Lady Cilento

The opening of the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in South Brisbane on 29 November gives us reason to look at the extraordinary life and achievements of this great lady.

Phyllis Dorothy McGlew was born in Sydney on 13 March 1894. When she was young, her family moved to Adelaide, where she studied medicine, graduating in 1918. She worked at the Adelaide Hospital before travelling to Britain and working in the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street in London. She returned to Adelaide in 1920 to marry Dr Raphael Cilento, who was knighted in 1935 in recognition of his work in epidemiology in tropical disease. The couple worked in the Malay States, Townsville and New Guinea, before settling in Brisbane in 1928.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, 1918. State Library of Queensland.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, 1918. State Library of Queensland.

Between 1931 and 1938, Phyllis worked at the Hospital for Sick Children (now the Royal Children’s Hospital) in Herston. She then ran a general practice, specialising in the health of mothers and children, while raising her six children. She wrote 24 books, many articles, and regular columns for newspapers and magazines under the name “Medical Mother” and “Mother M.D.” She promoted the use of vitamins, and was an advocate for natural childbirth, family planning, and having fathers present at the birth of their children – advanced ideas that were seen by some at the time as unorthodox. After her husband’s death in 1985, she continued in private practice in Toowong until the early 1980s. She died on 26 July 1987.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, July 1942. State Library of Queensland.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, July 1942. State Library of Queensland.

Lady Cilento, affectionately called “Lady C”, was involved in several organisations, was president of the Queensland Medical Women’s Society in 1929, and founded the Mothercraft Association of Queensland in 1931. She was the first Queensland Mother of the Year, the first Queenslander of the Year, and a Fellow of the International Academy of Preventative Medicine. Given her contributions to the health of mothers and children in Queensland, it is a fitting tribute that our new children’s hospital bears her name.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento, January 1949. State Library of Queensland.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento, January 1949. State Library of Queensland.

State Library of Queensland holds many items that relate to Lady Cilento’s life and work, including her notebook from around 1981, which contains notes, copies of letters and speeches. Our collection also contains Lady Cilento’s published books, including My Life (her autobiography published in the year of her death), A Code for teenagers and their parents, The Cilento way, Lady Cilento on vitamin and mineral deficiencies, Vitamins and you, You don’t have to live with: Chronic ill health, Medical mother, Enjoy your family: A guide for parenthood and Square meals for the family.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento. State Library of Queensland.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento. State Library of Queensland.

These items can be located through our One Search catalogue.

Frew Park: Reflecting Queensland’s tennis history

Frew Park, a 3.5 hectare parkland developed on the site of the former Milton Tennis Centre, is due to open in December.

The park’s redevelopment will include the new Roy Emerson Tennis Centre, with six tennis courts, a rebound wall, kiosk, and lounge and administration facilities.

In a nod to the site’s history, a new youth playground will be called The Arena. The playground is specifically designed for children aged 10 to 15 years, complementing nearby suburban play areas that cater for younger children. The Arena will include a large climbing wall, five metre high curly slide, climbing nets and cages (including a mesh cage that is eight metres off the ground), and other surfaces for climbing or sitting.

A large open space in the park is named Wendy Turnbull Green, honouring Brisbane tennis legend Wendy Turnbull, who was a Grand Slam winning doubles and mixed doubles player on nine occasions during the 1970s and 1980s.

Frew Park will also include open grassed spaces, picnic areas, exercise equipment and a carpark.

Queensland Lawn Tennis Association Clubhouse at Milton Queensland 1958

Queensland Lawn Tennis Association Clubhouse at Milton, Queensland, 1958. State Library of Queensland.

Those of you who were familiar with the old Milton tennis courts may remember the giant tennis racquet that towered over the centre. Brisbane identity, Stefan Ackerie, who acquired the racquet after the centre was closed in 1999, has kindly donated the racquet to the redevelopment project. It will be rejuvenated before taking pride of place at the entrance to the park.

The Milton Tennis Centre was originally opened in 1915, and had 19 hard courts and four grass courts. It played host to eight Australian Championships, including the first Australian Open in 1969, and 16 Davis Cup ties, including three finals. It also served as a venue for concerts featuring legends such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Johnny Cash. It hosted the national lightweight boxing title in 1971, when a crowd of 10,000 watched Jeff White retain his title against Lionel Rose.

View of the tennis courts at Milton where a Davis Cup tournament is being played Brisbane 1958

View of a Davis Cup tournament at the Milton tennis courts, Brisbane, 1958. State Library of Queensland.

The centre regularly seated 7,000 people, and saw many tennis greats traverse its courts, including Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Tony Roche, John Newcombe and Lindsay Davenport. The wooden grandstands were declared unsafe in 1994, and the centre was closed in 1999 after Tennis Queensland ran into financial difficulties. Following two fires and becoming derelict, the building was demolished in 2002.

The Milton Tennis Centre was home to much of Queensland’s tennis history, and is fondly remembered by those who played on its courts, went there as spectators or attended other events. The new Frew Park redevelopment honours that history and will provide new recreational opportunities for Queenslanders.

Watching a tennis game at Milton 1934

Watching a tennis game at Milton, 1934. State Library of Queensland.

State Library of Queensland holds many treasures relating to the state’s tennis history. We have photographs, publications from the Queensland Lawn Tennis Association and other tennis organisations, articles, annual reports and ephemera, such as programs, rulebooks, handbooks and tickets. These items can be located though our One Search catalogue.

Queensland Ladies Interstate Tennis Team 1908

Queensland Ladies Interstate Tennis Team, 1908. State Library of Queensland.

Pearling Luggers of the Torres Strait

The romance of the beautiful pearling luggers of the Torres Strait is captured in the photographs and resources held by State Library of Queensland.

Pearling lugger in the Torres Strait

Pearling lugger in the Torres Strait. State Library of Queensland.

The luggers were gaff-rigged ketches constructed of wood, and many have continued to sail for more than 60 years.  Typically measuring 15 to 20 meters in length, with low waists and bulwarks to assist diving, the two- masted pearling luggers were graceful with curved lines.   They were a magnificent sight as they entered the open sea under full sail. There were many hundreds of luggers working across the north of Australia, from Thursday Island to Broome.  Many of the luggers were built by Japanese shipwrights on Thursday Island.  Indeed, by the turn of the century, the Japanese had a monopoly on the shipbuilding and slipways of the island.  The Queensland Museum has examined the woods used in the luggers, and has found that typically a mixture of native timbers was used, including melaleuca, turpentine, hoop pine and sometimes imported timbers such as oregon pine.  The Queensland Maritime Museum at South Bank has restored a pearling lugger that was built on Thursday Island in 1907.  Called Penguin, it was a working boat for more than 80 years.

Pearling was enormously important to the economy of northern Australia.  Beginning in 1868 in the Torres Strait, the industry had a boom and bust cycle, with high points being experienced in the 1870s and 1890s.  While pearls were prized, the basis of the industry was the pearling shell, which was in great demand in Australia, America and Europe for buttons, combs, jewellery, insets in furniture and cutlery set handles. At one point in the early 1870s, the price of £400 per ton was reached for pearl shell.  The pearling industry of northern Australia supplied the majority of the world’s need for pearl shell, and was a source of great wealth for some of the fleet owners.

The luggers worked in fleets.  Pearling fleets were multi-national affairs, manned by Torres Strait Islanders, Malays, Indians, Sri Lankans and Japanese, as well as some workers from other Pacific Islands.  The pearling fleet masters were principally Australians and New Zealanders, including James Clarke, Tommy Farquhar and the Hockings Brothers.  Each fleet could have more than 20 luggers, with several schooners providing supplies to the luggers.  Each fleet was painted in identifying colours.  For example, the Farquhar fleet had black hulls with red and white railings.  The name and registration number of each boat was carved into the side, near the bow.

Pearling luggers at Thursday Island

Pearling luggers at Thursday Island. State Library of Queensland.

Typically, a pearling lugger had two or three divers, two or three tenders to operate the air pumps, a cook, an engineer and two sailing crew.  The divers, who were mostly Japanese, risked their lives in rubberised canvas suits, heavy boots laden with lead, and helmets with thick glass.  The divers were paid according to the amount of shell they collected, so every minute on the bottom was precious.

Their lives were in the hands of the tenders above, who operated the air pumps to keep them alive. Initially, pearl shell was easily located in shallow waters.  However, by 1871, a diving suit was designed, allowing access down to 20 fathoms.  As the pearl shell was collected over many years, the remaining shell deposits were at increasingly greater depths, and by the end of the 1930s, divers were going down to 40 fathoms in areas such as the Darnley Deeps. Few Australians could be attracted to the perilous occupation of pearl diving. The bends killed many of the divers, as did shark attacks.  In 1916, the official death rate in workplaces in Queensland was reported as 1.1% of the workforce, contrasting with the 10% quoted for pearling divers.  Cyclones were also a threat to the safety of the pearling fleets, with one cyclone in1899 sinking more than 50 luggers, and killing 300 men.

During World War Two, the pearling luggers were requisitioned by the Australian Navy, as the islands of the Torres Strait became strategically very important.  Many were used by the Americans, patrolling the Torres Strait. The residents of the islands were evacuated from 1942 until 1946.  After the war, it was difficult for the industry to rebuild, and the introduction of plastics made the industry less viable, causing many luggers to be sold and refitted for prawning, crayfishing or other commercial activities.  Some pearling continued until the 1970s, with the introduction of cultured pearling.

The sailing boats once used to trawl for the treasures of the sea are a reminder of Queensland’s past.  Resilient craft, many of the pearling luggers were refloated, refitted and continued to sail many years after the pearling industry had become a remnant of our history.

Christina Ealing-Godbold, Senior Librarian, Information Services

Goodwill (ship) pearling lugger

Goodwill (ship). State Library of Queensland.

World Diabetes Day

14 November is World Diabetes Day (WDD), raising global awareness of this growing health threat, its treatment and prevention.

World Diabetes Day logo

Frederick Banting and Charles Best conceived the idea that led to the discovery of insulin in 1921, and WDD is celebrated annually on 14 November, which marks Frederick Banting’s birthday.

WDD is an official United Nations Day, marked by more than 200 member organisations of the International Diabetes Federation in more than 160 countries. These organisations, along with companies, healthcare workers and people and families living with diabetes, increase awareness by participating in activities, events, exhibitions, workshops and campaigns. The WDD logo is a blue circle, symbolising life and health, the sky and the colour of the United Nations flag. Last year, the Sydney Opera House was even bathed in blue light to mark this special day.

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, with 280 Australians being diagnosed daily. Almost 1.1 million Australians are currently diagnosed, and it is estimated that the total number with diabetes or pre-diabetes is 3.2 million.

What is diabetes?

Our bodies need the hormone insulin to convert glucose (sugar) from our food into energy. People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin, so when they eat foods containing glucose (such as breads, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets), they can’t convert this glucose to energy. This leaves them with a higher blood glucose level.

Type 1 diabetes, which is not preventable or curable, occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin, so sufferers rely on up to four insulin injections daily and need to test their blood glucose levels several times a day.

Type 2 diabetes is more common, affecting nearly 90% of all diabetes sufferers. It results from genetic and environmental factors, and lifestyle plays a significant role in the development and management of the disease. People with type 2 diabetes will often need to take tablets or insulin to manage their health. Up to 58% of cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable at the pre-diabetes stage.

What you need to know

As diabetes becomes more common, it is important for everyone to understand their risks, be aware of the symptoms of diabetes, and know how to manage important lifestyle factors. Understanding the disease will help sufferers, and their family and friends, manage their lifestyle, control their diabetes and stay as healthy as possible.

Sydney Opera House lit up for World Diabetes Day

Sydney Opera House lit up for World Diabetes Day

Where to find information

The Diabetes Australia website is a great place to start looking for information, providing practical information on understanding and living with diabetes, as well as valuable information for health professionals and researchers.

State Library of Queensland has some really practical resources, including books, ebooks and information on our health databases. Just search in our One Search catalogue, and look at databases listed in the health and medicine database subject listings.

If you need help locating any health related information, you can also Ask us.


Libraries and structural change 7

In my last post I discussed the ‘promise’ of libraries remarking that it appears to float remarkably freely from anything in particular that libraries do. Because it is amorphous and strange, yet also powerful and therefore not easily ignored, the promise of libraries, may come to be distrusted as a form of irrational sentimentality; dismissed in favour of something more solidly utilitarian – improved educational outcomes for instance, or social cohesion or even economic growth. But you can be useful without being loved and you can be loved without being useful. Usually the reasons for love aren’t clear. Love is a mystery; it floats notoriously freely from rational argument or explanation. Everyone knows that.

Libraries are much loved institutions. This isn’t incidental to what they are or to their continued existence. In fact it can only be central; love being up there in the field of human concerns. We want libraries to continue to be much loved institutions. It would be a terrible loss if they ceased to be that. Thus understanding the predicament of libraries, what to do about them, or with them, at this critical juncture in their history, must entail at least brief consideration of love.

Love is inertial; it may endure without any basis in reality; by the warm glow of a promise alone; or it may be rooted in some combination of promise and reality. Certainly it is rarely rooted solely in reality and is not sustainably rooted in promise alone. Sooner or later the original impetus exhausts itself; sunlight turns to starlight, emitting only theoretical warmth.

It’s always a relief to be loved. Bathed in love’s euphoric glow, whether the love springs from promise or its fulfilment may seem immaterial. But the trouble with being loved for a promise is that at some point the promise has to be fulfilled.

The gap between promise and fulfilment is a sea gap, bridged by what we do; what libraries do – the practice of libraries. Sometimes, suddenly, cataclysmically, sea gaps widen, or reefs and shoals appear where there had been none, rendering the old maps useless, or worse. In the event of such upheaval, plying the once familiar gap between promise and its fulfilment ceases to be a matter of doing what you’d always done, no matter how conscientiously.

It’s not difficult to arouse people’s feelings about libraries. Perhaps uniquely, libraries lend themselves to rhetoric normally reserved for national constitutions: The object of this Act is to contribute to the social cultural and intellectual development of all Queenslanders, heralds State Library’s enabling legislation. Existing to support the free flow of information and ideas, libraries have a special responsibility to oppose the infringement of intellectual freedom, including infringement by omission – neglect of the needs of individuals and communities – and by commission – exclusion, the violation of privacy and censorship, proclaims State Library’s Intellectual Freedom Policy

Rhetoric has its place; it kindles the promise’s fire. It’s always reassuring to feel the promise’s vitality and warmth. You can be far from home, lost on an unfamiliar road, and there the promise appears, through an open door before you, burning brightly; a vision of things, as vital and relevant as ever.

On the other hand, huddling at the promise’s hearth can too easily become a substitute for continuing the journey: refusing the snug torpor of dream but every day pushing further along the road, pushing the road further along; feeling the exhilaration and dread of unfamiliarity, having good days and bad, but always honouring a promise.

It’s pleasing when the stories we need to be true actually turn out to be true and troubling and sometimes a lot worse when they don’t. Aversion to thinking that the ending won’t be happy may induce blindness to evidence pointing to this outcome. In this situation the implicit and dreaded expectation – that the story is turning out to be, well, just a story, its foothold in reality crumbling away – becomes self-fulfilling, for without the drift towards a feared predicament being unflinchingly observed and acknowledged nothing at all can possibly done to arrest and reverse it. It’s important to see clearly, to use the promise responsibly, to illuminate how it might be honoured; as compass more than justification; not just as a way of keeping warm.

Beyond about twenty years ago it was possible for libraries and librarians to be good simply by conscientiously doing what they’d always done, conscientiously following a certain fairly stable, time honoured set of practices. Sea crossings were routine and ship wrecks and other accidents at sea rare; roads passed through familiar, secure territory; being a library wasn’t a voyage of discovery.

About twenty years ago all of this began not to be true. Sea gaps began to widen, reefs and shoals began to appear where there had been none; the old roads began to fall short of the promise. What it meant to be a good library, a good librarian, fundamentally unchanging for generations, began to change. And yet, even as the terms of its fulfilment continue to dramatically shift the promise continues to burn as brightly as ever before.

When structural change undermines the efficacy of inherited, time honoured practices inevitably it’s not clear what to do. The natural initial response to the beleaguerment of a deeply felt promise is consternation and confusion. Naturally, the prospect of the sundering of practice and promise becoming permanent, the idea that for entirely mysterious reasons something wonderful is irrevocably doomed, causes degrees of sadness.

Not knowing what to do can be unnerving. Discovering new routes to the fulfilment of a persistent promise takes time, patience and goodwill; even a little compassion and forgiveness. It requires grasping the promise directly; being alive to its fulfilment, knowing and valuing deep down what it means for someone, anyone, to see, feel, understand something new, something transformative, for the first time. Counterintuitively – and counter to most ways of thinking the future of libraries – it requires looking backwards – back to the time when practice cleaved closely to promise. We need to remember what we’re trying to be, as a condition of formulating new ways of doing that in radically transformed conditions.

Behind the scenes – exhibition preparation

Behind the ‘staff only doors’ of  State Library many staff and volunteers work everyday on a range of activities for our clients today, and for future users. We’re highlighting some of these activities and staff to give you a behind the scenes view of the library and the work that we do.

Have you ever wondered how SLQ prepares objects for exhibition? Read on for a peek at how staff in Exhibitions conservation prepared architectural models for the recent Hot Modernism exhibition.

In the lead up to an exhibition, each display item is assessed by conservation, documented and prepared for display. We mostly conserve books and paper based item, so it was a real treat to have a number of mid-century architectural models in the lab!

In the photograph below Preservation Assistant Kathy Young carefully cleans one of the models used in the exhibition. This original model of the TAB Building in Albion was created by Geoffrey Pie Architect in the 1970s. Fortunately this model had been stored with its original perspex cover and was in relatively good condition. However a build-up of surface dust had accumulated over time and required attention before display.

Preservation Assistant Kathy Young cleaning the TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane.

Preservation Assistant Kathy Young cleaning the TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane.

Notice the fine model details such as cars, figures and foliage in the picture below. To avoid disturbing these original elements a specialised vacuum cleaner on very low suction was used, along with a series of soft goat hair and other fine brushes to carefully dislodge and remove soiling on the model surface.

Detail of TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane

Detail of TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane

Likewise, the original Torbreck Apartments architectural model also required attention before display. This Highgate Hill building was created by Job and Froud Architects in the 1960s.

Along with cleaning the model required consolidation of flaking paint and plaster to minimise further damage. Below, Conservator Gajendra Rawat applies a weak gelatin solution with a fine brush to resecure areas of flaking paint. The head loupe he is wearing magnifies the area being worked on and alows an accurate application of conservation materials only to the necessary areas.

Conservator Gajendra Rawat consolidating flaking paint on the Torbreck Building architectural model, on loan from Fryer Library, UQ.

Conservator Gajendra Rawat consolidating flaking paint on the Torbreck Building architectural model, on loan from Fryer Library, UQ.

More on the Hot Modernism exhibition.

Information on preserving your collections at home.

Kelly Leahey, Exhibitions Conservator.


Trending topics online

Keeping up with news and information in today’s digital world can be a daunting task. Anyone who uses social media for marketing or communications needs to know what is happening in the online world, so that they can engage their audience, discuss hot topics and attract people to their website or business.

Trending topics cover anything and everything – news, current affairs, sports, politics, advancements in science and technology, and the world of celebrities, fashion and gossip. Staying abreast of trending topics in areas relevant to you or your business will help you develop relevant content that your followers will find interesting.

So, what is the best way to monitor trending topics? There are several ways that you can do this, but the most reliable information about trends is likely to come from the most used social media sites and search engines.

Google is the world’s most used search engine, and provides the useful tool Google Trends, which enables us to see the topics that are being searched most frequently on the Internet. Google Trends’ charts, highlighting top trends, can be customised for your needs, showing global or national trends or what is happening in relation to specific topics.

Twitter’s popularity makes it another useful source of information about trending topics, letting you view trends that are specific to your interests or location. For example, according to Trendsmap, which maps real-time local Twitter trends, today’s popular searches in Brisbane include “Iraq”, “Abbott”, “Bishop”, “burqa” and “Ebola”.

Buzzfeed is a US news and entertainment aggregator website. Content includes everything from news to the ubiquitous animal pictures and, as it is arranged according to popularity, this site also provides a good overview of trending topics. There are many other tools, such as Swayy, Google +, Zite and Reddit that can be used to find trending information.

It is also important to monitor your own social media, responding to questions and comments, and interacting with your audience. By using social media to converse with your customers, rather than merely as a tool to push advertising, your customers are more likely to engage with you and create the buzz you’re looking for.

I am also fascinated by what makes some online topics so much more popular than others, and have been enjoying Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious: Why things catch on. Berger discusses the reasons that certain ideas or online content becomes popular or “goes viral”. He claims that it is not advertising that “sells” online ideas, but people listening to their peers. Online material that takes off is likely to include a number of attributes, including social currency, evoking emotions, and having practical value. Berger explains the importance of these (and other) concepts in his very readable and thought-provoking book.

Contagious: Why things catch on is available at State Library of Queensland. We also have a number of other books, ebooks and online information on this topic, available through our One Search catalogue. So now you can enjoy keeping up with trending topics, and understand why those topics are so hot!

twitter bird


Holiday reading

Borrowing from local libraries that aren’t your own?  Rural Libraries Queensland Tourist Card users tell us what they think of the service……

The Australia Council’s Arts in Daily Life – Australian Participation in the Arts survey found that, ‘Literature remains the most popular artform for Australians and 87 percent of people read some kind of literary work in the 12 months before the survey.’

It seems obvious that we would continue this engagement with literature while on holidays or travelling.  The sharing economy has been embraced by libraries for some time and recently this embrace has been extended to Queensland tourists seeking to use library services and collections.

Judy Coulthard of Douglas Libraries discussed the Rural Libraries Queensland (RLQ) Tourist Card, a partnership between local governments and the State Library of Queensland.  Available in 67 rural libraries the RLQ Tourist Card enables its user to borrow books and other items while traveling in and around Queensland.

Over 860 individual cards have been issued since the inception of the service, resulting in more than 4,500 loans of print and electronic resources. At less than 30 cents per card the total direct cost of the service to date is less than $300, with the minimal administrative overheads absorbed into existing operational activities. With more tourist members using the eresources available, particularly the emagazine platform, the on-going cost of offering the service is minimal.

Here is what some of the travelling card users think about the service…….

Lisa and Jack, Sydney NSW

Lisa and Jack, Sydney NSW

Lisa and Jake are from Sydney NSW. Lisa says:

We have travelled around Australia, via Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, finally visiting Queensland. On our first visit to Mossman Library we let the staff know that we were only stopping for a while in Mossman on our way home to Sydney. The Librarian then informed us of the facilities available. Within an hour of visiting the library we were signed up with our tourist card, advised of the ability for us to borrow and use the computer an hour for free each visit. The best part was it is available in 67 libraries throughout Queensland. My son and I have visited libraries throughout Australia at least 1 a week. We have never been offered a tourist card to borrow books or DVDs etc. Infact we are only allowed to use/read books in the library, “Not Allowed To Borrow AT ALL!” Thankyou Mossman and Queensland for setting up such a wonderful system and thank you to the fantastic staff at Mossman Library for bringing it to our attention and allowing my family to keep on reading throughout our travels.

Carol,  Lake Macquarie NSW

Carol, Lake Macquarie NSW

Carol is from the Lake Macquarie area of NSW and says:

I come up to Newell Beach each winter and stay for about 4 months. I really appreciate the opening up of the library services to tourists as I am a prolific reader and books are my passion. Maybe the library system will reward returning tourist members with being able to reserve books in the future.

Jack from Sydney, NSW says:

I’m visiting from Sydney and staying until the end of October. The tourist card allows me a great opportunity to learn on a low budget about a wide range of subjects from gardening and sustainable living to glow in the dark fungi. The tourist card has contributed greatly to my visit giving me access to knowledge quickly and easily.

Steve travelling with Fiona and their son Angus from Tasmania says:

Having a four year old who consumes many books a day it is impossible to carry books during holidays. For our family the tourist card concept and service provided was exceptional. The variety of children’s books at such a small facility was exceptional. We have been borrowing children’s books and children’s audio books. The tourist card has contributed very much to our holiday experience and would be a significant factor in returning to holiday in Queensland.

Have you used library services while travelling away from home?  Are there other ways in which cultural institutions could be catering for tourists?  Please share your thoughts in the comments box.

This article was originally published on the Arts Queensland, Arts for all Queenslanders blog.

View the full article at

Behind the scenes – Discovery Services

Behind the ‘staff only doors’ of  State Library many staff and volunteers work everyday on a range of activities for our clients today, and for future users. Over the next few months we will be highlighting some of these activities and staff to give you a behind the scenes view of the library.

Coordinated by Discovery Services, a team of dedicated SLQ volunteers have been hard at work this year on a project to transcribe details from nearly 2, 500 pages of The Queenslander newspaper published from 1914 – 1919. These pages come from Pictorial Supplements that were included in the newspaper each week, showing glimpses of life across Queensland, and from around the world.

Although The Queenslander is digitised and available online, the microfilm that was used for the digitisation does not always provide enough detail of the photographs and the captions are often very difficult to read. State Library  has digitised all of these pages at very high resolution so that amazing clarity and detail in the images is now revealed.

Here is an example from the digitised microfilm.

Entertaining Y.M.C.A. soldiers

"Entertaining Y.M.C.A. soldiers" from digitised microfilm

The same image from the newly digitised page.

Entertaining Y.M.C.A. soldiers

"Entertaining Y.M.C.A. soldiers" digitised at high resolution

One of the most exacting, but most valuable parts of the work has been the transcription of the names of just over 26, 000 Queensland soldiers whose portraits were published in the newspapers before they left Australia to fight in the First World War. When the project is completed in April 2015 these individual soldier portraits and all of the pages that have been digitised will be available on One Search, the library catalogue to view and to download for free.

More information about volunteering at State Library of Queensland

Become a digital volunteer through Pitch In!

Learn more about Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation, SLQ’s four year project around the centenary of the First World War.

View The Queenslander Pictorial Supplements in One Search, the library catalogue.

Margaret Warren, Coordinator, Discovery Services

Libraries and Structural Change 6

My last post juxtaposed the passionate way communities in Britain and the United States have invariably responded to the wave of cuts to public library funding that have swept those countries in recent years with what I take to be the pervasiveness of the view usually invoked to justify such cuts – that the institution of the public library is in decline. How troubling it is when the narratives by which the world is understood foretell the loss of something cherished.
Public library use may be increasing in the United States but in many parts of the world it has certainly been decreasing for some time. But even where use of public libraries is in decline, communities still rise passionately in their defence when they’re threatened. How is it that something can be used less but valued no less strongly?

Our own research has repeatedly shown that positive feelings about libraries correlate only weakly with levels of use. It also shows that the marked tendency for people to feel in some way special when they’re visiting a library varies surprisingly little with what people actually do while visiting. Even activities that in any other context would be generally considered fairly unremarkable – homework, checking emails, fiddling with a mobile device, gazing into space etc., take on something of a hallowed quality when undertaken in a library. Libraries, it seems, have this enormously powerful symbolic resonance with roots extending beyond the here and now, even beyond personal experience. On entering a library; even on simply thinking about libraries, a promise starts to resonate.

A promise is an assurance that something will or won’t happen; it engenders a sense of expectation. Conversely, a promise may be taken as implied by a sense of expectation, even without being literally or obviously declared. The sort of expectation engendered by spring for instance, or libraries, may be taken as implying a promise.

A promise may be fairly universally recognised without being clearly understood. For example, it’s hard to say what the promise of spring, or libraries, is exactly – the expectations that spring or libraries respectively engender or what it is about spring or libraries which respectively engender them. In fact ‘promise’ tends to be used to signify expectation and its causes when we don’t really know what we’re talking about, while being dead certain about what we mean.

A promise can endure, sometimes for a long time, without fulfilment. Hence public libraries continue to be highly valued, even amongst the cohort that rarely or never visits a public library, steadily growing in some places. Sometimes the divergence between a promise and its fulfilment may become too great, or go on for too long, and the promise dims in people’s minds. But it’s quite possible, common even, for a promise and its agent to be in elliptical orbit around each other, sometimes rushing towards each other, before racing away on what, to the ignorant or faithless eye, seem to be sundering trajectories.

Nasa, 1986

Halley's Comet, 1986. Comets travel into deepest darkest space before returning faithfully to their sun.

That the promise of libraries floats remarkably freely from what libraries actually do confounds the orthodox identification of value with utility. Not obviously rooted in any particular use or combination of uses, the promise may come to be distrusted as a form of irrational sentimentality, dismissed as inward or backward looking in favour of something else made of sterner stuff, more in keeping with sober utilitarian discourse – that libraries are good for educational outcomes, for instance, or social cohesion or even economic growth.

That libraries demonstrably have all sorts of positive outcomes is great, but misses the point – why they’re actually valued. In fact it seems more likely that libraries have all sorts of wonderful outcomes because they are so deeply valued – not the other way round. Do libraries do good because they’re loved or are they loved because they do good? These are important questions with enormous implications for what libraries do and also what policy makers expect of them or require them to do.

The issue here isn’t whether value should or shouldn’t be reducible to utility. If value lies in the eye of the beholder then surely the obvious place to start in understanding what makes something valuable is the sense of value it evokes – its promise. No doubt at the root of the promise of libraries is something libraries actually do, or used to do or even might do, however understanding exactly what that is depends on starting from the right end – with the promise, rather than with preconceptions about what constitutes value. Being merely useful doesn’t necessarily make something valuable. To be valuable libraries needs to be what they’re valued for. But what is that exactly? What exactly is it about libraries that summons such an extraordinary sense of promise?

The most epic journeys may start with the simplest of questions and sometimes end up answering some other, possibly more interesting, question. Take Christopher Columbus, who thought it might be quicker to get to the Orient by sailing west rather than east. This was generally considered a crazy idea and he struggled to gain the funding required to discover America.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Columbus's dangerously optimistic map, drawn circa 1490 in the workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus in Lisbon.

Christopher Columbus wasn’t considered crazy because, as popular myth would have it, he believed the world was round when everybody else laboured under the delusion that it was flat; for by that time the shape of the world was generally understood. He was considered crazy because (a) reliable land routes to the East had been established for some time and (b) the prevailing consensus, correct as it turned out, was that the world was much bigger than he optimistically thought.

I often think of Christopher Columbus, clutching his map, doggedly going from one financier to another, at each audience getting a little too excited perhaps, tripping over his words…

By Columbus’s time the shape of the world was generally understood, but perhaps what distinguishes him is a preparedness to believe his own dangerously optimistic map. When he reached the West Indies he confidently assumed he’d reached India. The Americas stood in the way of his voyage to the Orient. Their discovery was a mistake.

Posted in Libraries, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments


  1. Thanks Tim for another of these thoughtful posts. I’m enjoying them immensely. I’m guilty of loving libraries – I even work in a library – but I still under-utilise them.

    I think one factor in our society today is time; we tend not to have -or allow ourselves to have -the time to gaze into space. Libraries are like island holidays – they are great to look at, we love the idea that we can go, that we can recharge spiritually, but in reality, we hardly ever actually do it.

  2. Dear Tim, I look forward to reading your thoughtful posts. Your point about Columbus is well made. There have been many times when serendipity has led me in different directions to what I had originally plotted while undertaking research in libraries. Where on goal has led to another. Carefully selected collections eliminate dead ends but allow for other possibilities, other paths to truth and understanding.

    I think the promise of the combined resources of the world’s libraries, archives, and museums is this plenitude of possibilities.

    Also the beauty of cultural collections that help us to, in the words of Umberto Eco, “remember what we have forgotten, and what we do not yet know.”

    A couple of years ago in the Library of Congress I stood in front of the Waldseemuller map of the world made in 1507. The first map to show the word and place named America. The map was discovered in 1901 in the library of Prince Johannes zu Waldburg-Wolfegg in Schloss Wolfegg in Württemberg, Germany by the Jesuit historian and cartographer Joseph Fischer. It remained there until 2001 when the United States Library of Congress purchased it from Waldburg-Wolfegg-Waldsee for ten million dollars.

    Simon Farley
    Fryer Library, University of Queensland

  3. For me, the promise of a library is that of a consistent ‘third space.’ Work, home, other. School, home, other. In a chaotic world, it can provide solidarity and solitude. It’s sheer physicality and tangible materials can re-connect mind and body, in a predominately digitised landscape. A library is the neutral party, amidst the warring extremes. It promises unspoken tolerance, inclusion, and hope for a brighter future through knowledge and empowerment in a way that commercial enterprise, by design, cannot.

    Although I wouldn’t consider this a ‘promise’ per say, I think we have a profound, collective emotional connection to libraries that drives the inconsistencies with the rational argument for why they are important. We intuitively understand that libraries are an important part of our past, and most of us have associated positive memories to match. The feeling of a weighty book in our hands; the smell of the old pages; the sound of silence; the feeling of being lonely, but not alone…these are all written into our cultural DNA. It’s not a statement – it’s a feeling, and feelings are notoriously difficult to describe.

    As with any type of change and subsequent growth, I think it’s important to acknowledge what’s still working within the traditional library framework and expand on those bright spots, while giving ourselves permission to move on from the pieces that are better left to float along in the vast oceans of the past.

  4. Pingback: Libraries and structural change 7 | SLQ Today

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