Announcement: Fisher Library roof terrace reopens after over 30 years

From Tuesday 7 November 2023, staff and students can access the roof terrace during opening hours.

We are delighted to announce the reopening of the Fisher Library roof terrace. This once beloved space is now available again for study breaks, socialising and incomparable city views.

Access to the roof terrace

University students and staff will be able to access the roof terrace using their swipe card during opening hours.

The roof terrace is located on level 5 of Fisher Library and has a capacity of 100 people.

“The rooftop was a quiet and sunny spot you could retreat to with friends. I was surprised it had been closed for so long and am delighted the investment has been made to open it to our community again.”

Mark Scott, Vice-Chancellor and President


The roof terrace was part of the original design of the current Fisher Library, which opened in 1963 (the first Fisher Library is now known as MacLaurin Hall). Designed by joint architects  Ken Woolley (NSW Government Architect Office) and Tom O’Mahoney (O’Mahoney, Neville and Morgan), the new Fisher Library was created as a place for students to not only study but to relax and socialise. The roof terrace was one of the most popular places for students to gather and unwind.  

“What would be without Fisher Library? It was the place to gather on the rooftop. I had my first kiss there. Romantic memory. It was the place we studied together… We met to plot and plan everything from cappuccinos to anti-apartheid marches. I did both”.

Susanne, alumna


In early 2022, the student publication Honi Soit led a campaign to re-open the roof terrace. Through the support of the Vice Chancellor, construction work began in late 2022.

Renovations have included essential works such as updated waterproofing, the application of modern safety standards and the installation of large sunshades for year-round comfort.

Ensuring that the roof terrace is accessible has also been a priority. The doors to the roof terrace automatically open and close, the flooring is flat or ramped, and furniture has been installed at a height for easy use with a wheelchair.

The Library has collaborated with IndigiGrow, a 100% Aboriginal owned, run, and staffed, not-for-profit native plant nursery to install the planter boxes on the roof terrace. Twenty species of the local Eastern suburbs banksia family have been planted, including the Clerodendrum floribundum, known as the “lolly bush”, which has not previously been featured in a University garden.

A Gadigal Language name for the roof terrace has been proposed and submitted for consultation, and we look forward to announcing this official name once the process is complete.

“The Indigenous gardens on the Fisher roof terrace will contribute to the health and wellbeing of our community. I hope that birdlife and insects will be attracted to the plantings and revive the past ecosystem.”

Philip Kent, University Librarian

Construction of the roof terrace, c. early 1960s. Photograph from Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.

Fisher Library roof terrace in the 1960s. Students gather to enjoy the sun and a chat. University of Sydney Archives, REF-00009825.

Coming soon: new library website launching January 2024 

The Library website will be changing on 16 January 2024. Learn more about our multi-year project to transform the student and researcher experience of our digital library. 

We’re looking forward to delivering a new and enhanced digital presence for 2024. Some of the benefits you can look forward to include: 

  • An enhanced search box: search the Library catalogue, the Library website, or launch into a database right from our homepage. 
  • A flexible and client-focused structure: easily find and discover resources, services, and support related to your need. You’ll be able to seamlessly connect to Library services through our refreshed self-help content. 
  • A versatile and flexible homepage: learn about upcoming events, highlights from our collections and projects, and discover the Library’s unique and distinctive resources.
  • A new way to browse our unique special collections: explore and discover our digital and physical rare and special collections through a single interface.

The Library’s Digital Presence Project has been guided by extensive user research. Through interviews with staff and students, analytics, usability testing, and other user experience methods, we’ve uncovered a range of ways to build on what is already valued about the current Library website. We’ve also identified great opportunities for improvement. 

What you need to know 

  • The visual design and structure of the Library website has been significantly redeveloped. Content has been organised around what you’re trying to do, rather than what type of client you are.  
  • The Library’s lists of recommended resources have been reorganised and simplified according to the University’s faculty and school structure. For unit coordinators extensively using the current Library subject guides, reach out to the Librarian team for your area to get support. 
  • Searching in the library catalogue (Library Search) remains unchanged. You’ll be able to access our databases directly from the home page, saving several clicks. 
  • Links to the Library website are likely to change. We will set up redirect URLs for the top 100 pages based on usage, but recommend checking any bookmarked links once the new site is live. 

Announcement: Library Acquires First Edition of Vesalius’ 16th Century Anatomical Masterpiece

This book has been digitised and is now available to view on the Library’s Digital Collections.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of our much loved Fisher Library. Since opening its doors in 1963, Fisher has been at the heart of the University of Sydney community and has had a profound impact on education, research, and the pursuit of knowledge.

To celebrate this milestone occasion, the Library has acquired a first edition copy of a rare book that is considered by scholars to be one of the most influential works in the history of western medicine, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the Fabric of the Human Body in seven books) by Andreas Vesalius.

Andreas Vesalius, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Padua, was only 29 years old when he published this monumental work in 1543. At this time, the ancient texts of Aristotle and Galen were still standards in the medical schools of Europe, with physicians reading the texts aloud as barber-surgeons performed the dissections on animals.

By taking the revolutionary steps of performing his own dissections – and on the human body – Vesalius discovered errors in the ancient authors’ teachings. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, notes that the Fabrica, “which drew attention to these flaws, initially threatened the academic medical establishment but ultimately won Vesalius admiration and a post as court physician to Charles V, to whom he dedicated the volume.” It is impossible to overestimate the place this book has in medical history as part of the discarding of dogmas and the establishment of scientific observation and thinking.

Select pages from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem

For these reasons, Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy, but what is it that makes this book so enduring and important? Associate Professor Catherine Storey explains:

“This was a revolutionary masterpiece of anatomical art and science, which epitomised the spirit of the Renaissance. Vesalius turned the practice of anatomy from a simple repetition of facts, laid down by Galen in antiquity and unchanged for centuries, to an enquiring science. He recognised the power of illustration and used art to best advantage to ensure the reader engaged with the text.”

He employed an exceptional artist, Jan Stefan van Kalkar from the school of Titian, to bring Vesalius’ own anatomical dissections ‘to life’.  These prints were meticulously engraved on woodblocks and expertly printed by Oporinus in Basel. The Metropolitan Museum observes that, “no text on anatomy before the Fabrica had ever been illustrated so completely or so well, and although the plates are didactic in intent, they are also rich in aesthetic merit.” 

Select pages from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem

The iconic series of fourteen ‘muscle men’ in the Fabrica shows the human body in various states of dissection, often depicted in allegorical poses. In many instances, layers of tissue artfully fall away to reveal the muscles and ligaments which lie beneath. The figures pose in front of landscape backgrounds that have been identified as joining up to depict a panorama in the Euganean hills near Venice and Padua, Italy. Storey states:

“The final product became the benchmark for all future anatomical illustration, that few anatomists have challenged. The illustrations are still recognised today for their extraordinary beauty.  This work of genius is a true milestone of medical history.’’

In its original 16th century binding, our copy features extensive annotations throughout from the first owner, German physician Caspar Neefe. Neefe, who later served as personal physician to Duke Albert I of Saxony, acquired the precious volume only a year after its publication and obviously consulted it extensively throughout his career as a medical practitioner, and all woodcut illustrations and decorated initials up to page 165 are in full contemporary hand colour.

Line engraving of Caspar Neefe, the first owner of this edition of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Wikimedia Commons

Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) at the Library summarises:

“This is a unique opportunity to obtain a fine first edition of this seminal work. Vesalius’ magnificent illustrations of the human body have influenced medical and surgical teaching and practice for hundreds of years. This book takes its place as a pivotal item in Rare Books and Special Collections, alongside our annotated first edition copy of Isaac Newton’s Principia, as seminal works in the fields of Medicine and Science.The copy-specific features of this book plus the extensive hand annotations by the physician who first owned it bring enormous potential for original research, and opportunities for using this book in educational and outreach activities are enduring. It is an extraordinary and noteworthy asset to the University’s cultural heritage collections.”

Like many other significant items in our collection, this acquisition was enabled by the generosity of our benefactors. We would like to acknowledge the Margaret Lundie Fund, and the B & A Osborn Book Fund, for making this purchase possible. 

The book has been digitised and will be available to view through the Library’s Digital Collections from Monday 6 November 2023, the Library’s day of festivities celebrating Fisher Library’s anniversary. You can also book a Virtual Reading Room (VRR) session with a Librarian to browse the item in real time over Zoom. Details on how to view the physical item in the RBSC Reading Room are on our website.

Select pages from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem

Celebrating 60 Years of Fisher Library

The history of the University of Sydney Library spans over 110 years, and is interwoven with the University’s identity, scholarly pursuits and community. This year, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our beloved Fisher Library. Take a look back through its history with us.

“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 Mark Scott

Who was Thomas Fisher?

Left: Thomas Fisher’s House, 82 Alma Road Darlington, University of Sydney Archives REF-00053553
Right: The front page of Thomas Fisher’s Will, Library Collections

Born in Sydney in 1820, Thomas Fisher was the son of former convicts John Fisher and Jemima Bolton, who met whilst serving as assigned convicts in Parramatta. Upon his parents’ passing in 1832, Fisher was cared for by a friend of his father’s who was a bootmaker. By the age of 21, he had left school, become a bootmaking apprentice, and set up his own business – T. Fisher. Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Boot and Show Manufacturer – in Pitt St.

Fisher never married and went on to invest profits from his businesses in property. Living close by to the University of Sydney in Darlington, Fisher was known to walk through the University grounds and talk to staff and students.

Upon his passing in 1884, the University received £32,000 (equivalent of more than $3.5 million today) left in Fisher’s will for:

“establishing and maintaining a Library for use of the said University for which purpose they may erect a building and may purchase books and do anything which may be thought desirable for effectuating the objects aforesaid.”

This generous bequest makes Fisher the largest benefactor of the Library to date.

The original Fisher Library (now MacLaurin Hall)

Above: Construction of the interior of MacLaurin Hall, University Archives REF-00009928

By the time Fisher’s bequest was received, the need for a dedicated Library space was greatly apparent. Construction on this original Fisher Library commenced in January 1902 and took nearly eight years to complete.

The building’s architecture was created to complement the neighbouring Great Hall, which has been designed by Edmund Thomas Blacket, the official Colonial Architect to NSW from 1849 to 1854. Features include an awe-inspiring cedar roof, an ornate gothic stone facade, and seven-storey fireproof steel and glass bookstack. When Fisher Library opened in 1909, the Daily Telegraph proclaimed it to be:

“the finest piece of Gothic architecture in Australasia worthy of any institution in the world”.  

At the time of its build, the original Fisher Library could seat 250 readers, about one-fifth of enrolled students at the time. It was thought that the building would be sufficient for many years to come. However, this was not the case.

Above: Fisher Library (now MacLaurin Hall) photographed some time before 1960, Library Collection

The need for a new Library building

Despite the sizeable investment and build of the first Fisher Library (now MacLaurin Hall), the demand for the Library outgrew the space by the 1950s. Following the post-WWII economic boom, and coinciding with the Menzies era, there was a palpable demand for education.

An unprecedented number of students – particularly ex-servicemen – enrolled at the University, and soon the Library was bursting at the seams. Undergraduate books were in short supply, the reading room was crowded and noisy, and staff were overwhelmed.

By 1954, the University’s Senate recommended that the construction of a new Library be prioritised. They estimated a cost of £1,000,000, which they submitted in 1956 to the government’s Sir Keith Murry’s Committee of Enquiry into the Future of Australian Universities. It was agreed that the cost was to be covered by the Federal and NSW Governments in equal share.

Above: Fisher Library – Perspective Drawing – View from Quadrangle Front Lawn, University Archives REF-00088260

The University Librarian from 1959 to 1962, Dr Andrew Osborn, campaigned vigorously to transform the Library. Although born in Australia, Osborn had spent most of his professional life at the Harvard University Library, the largest university library in the world. Osborn’s vision for a new Library building reflected his knowledge of modern library design in the United States.

This was a radical departure from the gothic and ornate identity of the original Fisher Library. Whilst the new building contributed significantly to Osborn’s vision of a contemporary research library, he was disheartened by the University’s ongoing operational funding. He resigned before the building was completed to pursue another passion – education for librarianship.

Above: foundations of Fisher Library with structural steel installation, January 1961. Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.

Above: Library staff and Fisher Library architects. University Librarian Andrew Osborn pictured third from the right. Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.

A revolutionary new Fisher Library (our current building)

The new Fisher Library was designed by joint architects Ken Woolley (NSW Government Architect Office) and Tom O’Mahoney (O’Mahoney, Neville and Morgan), and was one of the most significant and successful public architectural projects in Sydney in the 1960s.

After a period of planning and design in 1958-59 the work on Stage 1 commenced. This first stage encompassed the horizontal five-storey undergraduate wing, which was competed at the end of 1962 and officially opened on 6 September 1963. The second stage, which encompassed the vertical nine-storey stack was completed between 1964-1966.

Left: Two first year arts students, Patricia Finlay and Anne Bevis, stand out the front of the Fisher Library stage 2 construction sign, October 1965. Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.
Right: Construction of Fisher Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.

As gothic and ornate as the original Fisher Library had been, the new building is markedly mid-century modern. The building features open floor plans and minimal ornamentation, with large surfaces of pre-oxidised extruded bronze (as featured across the exterior of the Library stack) and sandstone (sourced for its colour from Piles Creek Quarry). At the time of its construction, it boasted interior advancements such as rubber floor tiles and the largest reverse-cycle air-conditioning plant in Australia.

“The Fisher library is probably the first major university library in the world planned simultaneously, yet separately, for both undergraduates and the senior scholars. It had been designed for construction in stages so that the building can grow as the need for book storage and accommodation grows.”

New Fisher Library. (1963). Architecture in Australia, (December), 71.

The new Fisher Library also featured specialist spaces for a new age, such as lounges, photocopiers, and the highly popular music listening area. Located on level 4, students could use headphones to listen to any of several thousand LP records. The roof terrace was also a popular space for students to relax and, after a successful student-led campaign in 2022, it will re-open later this year.

Above: students in the music listening area, 1970s, Library Collection.

“What would be without Fisher Library? It was the place to gather on the rooftop. I had my first kiss there. Romantic memory. It was the place we studied together… We met to plot and plan everything from cappuccinos to anti-apartheid marches. I did both”.

Susanne, alumna

The new Fisher Library revolutionised the academic and student experience, bringing education out of the gothic and traditional space of MacLaurin Hall and into the post-war modern world. The building won both the RAIA Sulman Award and the RIBA Bronze Medal in 1962, making it the only University building to win such prestigious awards to date. The building also went on to be heritage listed in 2008.

Above: Fisher Library at night, 1972, Library Collection.

Above: Band playing out the front of Fisher Library, 4 May 1976, University of Sydney Archives, REF-00084461

Above: View of the Fisher foyer from level 4, 1980s, University Archives REF-00088230

Above: Students using the new online card catalogue in the reference area on Level 3, Fisher Library. Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.

The future of the Library

Since its opening in 1963, Fisher has been the go-to space for students and academics to study, research and gather. In addition to scholarly endeavours, Fisher is the meeting place for protests and rallies, as well as love and friendship.

I was working in Acquisitions in 1965 when a mutual friend brought in a fellow university research assistance and introduced us in the Accessions Room… We have now been married for over half a century.”

Judy, former Fisher Library staff

A lot has changed since the 1960s – the telephone booths and music listening area are no longer in use – but spending time in Fisher has remained a quintessential part of the University experience ever since. In 2023, Fisher Library alone receives 5,802 average daily visitors.

Above: Fisher Library, 2023, photo by Sarah Lorien

Above: Students in Fisher Library, 2023, photo by Matthew Vasilescu

The Library has also expanded to 13 sites across Camperdown campus, the Conservatorium of Music and Camden Commons. The Library facilitates not only academic research but also has dedicated TechSpaces for ideation and creation with 3D printers, CNC router and workshops on topics such as generative AI.

The Library’s collections have also expanded online, including Digital Collections and the Sydney eScholarship Repository (which has had over 1.5 million downloads in 2023). Continuing in the direction set by the new Fisher Library of enriching student life, the Library now has dedicated Peer Learning Advisors and runs year-round events including Welcome Week and Exam Ready programs.

Fisher Library has adapted and changed in accordance with academic needs as well as student profiles. It has provided consistent and flexible services to students, scholars and the general public during extended hours and in a vibrant and reflective environment. I am sure that Fisher will continue to hold a special place in generations to come.

Philip Kent, University Librarian

Above: Library staff, 2023, photo by Sarah Lorien

60th anniversary celebrations

To celebrate Fisher Library’s 60th anniversary milestone, we invite you to join us for a range of celebratory events on Monday 6 November 2023 including Reflections on Fisher: the history, significance and life of our Library seminar, exhibition displays across the Library, drop-in printmaking on the Piscator Press, display of our rare book anniversary acquisition, and a rooftop afternoon tea and cake cutting. 

View the full program


Docomomo Australia. (2023). Fisher Library. Viewed on 25/10/2023

Howells, Trevor (Ed.) (2007). University of Sydney Architecture, 77.

New Fisher Library. (1963). Architecture in Australia, (Dec.), 71-75.

Redford, N. A. (2006). Accommodating the University Library. Record: The University Archives, 15-18.

Shipp, J. (Ed.)(2009). The Fisher Library Centenary, 1909-2009.

Open Access Week 2023: Removing barriers to University research

Open Access Week 2023 (23-29 October) is an opportunity to celebrate the advances made in promoting unrestricted access to valuable research and scholarly content.  

One of the key pillars of Open Access (OA) publishing is ensuring that the global community has access to university research. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of Open Access publishing, with a particular focus on how the University of Sydney Library is enabling this through initiatives such as the Sydney eScholarship repository, and supporting Read and Publish agreements with major publishers. 

Read and Publish Agreements: Bridging the Gap 

The University of Sydney Library is enabling Open Access publishing through Read and Publish agreements with major publishers. These agreements represent a significant milestone in making scholarly content freely available.  

The Library supports agreements with publishers (Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, CSIRO, Oxford University Press and others) that cover the costs of both access to institutional subscription journal content and publication of new Open Access articles. All University staff and Higher Degree by Research Students are eligible to publish under the University’s Read and Publish Agreements. To access these agreements, corresponding authors must use their email address and list “The University of Sydney” as their primary affiliation when submitting their article manuscript for publication. 

The Benefits of Open Access Publishing 

Open Access publishing is founded on the principle that research should be freely accessible to anyone, anywhere. The benefits of Open Access publishing are widely known, and include wider accessibility of research to the community, and the benefits that flow from public engagement with research. Open Access has also shown to have a positive role in accelerating innovation and increasing the visibility and citation rates of published work. University of Sydney OA publications are cited at four times the global average, at approximately 32 citations per paper.1 

Sydney eScholarship: Empowering Open Access 

One of the easiest ways of making your research open is to upload it to Sydney eScholarship, the University’s open access repository. Sydney eScholarship provides a platform for uploading and sharing research and a central repository for storing and disseminating research outputs, including articles, theses, and datasets. Sydney eScholarship makes work available through Google Scholar and offers authors access to altmetrics, including views and downloads. 

Sydney eScholarship also includes University theses completed by Higher Degree by Research students at the University of Sydney, raising the visibility and accessibility of their research. 

Digital Collections: Making our Rare and Special Collections Open Access 

The Library is dedicated to digitising and making free and open to the public our rare books and special collections. Items from Virginia Woolf’s annotated personal copy of The Voyage Out, to medieval and early modern books, to photographs of the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction are now online for the first time, and available through Digital Collections, where they can be viewed and used by people from around the world.  

Support from the Library 

The Library supports a range of pathways towards a more equitable and open publishing landscape. To learn more about Open Access, the Read and Publish agreements, or how you or a group of researchers can take full advantage of the benefits of open publishing, get in touch with our Academic Liaison Librarian team. You can also check out our online resources on Open Access and the Strategic Publishing Toolkit

As we celebrate Open Access Week 2023, it is essential to recognise the tremendous benefits of Open Access research made possible by initiatives such as Sydney eScholarship and Read and Publish agreements, ensuring that valuable research is accessible to all. 

2023 Printer in Residence

Mickie Quick has been breathing new life into the Fisher Library printing workshop as our latest Printer in Residence. 

Fisher Library is the home to an Albion letterpress printer, purchased by the Library in the early 1960s, and affectionately known as the Piscator Press.  

The Printer in Residence program was introduced in 2018 with the goal of increasing awareness of the Piscator Press and to encourage an ongoing enthusiasm for letterpress and book arts within the University.  

Mickie Quick began his residency at the start of Semester 2, 2023. Mickie’s residency has included multiple Open Studio Sessions for the University community which have proved to be very popular. The Open Studio Sessions saw staff and students get a hands-on lesson on how the printer works with demonstrations from Mickie and the opportunity to use the press themselves. 

These sessions also gave Mickie the opportunity to touch on his own printing project, a project which sees him examine the history of progressive political text and images on campus by delving into the rich archives of Honi Soit, to create a series of prints that reflect and build on the history of activism on campus. 

I am very excited to be working with an historic print methodology on campus — letterpress printing with the Albion — and using it to create new prints that will come from a process of looking deeply into another longstanding print tradition at the University of Sydney — the publication of Honi Soit, and its role in political activism on campus

Mickie Quick

Mickie Quick’s residency in Fisher Library ends on 13 October 2023.