The centennial year, 1939, was celebrated in several ways. A history of the institution by the secretary, Mr Wilmot, was published, titled: 'The Melbourne Athenaeum, 1839-1939 : history and records of the institution'. Mr Wilmot also arranged for a grand dinner to be held in the Myer Mural Hall. The board had considered modernising the building to celebrate, but unfortunately the cost of the planned upgrade was too high and an agreeable alternative was to renovate the library. The dividing wall between the library and reading room was removed, the two spaces merged and the resulting area completely remodelled. According to the 1940 annual report the cost of the improvements was £2,639/0/9 and the amount received from subscriptions was £3,279/3/9, a record for the Institution.
The new library was opened following the annual meeting on 1 February 1940, by His Worship the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Cr. A.W. Coles.
The Lord Mayor said that the Athenaeum had a long and honourable history in the first hundred years of its existence. It had been an asset to the city, and he looked forward to its still further progress and to an era of increased usefulness to the citizens.
Annual Report for 1940.
The Lord Mayor's address and remarks by the president were broadcast on the ABC's radio station, 3LO.
This large format photograph, from a brochure designed to publicise the newly renovated library, emphasises the large, airy, light-filled space. The curved loans desk allowed one member of staff to supervise the whole library and it easily accommodated the long queues of members who changed books during their lunchtime. With lower shelving members could now easily reach all the books; it was a pleasant environment in which to read, compared to the old library, and it was an ideal place to meet friends before shopping or having lunch.
The library hasn't changed very much, apart from extra shelving added in the centre of the room. It is still a pleasant place to visit, to read and browse the shelves, and to meet friends.
The library retains its 1940 design - a spacious and welcoming space in the city.
Photograph by Peter Ittak