens to the public on 9 March.
1929 – The Dixson Wing, housed to display Sir William Dixson’s collection, is opened.
1942 – Public Library extensions to the Mitchell Library, including the new Reading Room, are opened
1964 – Separate Manuscript, Pictures and Maps departments created.
1975 – Library name changes to the State Library of New South Wales.
1970s – New user groups, such as family historians, begin to use State Library collections
1978 – State Record collections removed from State Library building
1988 – The new State Library building with a new reading room [now State Reference Library] opens in Macquarie Street. The Mitchell Library Reading Room moves to its current location from its original 1910 space.
1995 – Readers tickets issued on evidence of two forms of identification: prior to this readers tickets were issued after an application form had been completed.
1996 – Mitchell Library and State Library reference inquiry services combined
1998 – Mitchell Library and State Reference Library Reader services team combined
2000 – Original Materials Branch created, by amalgamating the Mss, Pictures, and Maps Branches
2001 – The first major restoration to the Mitchell Library Reading Room completed, repairing the ceiling, installing network cabling and establishing the Sir William Dixson Research Library.
2007 – Minor refurbishment of the Mitchell Library reading room completed in July.
2010 – Centenary of the Mitchell Library is celebrated.

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