Inspirational, innovative and iconic: these are words with which the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre (the Dome) has already become synonymous.
Symbolic of the evolution of Geelong from a city founded on heavy industry to a centre for excellence, culture and learning, the Dome’s existence is the result of a bold and unwavering vision and represents the culmination of many years of lobbying, planning and collaborative effort.
Sophisticated and technology-rich, this world-class facility is designed to meet the expectations of 21st century public library users, providing contemporary and innovative library and information services. It is also a vibrant gathering space for local residents, workers and visitors to enjoy – a tourist destination in the heart of Geelong’s cultural precinct.
Within the iconic domed building, there are five public levels – all beautiful, inspiring and inclusive spaces for reading, studying, meeting, discovery and fun.
Geelong’s first library was a commercial operation housed in the back room of James Harrison’s Geelong Advertiser office in 1840. This tiny library housed approximately 500 books and customers were charged 15 shillings per quarter for borrowing rights.
With the opening of the Mechanics’ Institute, a facility which included a more substantial library was opened in 1856 on Ryrie street, adjacent to the post office.
The concept of a free public library was first mooted at a public meeting in 1875, the same year that the council purchased the Chamber of Commerce building in Moorabool street which came to house the Geelong Free Library, officially opened in September 1876.
A new purpose-built library next to Johnstone Park was designed by the local architects Buchan, Laird and Buchan and opened in 1959. During its 50 years of operation, it attracted several million visits and lent more than 10 million books. Changing times and a growing population eventually called for a new and innovative central library and in 2010, the City of Greater Geelong unanimously resolved to commit to the construction of a new library – thus cementing the future of the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre.
In early 2013, library services were moved to a temporary facility in the State Government office building on Little Malop Street before the old building was demolished in 2013. By late 2013, construction of the new Geelong Library & Heritage Centre had commenced, and the building was officially opened on 20 November 2015. The new centre brings together the services of the library and the Heritage Centre for the first time.
The Geelong Library & Heritage Centre is built on the site of the original Geelong Volunteer Fire Brigade Station (built in 1857). The station was removed in 1918 as part of improvements to Johnstone Park and a garden inhabited the site until construction began on the new municipal library in 1958.
The Geelong Historical Records Centre was established as a memorial to two historic events of 1951: the centenary of separation of Victoria from NSW and the 50th Jubilee of Federation. The citizens of Geelong raised the capital funds for the centre with the express wish that it be the repository for local historical records.
The centre first opened to the public in 1979 and, with the help of a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, collected and sorted all manner of archival material. They transferred popular records to microfilm, catalogued and indexed public and private collections, and attracted more and more researchers until the centre became the largest regional archive and historical resource centre in Victoria.
In 2003, the Geelong Historical Records Centre became the Geelong Heritage Centre and entered a new era of technology. New research techniques and methods of accessing and synthesising information were embraced. In recent years large-scale digitising projects have been undertaken to provide easier access to records and to help preserve original archival material.
With the move to our new home, the Vault, Kim barne thaliyu, on level 3 of the Dome, we have entered a new phase of our evolution. A spacious, modern environment and state-of- the-art technologies make our collections more accessible than ever. We now offer an exciting, information-rich experience for researchers, visitors and browsers.
The opening of the centre brings to fruition over ten years of intense community consultation, analysis and expert planning. Extensive strategic work and lobbying began in 2001 and resulted in the identification of the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre as a key priority project by the City of Greater Geelong and the G21 Geelong Regional Alliance. The redevelopment of the existing Geelong Library and Geelong Heritage Centre formed a major component of the Geelong Cultural Precinct Masterplan – a joint initiative between the City of Greater Geelong and the State Government of Victoria.
Delivery of the $45.5 million Geelong Library & Heritage Centre project was enabled through funding from the City of Greater Geelong ($20.5 million), the State Government of Victoria ($15 million) and the Commonwealth Government ($10 million).
Award-winning Melbourne firm, ARM Architecture, completed the architectural design of the cutting-edge facility, demolition of the old library was carried by Bernie Leen, while construction was undertaken by Kane Constructions.
The Geelong LIbrary & Heritage Centre is owned by the City of Greater Geelong, and is managed and operated on behalf of the City by the Geelong Regional Library Corporation.
Click here to see video about the making of the Dome containing time-lapse photography.
Within the iconic domed exterior of the Dome lies a fittingly bold interior. Designed to be both practical and aesthetic, the spectacular spaces are purpose-built to enable a range of uses as necessitated by a modern public library audience – from quiet and contemplative to noisy and communal.
Complementing the superb physical space is a world-class service delivered by expert and specialist staff. Whether visitors require help navigating the collection of over 100,000 digital and print items, or advice about using the cutting-edge technology available throughout the facility, staff are on hand to enhance the user experience.
In addition to the five publicly-accessible levels, there are a further three levels which house building services and the library’s administrative headquarters. The lower ground floor contains the bulk of the building services, including water harvesting and storage. This floor also features a loading dock with a dock leveller adjacent to a large secure storeroom and access passage. The sixth floor is acoustically isolated from the rest of the building, and houses the plant rooms and air handling system. The cooling towers are open to the sky and the sustainable mechanical systems are designed for optimum performance and energy efficiency.
The centre’s five public levels are contemporary and clever, with a mix of wide open spaces and smaller, more intimate zones. You’ll find all the library services you are familiar with, plus many surprising and innovative additions.
The Dome’s many special features include:
For a level-by-level guide to this stunning facility, view here.
Back to The Dome