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State Library of South Australia

Discover the eclectic mix of architecture, delve into South Australian history or just enjoy a good book in this fascinating 19th-century library.

The State Library of South Australia has graced this location since 1860, when it was already housed in the Institute Building that is now part of the library. As the official library of South Australia, it gives a fascinating insight into the history and modern times of this state. 

As you approach the library, take a moment to appreciate the three different styles of architecture that have now been blended into one to create the present-day library. From the original Institute Building through to the modern Spence Wing and finally to the grand old Mortlock Wing, all add to the library’s grandeur.

Make your way across the pretty courtyard to find the main entry to the Spence Wing. A statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns stands in front of the glass façade. Redeveloped in 2003, this bright and spacious building houses the modern library collection, complete with a digital age section. The Treasures Wall and the Ernabella Rugs exhibitions are the highlights here. 

Take in the ornate beauty of the French Renaissance-style Mortlock Wing from 1884, complete with mansard roof. It is the Victorian-style interior of the Mortlock Chamber, however, that has made this library awe-inspiring. The two upper galleries, with their intricate wrought-iron balustrades, copious amounts of dark wood and shelves packed with ancient books, look like the setting of a Harry Potter movie. The glass-domed lantern roof enhances the scene with natural light.

Also don’t miss the Institute Building, which originally housed the library with a museum, art gallery, meeting rooms and more. This has long been the city’s cultural heart, standing at the core of Adelaide’s “Cultural Boulevard” even today. Its Circulating Library is a stunning function room and the Institute Building has rotating exhibits with interesting themes.

Stay until dark for one last surprise: an outdoor projection show that uses a wall of the Institute Building as a giant screen. Stand in the courtyard to watch interesting short stories play out.

The State Library of South Australia is open daily and is free to enter. Free tours are available if you book in advance. Toilet and cloak room facilities are available.


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