University of Sydney marks 60th anniversary of Fisher Library

31 October 2023
Iconic building and contribution over decades celebrated
The University of Sydney's Fisher Library turns 60 this year and its contribution towards the University's research, education and student experience will be recognised during a day of celebrations on Monday 6 November.
Fisher Library

The entrance to the iconic Fisher Library on the University of Sydney's Camperdown campus.

Ahead of the day, Vice-Chancellor and President Mark Scott described the significance of Fisher Library for so many staff and students, past and present.   

“Fisher Library is more than just a building; it's a core part of the student experience and a symbol of the University of Sydney's – and Australia’s – commitment to education and research,” Professor Scott said. 

“For six decades Fisher Library has been a place of study, research, gathering and collaboration and it has evolved to suit the needs of students and researchers with social and technological advancements."

Fisher Library is more than just a building; it's a core part of the student experience and a symbol of the University of Sydney's – and Australia’s – commitment to education and research.
Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott

“We’re excited to mark this significant milestone and look forward to the Library's continued role in shaping the intellectual future of our students and the broader academic community."

Fisher Library first opened in MacLaurin Hall in 1909, but by the middle of the century it was clear a new building was needed to meet the growing needs of the University’s community.

“Known for its modernist and celebrated architecture, Fisher Library as we know it now was officially opened in 1963 at a time of great social change and investment in education,” the University Librarian, Philip Kent, explained.  

“Since then Fisher Library has contributed to the life of the University through its first class, scholarly collections – the largest University Library in the country. Our Library staff over the decades made a difference in the lives of students, the academic community and broader society. The iconic building at the heart of the University has hosted many gatherings and protests as well as quiet reflection and preparation for life events such as assessments and exams.

"I love the current Fisher Library for its modernity and aspiration to serve our changing needs.”

Memories of Fisher Library

To mark this significant milestone, the University of Sydney Library has compiled a Memory Book of submissions from members of the University community sharing their memories of love, protest, studying and gathering at the Library. The Memory Book will be published on the Library’s Digital Collections later this year. 

Archival photos and milestone books from the University Library’s Rare Books collection will be displayed throughout the Library during celebrations.  

Acquisition of De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem

To commemorate the anniversary, Fisher Library acquired a first edition copy of De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem by Andrea Vesalius for its Rare Books and Special Collections. Translated to ‘On the Fabric of the Human Body’, Vesalius’ 1543 book is incredibly rare, featuring an original binding of pigskin with metal clasps, and the name of the initial owner of the copy, German physicist Caspar Neefe (1514 – 1579).

The Rare Books and Special Collections will host a drop in during anniversary celebrations on Monday 6 November to view the book. It will then be available to explore in the Library’s Digital Collections as well. 

Anniversary Celebrations

Fisher Library is home to an Albion letterpress printer, known as the Piscator Press. The community is invited to join artist and printer Brigitta Summers in creating their own memento.

A lunchtime panel discussion moderated by Professor Emerita Margaret Harris will explore the past and detail the architecture, early technology and life of Fisher Library. 

After 30 years, the Library’s roof terrace will reopen, inviting students and visitors to once again enjoy the views of the University’s campus and beyond. A preview has been organised for a celebratory afternoon tea

University Librarian Philip Kent will host a cocktail reception in the historic MacLaurin Hall, which was the original Fisher Library. He will be joined by alumna journalist Kate McClymont AM and Associate Professor Cate Storey OAM as guest speakers.

Fisher’s History

While the original Fisher Library was completed in 1909, the current building has borne the name since Prime Minister Robert Menzies laid the foundation stone in 1961. 

The new building revolutionised the academic and student library, bringing education out of the gothic and traditional space of MacLaurin Hall and into the post-war modern world. The new Fisher Library was a place for students to meet and collaborate, with telephone booths, lounges and a music listening area where students could listen to records on turntables. In the decades since, personal devices replaced telephone booths and music listening rooms, while studying and gathering at the library remains a core part of the University of Sydney student experience – in 2023, Fisher Library receives 5,802 average daily visitors. 

The building won both the Sulman Award and the RIBA Bronze medal in 1962 – at the time of its construction, Fisher Library had Australia’s first reverse cycle air-conditioning. 

Read more about Fisher’s Library’s rich history on the Library’s website.

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