Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Geelong Library & Heritage Centre

Geelong Library & Heritage Centre was nominated for the Public Library of the Year Award 2016. The reason for the nomination was the building’s architectural expression, digital services and sustainable design. 

The Geelong Library & Heritage Centre is the central library for Geelong - a growing city of around 235,000 people - an hour away from Melbourne. 

The Geelong Library & Heritage Centre rises out of the ground of the cultural precinct, visible from all directions as you enter Geelong.

The surroundings

Geelong is an archetypal Australian city: in its centre is the grand town hall, the university, the art gallery, the courthouse, the government offices and now: the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre (GLHC). It has been designed to be flexible and to reflect and integrate with its beautiful setting - the historic Johnstone Park. 

The skin of the building roof is made of 332 large glass reinforced concrete panels. This unusual cladding system comprises 18 different standard hexagonal tiles and one pentagram arranged in a repetitive mirrored array to form a geodesic dome.

The colours link the new building with the surrounding historic ones.  It clearly belongs with and is respectful of the existing architectural landscape but is also distinctive and new.

In counterpoint to the geometry of GLHC, the building also works cooperatively as part of its historic parkland neighbour. Balconies exist on every level so that people can step out and be in the park.

From within, readers and researchers look out at Johnstone Park not through a flat glass plane but from vantages, from outcrops and crags, that overlook other lookouts.

The park is also a very significant site to the traditional owners of the land, the Wadawurrung people, who have existed as part of the land and waters for thousands of generations. Following consultations with their representatives, each of the levels of the GLHC has been named in Wadawurrung language, in recognition of the links to the land, their lore and traditions. 

Inside the library

The building, interiors, furniture and services have been designed to be people-focused, inspiring, and of premium quality. The design enables the successful blending of analogue and digital resources throughout.

Designed to be both practical and aesthetically spectacular, the spaces are purpose designed for everything demanded by modern public library users - from quiet and contemplative to noisy and communal.

The ground floor is the intuitive connector between arrival point and destination. It is a grand civic space that addresses the external environment, a meeting and gathering place and a gateway through which people travel to more intimate spaces attuned to their particular needs. Between the ground and first levels is a mezzanine level holding the Great Wall of Stories —the main adult fiction collection, which showcases Australian fiction. This level also houses a new large exhibition space and the café.

The mezzanine level holds Australian fiction.

The entire first level is dedicated to young people. One half is specifically for early years, designed and implemented from children-centred and child-advocating perspective. A highlight is the elevated terraced balcony housing a sensory garden. 

The design in the children area facilitates early learning in a way that is welcoming, inclusive of all abilities, joyful, colourful, social, tactile, stimulating and great fun. It is a content-rich environment of age-appropriate collections, digital and technology resources, play, and creative materials.

The youth space (for teens and young adults) supports young people to grow intellectually, emotionally and socially and therefore to develop new literacies for learning and expression. It empowers them to build skills, develop understanding, create and share, and overcome adversity. It is a highly flexible space with furniture that can be moved around to enable multiple uses including reading, creating content, working collaboratively or individual study.

The furniture can easily be moved around for a variety of activities.

The second level houses adult non-fiction collections, technology, a range of meeting and discussion rooms and beautiful comfortable furniture designed to encourage quiet enjoyment and inspiration.

Furniture facing the canopy of the park’s trees encourages contemplation and dreaming.

The third level houses Geelong’s memory in the Heritage Centre — a beautifully appointed reading room in rich red with spaces for discovering Geelong’s history and culture, as well as a purpose-designed climate and temperature controlled repository to ensure that the valuable historical collection is preserved for future generations. 

As the new home for the heritage archives, GLHC represents a tangible, invaluable and precious link to the history and culture of the area.

The fifth level is a flexible major events space. It is used for the library’s many premium learning and cultural events as well as providing space for external organisations, community groups and individuals to access. The dome shape is most obvious from this level.  

The balcony (for 100 people) has magnificent views of Geelong and Corio Bay and it is the only public building in the city that allows the community free access to this elevated perspective of Geelong’s natural and built environment.

The building has a further three levels which house building services and the library network’s administrative headquarters. The use of natural light, hard and soft architectural features and bright colour throughout has been inspired by Goethe’s Colour Wheel. The Wheel progresses from cooler blue and purples hues (ground and first levels) through to sensual reds (Heritage Centre) and oranges (events space).

The large orange meeting/event area on the fifth level.

Room for various types of meetings

Smaller concierge-style service points, rather than traditional desks, encourage a co-learning and co-working approach between staff and visitors. A variety of spaces for learning exist throughout the library, not in a separate area, including discussion rooms, meeting rooms, spaces for individual study and self-directed learning, and spaces for group-project work. The major event allows for lectures, debates, sharing of skills and information. This is in recognition of the diversity of preferences for education in the community.   

New partnerships have been forged with a range of education, disability and social support agencies. This is in addition to strengthened relationships with cultural precinct partner institutions for the delivery of learning and cultural programming and learning possibilities. The library is delivering a vast array of learning experiences from a multi-literacies perspective including reading, numeracy, digital information and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). 

A digital hub

The GLHC has been designed as a digital hub. It has a solid backbone of technology infrastructure designed to enable it to adapt to any new technologies as they emerge. One of the first things you see when you arrive is a large digital screen wall in the news lounge where the news of the day, library news, and significant local, state and national events can be viewed. It is RFID enabled throughout and providing digitally advanced spaces and the perfect platform for delivery of new services and experiences.

There are hardwired PCs, a range of mobile devices such as tablets and Chromebooks, digital screens for gaming, learning, presentations and play, mobile video-conferencing facilities, accessible technologies and technology specially designed and curated for children.

The GLHC is the first public library in Australia to be selected to join Aarnet, Australia’s not for profit Academic and Research Network. This has enabled the internet speeds to increase by 400 times and provide the fastest free publicly accessible internet in the whole region. Library users of all ages utilise the Wifi with new groups emerging including the mobile professional, often creative people or consultants working from home or telecommuting.  

The service is a recognised-technology leader offering access to hundreds of digital literacy programs annually and opportunities to experiment with new technology equipment, software and digital information. All free of charge. The events’ space on the fifth level provides access to high-end audio-visual equipment enabling music performances, film screenings, presentations, live streaming and recording of events.


In southern Australia, cooling and water saving are essential considerations in environmentally sustainable design. GLHC is a highly efficient, environmentally sensitive building that has achieved a 5-star rating (Public Building Design category) from the Green Building Council of Australia. It is the first municipal building in Geelong to achieve this rating.

The library produces 40 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than comparably sized, non-green buildings. 

Features include high-performance glazing with the zigzag form reducing solar load on glass.

The external glass façade with insulation shadow boxes also provides the architectural form.

Smart lighting systems, displacement air-conditioning systems and in-slab heating also feature. The building’s photovoltaic system, which sits atop an adjacent building and is invisible from the ground, will generate an estimated 35,000kWh of electricity each year. Water efficient fixtures and fittings, rainwater harvesting and a greywater treatment system ensure GLHC is a water-wise building, consuming 79% less potable water than non-green buildings of similar size.  

GLHC’s environmental performance can be accessed and monitored by visitors on touch-screens within the building. Designed to appeal to children, the displays invite people to explore the environmental performance of the building and engage with this important topic. 

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:32

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