As part of my working life I sometimes have the privilege of traveling to regional centers to meet and work with library and council staff sharing their enthusiasm and hearing their aspirations for their community and their libraries. On Friday 14th July, 2017 I traveled to Toowoomba Regional Council and visited their new City Library to deliver a workshop on measuring impact and advocacy for their library service. And I also got to go on a library tour.
Queensland Local Government in regional areas are determined to ensure the sustainability of their towns and the rural way of life. Revitalisation of regional cities is a priority as they position themselves to attract tourism, new families and new business. Toowoomba has embarked on an ambitious revitalisation of their inner city and the City Library and Civic Square marked the start of this major project.
Fast Facts: Architects: James Cubitt Architects & Peddle Thorp; The City Library opened on 27 February 2016; Is 8,690 square meters over 3 levels; Includes a Cafe commercially owned; Local History Special Collection, Community meeting rooms, Cycle Hub & bathroom / locker facilities; Volunteers lounge and Basement car parking.
What did I love? I really loved the public art in and around the City Library firstly because it was beautiful and secondly because it shows the commitment of Council to a sense of civic pride through investment in culture and timeless art for the enjoyment of their community. This Noble Tree (pictured) is a representation of the hoop pine and reaches the full length of the library. It was first classified by colonial botanist Allan Cunningham and extracts of his expedition report to Governor Darling are written on the inside of the hoop pine arcs. The artwork pictured at the top of this blog post is Confluence by artist Benjamin Storch and is a striking stainless steel sculpture.
‘What‘s life without whimsy?’ And whimsy is exactly what comes to mind with this wonderful ‘Faraway Tree’ donated by the Builder and made at MovieWorld. Children love this space and find many spaces to climb and play.
A Focus on Learning: The City Library has established itself as a Tech hub and center for digital literacy, especially for seniors and refugees. Toowoomba Regional Council officially became a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2013 and is a designated refugee and humanitarian settlement area. The City Library offers English Conversation Groups, Advanced English & IELTS preparation, Tech Savvy Seniors workshops, Job Ready programs, Learn to Play Chess groups, Robotics & Coding Holiday programs and many more.
Efficiency realised: The new City Library also significantly upgraded its operational technology. Self Checkouts, Digital eLibrary, Smart checkins with conveyor belt and sorting bins all significantly reduces manual handling, freeing staff to run valued learning programs. Another cost saving measure implemented is that there is no shelving undertaken on weekends. This reduces the cost of casuals (you do need a lot of trolleys and somewhere to store them though) and then shelvers are employed on Monday mornings at substantially lower hourly rates to shelve the weekend returns. WiFi and Public Internet Computers are available at the Library with an hour only available per person per day. Like all Libraries the cost of the downloads on Council WiFi is an issue and this restriction was implemented as a cost control measure.
A Library with Good Coffee: On a beautiful sunny winter’s day in Toowoomba coffee, kids and sunshine are a winner. The Library Cafe is independently run and is a very successful venture as it reaches out into the Civic Square. It is good to know that this Library cafe is a going concern and that Library traffic drives visitation to the square and the cafe.
A surprise: The Regional Council decided to include a secure Cycle Hub, and public access end-of-trip facilities (that means showers and bathrooms) and external bike racks and drinking fountains to act as enablers for active transport options. This is a very new concept for Toowoomba who like most regional Councils has a heavy reliance on cars for travel with minimal public transport options.
Its Not Easy Being Green: Solar panels, high performance glazing, bio-retention system to pond and treat stormwater and two in ground water tanks provide 52,000L of water retention for use on the Civic Square grounds. Council also focused on the re-use of materials even going so far as to remove the existing mature Maple trees during construction and returning them to feature in the final landscape.
A Library Welcoming Everyone: The different spaces within the library were populated with families, new mothers, seniors, chess players (both young and old), with the tables being used and shared. One thing I would change is the amount of power options as I think charging up our devices is definitely a ‘thing’. But maybe with only an hour option for the WiFi there is not as much of a demand as I have seen in other centers. If you are ever in Toowoomba I can definitely recommend the Library as one worth a visit.
Oh, and the Creative Impact for Public Libraries workshop was a blast! Thanks to the 40 passionate Library advocates in attendance and my wonderful colleagues Tyler and Janet who were instrumental to the day and inspirational workshop presenters.