The Special Collection contains rare and valuable books on a diverse range of subjects. The predominant categories are Australian literature, Australian history and Australian art, with smaller sections comprising music, anthropology, local history and town planning, along with a few rare collector's items on European history and literature.
Historical material about Footscray Technical College, Footscray Technical School, Footscray Institute of Technology (FIT), Western Melbourne Institute of TAFE (WMIT) or the Western Institute is held by Victoria University Archives and is not in The Special Collection.
Items within The Special Collection include:
- The Book of Kells (facsimile): this is one of the 1480 complete facsimile copies of the Book of Kells produced in 1990 by the Swiss publisher, Faksimile Verlag Luzern.
- Collected poems of John Shaw Neilson: edited with an introduction by R.H. Croll Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Co., c1934. Limited edition, No. 37 of 55 (signed and inscribed with a four line hand-written verse by the author).
- Men who made "The Argus" and "The Australasian", 1846-1923 (2 vols.) [Melbourne : Argus and Australasian Ltd.?, 1923?].
- The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Work's sewerage scheme: a history of its inception and a description of the engineering works carried on in connection with the scheme, Melbourne: Periodicals Publishing Company, 1900.
- Salt: authorized education journal of Australian Army and Air Force, Melbourne [Vic.]: Educational Publications, Army Headquarters, 1941-1946.
A significant item from the collection is a piece of decorative ironwork from the now demolished Federal Coffee Palace (FCP) in the Melbourne central business district. The Federal Coffee Palace was erected in 1888 on the south-west corner of King and Collins Streets in Melbourne. The building was renamed the Federal Hotel in 1897 and was demolished in 1972. The ironwork was donated to the library by Mr. John White.
This historic artefact is on display on level 2 of the Victoria University Library at Footscray Park.