QPLA Board on Tour – April 2024 – North Queensland Region

At the end of 2023, the QPLA Board assessed your feedback to the annual Member Survey. 

Many survey respondents advised they were largely unaware of the role of the Board and who the QPLA Board members are.  We have listened to your feedback and are working to address that through increased visibility and connection with members through stronger partnerships with State Library of Queensland and ALIA, regular News articles highlighting the amazing work being undertaken across the state, highlighting case studies of these activities at the Australian Public Libraries Alliance meetings alongside all State Associations and stronger connection with the Regional Reps through new quarterly catch up sessions due to commence soon. 

One key activity we’ve committed to in 2024 is to undertake visits to library services across each of the four regions when holding our Board meetings so we see your library services, meet our members and highlight the quality services being delivered to communities throughout the state.

During April the QPLA Board were privileged to visit libraries located in Cairns and surrounding areas.  The ongoing torrential rain did little to dampen the spirits of our host libraries who were so welcoming and keen to share the broad range of diverse programs and activities across their regions. 

On Monday 15 April the QPLA Board headed off from Cairns on a 495km road trip – eight of us in a Kia Carnival along some of the windiest roads possible – what could go wrong?!  We followed the Captain Cook Highway north which is still under reconstruction following damage sustained during Cyclone Jasper, to Mossman.


Your Douglas Libraries – Douglas Shire Council

Our visit was well-timed with the library closed for a staff professional development day.  We were welcomed by Amanda and the energetic team at Mossman.  The library is a key facility in the Mossman community serving as a 24/7 refuge during the recent Cyclone Jasper for displaced community members, a role the library has undertaken a number of times in the past during severe weather events. This library was the only building that did not flood despite being surrounded by water.

In days after the cyclone, the library continued to be a place for displaced families and youth, as this was the first council organisation to reopen just a few days after flooding in the area.  With power restored, community members could charge phones and access internet and phones to reassure people they were okay, as well as start to organise insurance and next steps in the recovery process. Meals were supplied by local business Temptations, who were facing their own flood issues, however they ensure no-one went hungry.

The library team is close-knit with a focus on supporting the community.  They continued to work together, with a sense of grace and humour, to support the community despite facing their own challenges at home after the cyclone. A true example of an essential service.


Libraries – Mareeba Shire Council (msc.qld.gov.au)

After a great coffee from the team at Temptations, the QPLA Board were back in the Kia heading inland to the township of Mareeba, located 81km south-west of Mossman. Mareeba Libraries have four branches, located in Mareeba, Kuranda, Chillagoe and Dimbulah.  The Mareeba Shire is almost the size of Tasmania, so quite a broad area to cover.

We were greeted by Library Coordinator Andrea at the new library location.  The library relocated to this new location in late 2021 and features a great open plan layout which caters for people of all abilities and has full accessibility, including a scooter recharge facility at the entrance.

The library also features dedicated areas for library users, with a great reading room boasting a full sized mural, which was well utilised at the time of our visit.  The Bowls Club is also located at this site and provides a great expansion for library programs outdoors, along with the covered outdoor verandah areas which often host children and youth programs.

One highlight of this visit was hearing of the amazing success of Junior Library Casual Toby Fealy, one of eight young people selected internationally to attend NASA for a competition.  The libraries’ Rocket 101 school holiday program was developed to celebrate Toby’s success and share with all children across the region with the program being held at Mareeba and Kuranda branches.  Toby is now also running this program at Cairns Libraries.  The team at Mareeba noted this program has had the highest attendance numbers of any local program to date. 

In addition the team runs the highly successful Tech Savvy Program. This program has been running for eight years, beginning as a group session however to meet community needs has now transformed to one-on-one sessions on a Tuesday morning in Mareeba, with Saturday morning sessions at Dimbulah. This has been life changing for some remote patrons learning how to face time on an iPad.


Libraries – TRC – Tablelands Regional Council

Next stop, Atherton, after a quick stop to stretch our legs at the Curtain Fig Tree along the way.

Back in the Kia, we drove another 30 minutes or 34 km to meet Gwen and the team at Atherton Library. Tablelands Libraries are located in Atherton, Herberton, Malanda, Millaa Millaa, Mount Garnet, Ravenshoe and Yungaburra.   The team have a range of dynamic and welcoming spaces providing residents and visitors access to programs, workshops, historical archives, collections, public computers, free wifi and much more.

Gwen hosted a tour of the Atherton branch, before we met with Community Services Manager, Shiralee along with the library team to discuss the impact of libraries in regional areas, and the broad range of services the team deliver across the region.

Shiralee outlined how regional libraries are key hubs for the community, with service levels and expectations from community changing rapidly.  Regional centres are also finding changing social issues in community libraries are significant.  This includes cost of living, lack of housing, homelessness which impacts all demographics including families within their region.

The ability to recruit and attract/retain staffing is impacted across council with no housing so often new staff are unable to accept positions.  This has a flow on impact to local businesses as current housing cost is high, there is no crisis housing, and this also impacts other health services in area.  

Currently the Atherton region is cut-off each evening with the Gillies Range closed for rectification works following Cyclone Jasper and recent monsoon events.  The range is closed at 9pm each evening until early morning to allow roadworks to be completed.  Emergencies are airlifted from the local hospital to Cairns if required.

DAY 2 – Yarrabah Aboriginal Council

Yarrabah: CLS to IKC | State Library Of Queensland (slq.qld.gov.au)

With the rain still hanging around, we headed south to the community of Yarrabah located 60km south-east of Cairns.  After climbing the Murray Prior Range with a grade of 761 metres, we were greeted with the beautiful view below of the Yarrabah community.   The Yarrabah Aboriginal Council includes Mayor Ross Andrews and four councillors.

With a population of 2000, this community is serviced by Yarrabah Indigenous Knowledge Centre, which is supported by State Library of Queensland, with Nathan and Natasha part of the SLQ team based in Cairns.

Yarrabah is one of the thirteen IKCs located across Queensland.  Technology support is a key activity in Yarrabah, particularly, for older community members and young people due to decreased digital literacy, access and affordability. The IKC is open every day, providing a range of library programs, along with continuous support for digital literacy through assistance with computer access/use, printing, emails and Centrelink as internet is not affordable for many community members so this service is accessed regularly within the library. 

Library programs and the library space are also popular with young people.  More than 40 young  people attended the school holiday programs and make regular visits to the library.

As an IKC, the library collection is supplied by State Library with collection changeover scheduled every three months.  Natasha is based at the Cairns SLQ Regional Office and provides ongoing support to the Yarrabah team during collection changeover with around 25 boxes of stock rotated each quarter.

A new recording studio has been set up in the IKC with Community radio due to start soon and be hosted within the library which will be a great contact point for community members.

We also undertook a tour of the Yarrabah Arts & Cultural Precinct, learning more about the First Nations art that is created and showcased in Yarrabah, as well as being available for purchase online and shipped across the country.  Yarrabah Arts & Cultural Precinct (yarrabah-arts-centre.com.au)

This is dynamic community with the IKC providing a great meeting spot for the local community, equally supported by the local café providing great coffee and the ability to purchase some of the best bread and damper we’ve ever had from the bakery just around the corner. 


Library Homepage – Cairns Library

We navigated our way back over the mountain range to Cairns where we visited the Cairns Library located in the centre of Cairns.  This is a heritage listed building and has some beautiful features both internally and externally.  What a popular spot on a rainy day in tropical north Queensland – this place was pumping with barely a spare seat or public computer in sight.

Library Manager, Marina provided the Board with a quick tour before we headed back to the airport. Cairns Libraries offer a diverse range of programs, resources and activities across eight branches.  As a key tourist town, there have been many changes in this space over recent years to make it easier for visitors to access and utilise the facilities within the library – and this was well demonstrated at the time of our visit.


We would like to take this opportunity to thank each of the libraries we visited and a huge thank you to all of the staff we engaged with.  It was great to meet so many enthusiastic library staff who love what they do with such high levels of community engagement.  You are all doing an amazing job – but don’t just take our word for it.

We were greeted warmly and with curiosity at all libraries as many people wanted to know what QPLA on our shirts meant.  The locals are some of the greatest advocates for their libraries, with each region stating their libraries are the best in Queensland with the most awesome staff which is a true acknowledgement of the value these teams and services bring to their communities.   Congratulations to you all and keep up the great work.

We encourage all library staff to sign up for the QPLA eNews and keep up to date with key events happening across the state.  The Regional Reps will be reaching out to all regions over the coming months to expand on some Regional connection sessions which will provide opportunities to share information around what is happening in your library service. 

You can connect with any member of the QPLA Board here via the secretary@qpla.asn.au

Thanks to everyone involved in this QPLA Board on Tour trip.

Kind regards

Nicole Hunt
President – QPLA

Leave a Comment