Sydney continues its love affair with libraries. Darling Square’s new library occupies levels one and two of Haymarket’s The Exchange, an architectural feat by Japanese company Kengo Kuma & Associates. The six-storey building is wrapped in 20 kilometres of sustainably sourced Accoya timber, and it looks like a beehive mixed with a whirlwind.

The new brighter, airier and more open space replaces the original Haymarket Library on George Street. “It’s four times the size of the old library,” Heather Davis, the library manager, tells Broadsheet. “There are all sorts of spaces – from tables for individual study and nooks for reading to booths where you can sit with friends and collaborate, a children’s library with really lovely furniture, and meeting rooms fitted with audio-visual equipment.”

But the most interesting space in the BVN-designed space is the 200-square-metre Ideas Lab. “It’s a dedicated makers space for people who like to experiment, as well as for startups – a place where people can design and prototype their ideas,” says Davis. “Darling Square is the only City of Sydney library with an Ideas Lab. We thought it would be a really good fit for the community … we’re so close to the University of Technology and the Powerhouse Museum.”

It has 3D printers, a laser and dye cutter, electronic kits, and soldering irons among other pieces of equipment. To try them out book into a drop-in session ($10) held every Wednesday (4.30pm to 6.30pm). Workshops, courses and networking events are in the works too.

With the extra room the library can accommodate more. Over 30,000 items are now available for borrowing – from the traditional, such as books, DVDs, CDs and magazines, to the less conventional, such as robotics kits and video game consoles. There are 50 available, such as Atari Flashback 8 Gold HD, Sega Mega Drive Flashback HD, Nintendo and Super Nintendo. There are also publications in Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai, including newspapers. As at all City of Sydney Libraries, membership is free for all residents of New South Wales.

“When I first became lord mayor, we completed a 15-year strategy to ensure our libraries would continue to meet the needs of our growing city,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a statement. “To prepare the strategy, we asked the community to tell us what they expect from local libraries. The clear message was that libraries should be inviting, accessible and flexible community spaces, with more than just books.”

Below the library – on the Exchange Building’s ground floor – is the Maker’s Dozen food hall. Among the eats there is Japanese pasta by Pasta Wafu, a collaboration between Bar Ume and Banskii; Vietnamese tacos by Bau Truong; Sri Lankan hoppers by Hopper Kadé; pies and cakes at Saga Lyte; and poke by Fishbowl.

The new library joins the also handsome Marrickville Library, which opened in a former heritage-listed hospital in August, and a subterranean library in Green Square, which opened late last year.

The official launch of Darling Square Library is on Saturday November 9. Head along at midday for free coffee, free gelato, a DJ and a chance to meet the Hungry Caterpillar.

Membership is free for all residents of New South Wales.

Darling Square Library
Levels 1 and 2, The Exchange, 1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket

Hours:
Mon to Fri 10am–7pm
Sat & Sun 11am–4pm