More than books: libraries in Queensland have a bigger story to tell
This article, by guest contributor Louise Denoon, Executive Director at the State Library of Queensland, is from the February - March edition of the LGAQ Council Leader Magazine. Keep an eye out for it here, or contact us if you would like to receive a hard copy.
In wartime Queensland, The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin published a story (3 November, 1943) on the parliamentary push for free public libraries in Queensland. The government of the time believed that libraries were needed for post-war development and to ‘preserve democracy’.
Queensland’s then Premier Frank Cooper said branch libraries would be established all over the state and ‘books for the people would come first and the buildings would come later’.
75 years on, Queensland libraries have truly come of age and books are just part of a much bigger package. Step inside your local library and you’re likely to find a gaggle of bouncing, singing toddlers and seniors enrolling in tech sessions. They are thriving community spaces with something to offer for everyone.
I’m one of more than two million Queenslanders who hold a library card and I’m a proud member of a community who comes to a local library to create, share knowledge, find answers and learn.
But I must be one of the luckiest members because for me, visiting libraries is both business and pleasure. My work takes me to branches from Cunnamulla to Cooktown and I get to experience first-hand the vast offering of dynamic, digitally-focussed spaces that help connect people not just locally — but globally.
This year, I’ve travelled to the Bush Councils Convention in Charters Towers, the Indigenous Leadership Forum in Cairns and the annual LGAQ Conference in Gladstone and I have come to understand libraries as the quiet achievers in Queensland’s cities, regional and remote areas.
What makes them so great? The top five attributes as voted by mayors and councillors at Gladstone’s LGAQ conference were free WIFI, friendly staff, a place for everyone, family friendly spaces and storytelling. The poll revealed how deeply elected local government representatives value the library in their local community.
And I’m wholeheartedly with them.
There are more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs) across Queensland and they’re a major employer with over 1500 Queenslanders calling them their workplace. They’re also big business with around $250million invested each year in this important pillar of local communities’ infrastructure.
The strength of their impact was recognised when the State Government invested $20million into the four-year First 5 Forever family literacy initiative. Three years in, the results have been phenomenal with a massive influx in story time, rhyme time, outreach and collection use — all contributing to confident parents being their child’s first and most important teacher.
They also play a vital role in helping bridge the digital divide — providing informal, community-centred, and neutral learning sites for creativity and exploration for the disabled, seniors, North-West Queensland residents, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
So next time you step inside a library, look beyond the books on the shelves and remember you’re part of something so much more.
Local government delivers a winning combination of public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres as trusted spaces, deeply local and connected to their communities. I am really proud to work with Local Government.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006