St Kilda Public Library

Site Overview

site name:
St Kilda Public Library
Enrico Taglietti
date of completion:
Education (EDC)
150 Carlisle St, St Kilda, VIC


The history of the St Kilda Library dates back to 1860 when the St Kilda Council received a community request to fund a free public library to be built coinciding with a building for the Mechanics’ Institute. This plan did not come to fruition and instead by 1863 a book collection was housed in the old Town Hall located at the junction of Barkly and Acland Streets in St Kilda and then in 1910 in the current Town Hall in Carlisle Street. The library did not survive and was forced to close within the year.

In the 1930s local communists advocated for a Municipal Library – as well as Home-Help – but the Council was very anti-communist at the time and due to their perception of the group who advocated the library, in addition to the expense, they rejected the idea of a library.

The Free Library Board proposed the creation of a library in 1947 but again it was dismissed.

In April 1953 the St Kilda Library Promotion Committee was formed with R.S. Veale as President, and Mrs Elizabeth Hogg, a teacher living in Carlisle Street, as Secretary. However, the Council once again rejected the arguments for a library, with the Town Clerk even re-iterating the reasons against it in the centenary booklet: “it would cost thousands of pounds per year to operate and, generally speaking, would provide mostly books of fiction and thus come into active competition with a large number of Lending Library businesses established in St Kilda.” The Council even later introduced new arguments against the community’s wishes for a library, stating that a library would encourage the reading of fiction which, in turn, would encourage juvenile delinquency.

Parents at the Nelson Street kindergarten got together and formed the St Kilda Library Establishment Committee with TAA pilot Ivan Scown as President, former librarian Jenny Love as Secretary and Angela Pedicini as Treasurer. The Committee persuaded the Council to request that the Free Library Services Board conduct a Library Survey in St Kilda. The report, presented in 1961, recommended the creation of a library but similar to the past, the St Kilda Council refused.

The Council’s opposition to the library was broken when Ivan Trayling was elected as Councillor in 1967. Trayling had campaigned very vocally on the need for a library and after winning the election the Council realised the amount of community dissatisfaction on its stance against the library and decided to go ahead with its creation.

The Council set aside $50,000 in 1967 and asked Barrett Reid, the Executive Officer of the Library Services Division of the Library Council of Victoria, to revise the 1961 survey.

A library sub-committee was formed in mid-1969, which was the first St Kilda council committee to include community representatives as advisory members. Ivan Trayling headed it as Chairman, with other committee members being Cr. Hall-Kenny, Cr. Manning, Cr. Clark, Jenny Love, Reverend Brother F.I. McCarthy, Bernard Rechter and Deputy Town Clerk Bill Sisson.

Enrico Taglietti was appointed as the architect and in December 1971 he accepted a tender on behalf of the Council from the M. Notkin Construction Company of Caulfield South, for the amount of $417,000 to build the library at 150 Carlisle Street.

The library’s foundation stone was laid in August 1972 by the now mayor Ivan Trayling and on 14 May 1973 Sir Rohan Delacombe, Governor of Victoria, officially opened the library, in what has since become a local landmark. Commander R.S. Veale, the original Chairman of the Library Promotion Committee, was invited on 15 May 1973 to borrow the first book and choose a biography of Wilfrid Kent-Hughes.

Between 1992 and 1994, an extension was added by Melbourne architecture firm Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM) which provided a new entrance wing as well as seeking to redefine the public plaza and façade of the library facing onto Carlisle Street. (source: Wikipedia)

Interview with Enrico Taglietti (Sydney Living Museum)
Interview with Enrico Taglietti (Queensland Architecture)