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How libraries help communities thrive

Friday 2 August 2019

Distracting children during a natural disaster or helping to preserve near-extinct Indigenous languages is all part of the sometimes-surprising work of public libraries, and a new vision is helping to redefine how Queenslanders view these vital community hubs. 

Realising our potential — A vision for Queensland public libraries was developed by State Library of Queensland in consultation with public library managers and staff, as well as representatives from key government and library associations. 

It strengthens the important role of libraries as community hubs that build social capital and community resilience while recognising their individual needs. 

In Queensland there are more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs), and local government and State Library work together to help them realise their potential as places for learning, creativity and community. 

State Library also provides professional development opportunities and about 10 per cent of funding to public libraries. 

Last year, about 1.8 million people attended a public library event or program in Queensland, a number that grows annually as services expand to include digital literacy, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.  This ensures libraries deliver a good return on investment for local government and the communities they serve. 

Libraries are realising this new vision in many inspiring ways.

Weathering disaster in Townsville

CityLibraries Townsville took an active role in their community following this year’s unprecedented flooding. 

Library staff ran Storytime activities in evacuation centres and provided a safe space for children, allowing carers to focus on other important matters. They also provided activity kits for community recovery hubs and attended events in flood-affected areas. 

The libraries opened as soon as possible, providing a safe space with free access to technology and supportive staff. Charges related to items missing and damaged in the floods were also waived. 

The team created a welcoming environment filled with activities such as Sudoku, colouring-in and craft.  

Flood-affected residents could also contact insurance companies, carry out business, and talk about their experiences at their local library. Partnering with support agencies in delivering services, the libraries provided a valuable place for members of the Townsville community to get back on their feet. 

The team is now working on collecting community stories, photos and art to add to their popular local collections. These stories will allow the community to reflect on their resilience during times of crisis.

Technology for the town 

Longreach Library staff have been bringing robots and virtual reality (VR) technology to the outback. 

The small team has worked with the Longreach Regional Council to promote these technologies by running annual Fun Palace events, which foster creative communities, and other technology-related events. This has improved the use and understanding of technology in the community. 

Through professional development, the team were able to empower students to act as peer leaders, delivering positive learning outcomes with limited staff. The robotics, coding and VR equipment is very popular, and is used by students from the School of Distance Education who would otherwise have no access to this type of resource. Supporting this learning helps community members fully participate in the digital world. 

These services and events have not only raised the library’s profile and responded to community needs but also demonstrate the library’s commitment to a future-focused workforce.  

Preserving local language

Queensland’s IKCs are working to promote and preserve local languages.  

At the Hope Vale IKC, north of Cooktown, Coordinator Shirley Costello promotes language and culture to community members of all ages. This helps provide “deeply local outcomes for Queensland communities” and a place to access the past, present and future. 

History, language and culture are also shared through weekly radio sessions, sparking an interest in Guugu Yimidhirr language classes, now offered at the IKC. 

Shirley strives to improve her own understanding of the language, drawing on the expertise of other Elders or staff of the Pama Language Centre. She is also keen to share her knowledge with a wider audience. 

This is one of the many ways that IKCs are driving the resurgence in traditional language, and safeguarding culture for future generations.

Logan takes literacy on the road 

Pop-up libraries are proving very popular in Logan. 

The First 5 Forever early literacy program, supported by the State Government and administered through State Library, has been enthusiastically embraced by the Logan City Libraries. 

Staff have been taking the program on the road through an extensive community outreach program. In keeping with the vision, they connect with stakeholders to extend the reach of services and influence beyond the library. 

First 5 Forever recognises parents and primary caregivers as the child’s first and most important educator and provides the confidence and resources to help them make a lasting difference.  

By taking the program to places popular with parents and young children — such as playgroups, community centres and public events — they were able to engage more than 17,000 participants who may otherwise not have benefited.  

In response to local needs, the team also facilitated a weekly pop-up library in various McDonald’s for families who may not attend libraries or other community playgroups. Attendees received First 5 Forever messages and library information, and had the opportunity to connect to playgroups and other local community support organisations. 

Find out more 

There are many more examples across Queensland of public libraries and IKCs directly responding to the needs of their communities to provide innovative, locally-focused programs and services. 

To read Realising our potential — A new Vision for Queensland public libraries and find out more about how libraries can support your community, head to the State Library of Queensland website. 


CityLibraries Townsville provided activities in evacuation centres after the February floods. Supplied by CityLibraries Townsville 

Pop-up children’s library at Marsden McDonalds 

Supplied by Logan City Council Libraries 

Images of Shirley Costello, IKC Coordinator Hopevale 

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006


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