Cosmopolitan Cairns

City Library

City Library

Cairns’ City Library is an elegant building fronted by tall carved wood doors behind eight Ionic columns.  The 21,000+ square foot structure is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register as when it opened in 1930, it served as the council chamber until it was redesigned for the library in 1998.  One block west of the panoramic three mile long seaside esplanade and boardwalk, it’s by the downtown pedestrian area in the middle of a lush palm fringed plaza stuffed with low stone seats covered in red tiles, tropical flowers, squawking birds and fabulous fig trees filled with spectacled flying foxes…

Moreton Bay fig tree

Moreton Bay fig tree

…whose nightly exodus in search of food is truly a wondrous sight.

I’d arrived early and while waiting beneath blessedly overcast skies with a stiff breeze anticipating a late January cyclone, jealously watched a scurrying lizard work his way into the building before the doors opened.  However, with the heady scent of lilies and four wooden benches out front, killing time here was pleasant.  I got a chance to explore the walkway that circumnavigates the building.  Dubbed the Literary Trail, it boasts a number of pieces of artwork embedded in the paths and hidden in bushes which are the creations of seven local artists.

The B selection

The B selection

The art was inspired by 26 writers (A-Z) with a connection to northern Queensland – somehow council officers managed to find representatives for each letter of the alphabet.

I lived here for a few months in 1982 and my, how it has grown!  Back then it was a dusty provincial town with about a third of the 150,000 plus population of today.  Sure, it had the Pacific Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef, but it lacked the international airport that brought so much development to the region after it opened in 1984.  I didn’t even know it had a public library, which evidently first opened in 1979.

These days, all Queensland residents (and organizations) can get borrowing privileges for the nine locations of the Cairns Regional Council governed Cairns Libraries (CL).  There’s also a kiosk at the Port Douglas Community Hall.  Visitors can pay a $36 fee to join and books can be returned at any branch, or at the bin at the local outlet mall.  City Library, the largest facility with the highest use and over 50,000 items, has a drive through book return too.

Enter on either side of the Circulation Desk

Circulation Desk in front of the gleaming white lobby lit by high windows

There are two wings off the main section of the one story building where leaded glass windows, marble fixtures, and high dark wainscoting blend seamlessly with potted ferns, modern furniture and colorful nautical themed artwork.

Tropical fish are the perfect subject for stained glass

Tropical fish are the perfect subject for stained glass

One side has an 80 person conference room which can be used even when the library is closed.  A smaller meeting space for ten people is available too.  Attractive light wood storage cupboards hold the AV equipment for the meeting areas and there’s a tea room and kitchen.

Kylie Best, Client Services Librarian

Kylie Best, Client Services Librarian

Kylie at the Info Desk was very helpful with my inquiries.  She told me that the genealogy and local history collections are housed here.  They are working on RFID, self check and pickup of holds, and this month, a community wide wifi trial will start.  Members can book one of fifteen internet stations in advance and beginning computer training is offered every Wednesday.

CL publishes a number of library guides, including ones on indigenous family history, Trove (the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program) and, since it’s Australia, where having a prisoner in your background is a point of pride similar to being a descendant of a Mayflower passenger, one on convict records.

Periodical shelving by a study carrel

Magazine shelving by the stand for the daily papers

Just past Reference there are newspapers from all over Oz and New Zealand as well as the Financial Times.  Bookmarks with the slogan Live it, Love it, Learn it at your library… recommend authors of Edible, Suspense, and Paranormal (books to sink your teeth into) fiction.

Study area

Work area by nonfiction

The study carrels have great views of the wonderful foliage in the gardens outside and the passing parade of tourists and locals enjoying the park.

Because it is such a popular vacation destination, Cairns has a multicultural population, so they have an assortment of titles in Thai, Tamil, Swedish, Hindi, German, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, Japanese, Indonesian, Russian, Punjabi, Korean and Persian.  There’s also a separate Zhanjiang collection donated by their Chinese sister city (one of seven sister cities which include Scottsdale, AZ; Lae, New Guinea; Sidney, BC, Canada and Riga, Latvia).

Alcove with an exhibit from one of their two Japanese sister cities

Alcove with an exhibit donated by one of their two Japanese sister cities

Along with fiction, nonfiction, large print, e-books, CDs, audio books (including Playaways and e-audios), DVDs and CD Roms, CL has Hot Speed Reads – titles that have long queues and cost four dollars for a ten day loan.

While they don’t charge for borrowing, there’s a real incentive to return materials on time as there are hefty charges assessed for sending an overdue notice, and you can’t borrow if anyone in your family has items overdue or outstanding charges.

CL has some neat and practical promotional swag for sale – you can advertise your devotion with beach bags, bracelets, highlighters, pencil cases, water bottles…

One of many displays

One of many displays

Their website links to an active Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube account.  I love the photo gallery which includes snaps from events and from a competition where participants took pictures of people reading.  The winning shot is priceless – a woman reading a paper book by the light of an e-reader 😉

Several of the locations have council customer services offices housed within them and CL subscribes to some databases, also, via the State Library of Queensland, members have access to a wide range of e-resources from Music Online: Dance in Video and Who’s Who in Australia, to Europa World Plus and the Macquarie Dictionary (a reference on down under English).

Friends of Cairns Libraries host author visits, deliver materials to the homebound and help with book sales, story times and service to aged care centers.

Children's - note painting of fruit bats hanging from the tree above the oversized book rack

Children’s with window displays for Australia Day – note painting (above the oversize book rack) of fruit bats hanging from a fig tree

The youth area has toys and a computer with games (the Manunda branch has Nintendo Wii).  CL offers storytimes with crafts, Baby Rhyme Time and during school holidays there’s additional programming.

Parents can attend a food and behavior workshop, and there’s a Summer Reading Club – Untangled Tales – with a web page that has online games and meet the author links.  Kids can upload pictures, download e-books, make comments, peruse a writing blog or enter a drawing to win one of eight iPods.  Throughout the year children can get a Dewey’s Star Reading Passport which is stamped whenever they come in or borrow something – once it’s full their names go into a monthly drawing to win a prize.

Curvy chairs for parents in Kid's

Curvy chairs for parents in Kid’s

Schools can tour the library or have a librarian visit them and the Mossman branch lends Queensland Museum Kits to augment the curriculum at schools.

The YA section has manga, graphic novels and pink couches to stretch out on.

2013 oz nz 3 201

Teens can take the “Practice Road Rules Test” for the learner driver permit at the computers at the Earlville facility and youths from grade three through high school and vocational school can get free online tutoring through yourtutor or they can email a question to a librarian.

City Library is open until six Monday through Friday and for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Most items go out for three weeks and can be renewed twice and they use Library Elf, a third party email reminder, to let people know what’s due or ready for pickup.

Yet another painting emblematic of the amazing things to be found in this lush landscape

Painting of the amazing things to be found in the waters off this luxuriant land

CL’s motto is A Lifestyle Experience!  After seeing this gorgeous library, I heartily concur.

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3 Responses to Cosmopolitan Cairns

  1. jlturner720 says:

    Justine, Your world library tour is fascinating. They all have some similarities but there are differences, too. Cairns has a beautiful library system. I love your description of your wait outside the library. I’d love to see the flying foxes and smell the lilies! Jan

  2. Justine says:

    Thanks Jan, you’d love the view from all the windows, those fig trees are just amazing – much like banyans, but vinier.

  3. This is an appeal to any one who cares about the trees outside the Cairns library to help save them . They are on the Council’s lopping list because of the bats that some of us love.

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