Public Libraries of the Gold Coast

On Wednesday 30 April 1958 the new library opened to the public.

Until 1958, the Gold Coast communities’ reading and recreational needs had been met by reading rooms in various School of Arts or subscription libraries across the region.

The change occurred when the decision was made to replace the timber Southport School of Arts building in Nerang Street with a new brick structure. While the South Coast Town Council had been planning to start a library service for five years in response to an increasing awareness across Queensland of the value of public libraries, the impending change at the School of Arts resulted in Council taking action.

The School of Arts had been used by the Returned Servicemen’s League (RSL) as a Memorial Hall since 1932, however the land remained under the control of the Library Board of Queensland and the building included a reading room and library collection. The Library Board were willing to give the land to the RSL so they could proceed with constructing a new facility on the proviso that another public body took over the role of providing library services to the community.

In April 1957, the South Coast Town Council agreed to commence operating a library service for the district. The RSL provided £1,000 towards a public library and offered all of the book stock from the former School of Arts. In turn, Council built an extension behind the Southport Town Hall at a cost of over £30,000 and accepted the Library Board’s offer to purchase appropriate new stock on their behalf. By September 1957, 980 books were ready with an additional 427 books on order.

In May 1957, Council placed advertisements in The South Coast Bulletin, Tweed and South Coast Daily and Courier Mail for the position of a librarian holding a Preliminary Certificate of the Library Association of Australia and/or the Library Association of Australia Registration Certificate. Practical experience in a recognised library was also required. In line with salary standards at the time, if the successful applicant were a man, he would receive £975 per year while a female librarian would receive £855. Advertisements for a female library assistant followed in February 1958.

On Wednesday 30 April 1958 the new library opened to the public, becoming the first municipal library for a region that would eventually encompass the Gold Coast City Council and the Albert Shire Council. While the Council had voted to change its name from the South Coast to the Gold Coast in a meeting held earlier in 1958 prior to the opening of the new facility, the library was initially known as the South Coast Library.

The library at Southport included a separate section for adults and children and membership was available to people who had lived on the Gold Coast for a minimum of six months. Provisional membership for non-permanent residents was also available. Each library member was issued with two library cards which allowed them to borrow one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time.

While making preparations for the new library, plans were also underway to extend the service to other parts of the region. In March 1957, the South Coast Women’s Organisation (SCWO) sought approval from Council to alter their rest rooms in Burleigh Heads to accommodate a library, but approval was delayed. In May 1957 the SCWO also approached Council with an offer to use the space under their building for the proposed library in Coolangatta. Council informed the SCWO that a library would be established in the Council Chambers in Coolangatta when finances permitted.

The Gold Coast Council began offering a library service at the southern end of the Coast when it opened a library in the Coolangatta Council Chambers in Griffith Street in 1961. The third library to be established was Burleigh Heads which was opened in 1967 by Mayor Ern Harley. Throughout the 1960s the three Gold Coast library branches had separate collections but, by 1970, the individual collections were merged with the books being moved from one library to another with greater ease.

Over the following years a Mobile Library (1974) and a Special Needs Library (1976) commenced. New libraries were opened at Palm Beach in 1978 (with extensions in 1989), Cascade Gardens (1987) and Runaway Bay (1991). An additional library was also available at Labrador State School on Imperial Parade between 1988 and 1992.

A central Technical Services department was based at the Council Depot on Meron Street, Southport and was responsible for a wide range of activities including selection, purchasing and cataloguing stock. Technical Services was relocated with the Council Depot when it moved to Baratta Street. In February 1982, the Gold Coast introduced the first public computers in their libraries.

In addition to upgrades to the Burleigh Heads Library in 1979 and 1991, the Coolangatta Library was relocated from its second location in Warner Street to the third floor of Foyster Mall in May 1989. The Southport Library was moved to Lawson Street in1968 prior to relocating to the 8th floor of Australia Fair Shopping Centre (1985) before opening on the corner of Garden and Lawson Streets in 2002. The collection of local history materials held across the Gold Coast and Albert Shire libraries, and primarily concentrated in Nerang and Southport Libraries, were united with the opening of the Local Studies Library in the basement of Australia Fair Shopping Centre in March 1997 before being relocated to the corner of Garden and Lawson Streets with Southport Library in 2002.

While the first three libraries of the Gold Coast were in place by the end of the 1960s, the Albert Shire Council in the Hinterland had yet to establish a library service. Despite resolving to commence a library service in the preceding years, starting in Woodridge and Beenleigh before offering a mobile service, the Albert Shire had been unable to secure the necessary funds. This situation had changed by the 1970s when the Albert Shire began offering library services to the district.

Much like the Gold Coast twelve years earlier, once the Albert Shire committed to starting a public library service, additional libraries were added within a relatively short space of time. Advertisements for two librarians who either held, or were working towards, a Registration Certificate of the Library Association of Australia closed in November 1969 with advertisements for library assistants following in January 1970.

The Albert Shire started its library service on 11 February 1970 when they entered into an agreement with the Beenleigh Memorial School of Arts. The Albert Shire agreed to pay the School of Arts a weekly rent of $10 which included the use of the existing book stock and the room at the rear of the building known as the ‘room under the stairs’. The Albert Shire also agreed to cover the cost of lighting.

A few months later, on 20 April 1970, the Albert Shire opened a library at Woodridge in the former Commonwealth Bank of Australia building on Railway Parade before relocating the collection to Ewing Road in 1972 and eventually moving into a new building which saw the library co-located with the Albert Shire Council’s sub-office in 1975.

On 1 April 1974 the third Albert Shire library was opened when the Canal Estates Library in Monaco Street commenced operations. In late 1977, this library had been relocated behind Pacific Fair Shopping Centre on the corner of Sunshine and Hooker Boulevards. The library underwent a number of extensions and was renamed Mermaid Waters Library in 1983 before being renamed for a final time as Broadbeach Library in 2008. The third library opened by the Albert Shire was on 8 November 1975 with the opening of Springwood Library.

In early 1979 the decision was made to combine the library services provided by the Albert Shire with those offered by the Logan Shire Council. From 1 July 1979 the Albert and Logan Library Board was created and Loganlea Library started appearing alongside Beenleigh, Woodridge, Canals and Springwood in reports. Reciprocal membership between the Gold Coast Library Service and the Albert and Logan Library Board also commenced.

In 1980 the first Mobile Library and the first home library service in the Albert and Logan region commenced operation. By 1982 an additional mobile library had been acquired to reach the northern section of the district. In 1984 the Local History Library was formally established and a small library, known as Currumbin Fair, opened in 1986 in Shop 11 at the Currumbin Fair Shopping Centre on Bienvenue Drive.

On 30 June 1987 the Albert and Logan Library Board disbanded and the two Shire Councils resumed the management of their respective libraries.

Following the dissolution of the Library Board, the Albert Shire went on to offer new or improved library services at Beenleigh which included moving the library from James Street to a new building in Crete Street in 1988 as part of a larger cultural complex. In November of the same year, Nerang Library opened, with a Technical Services branch in the basement of the same building, in the former Albert Shire Council Chambers, renamed the Bicentennial Hall.

During the relocation of Beenleigh Library and the establishment of Nerang Library, the Albert Shire were planning new facilities in Mudgeeraba which opened on the corner of Swan Lane and Railway Street in 1989. In the same year, Elanora Library opened on the corner of Guineas Creek Road and Coolgardie Street.

These libraries were followed by Burleigh Waters (1991), Helensvale (1993) and a collection at Springbrook (1994) housed in the State School.

Following the amalgamation of the Albert Shire Council and the Gold Coast City Council in 1995 the library services of two local government areas combined. Further changes took place in 2008 when the northern boundary of the Gold Coast was altered resulting in Beenleigh Library transferring to the care of Logan City Council.

In the years since amalgamation, and in response to the ongoing growth of the Gold Coast, the following changes to the public libraries in the region have taken place:

• Establishment of a library service in Robina Town Shopping Centre in leased premises from 1996 prior to the construction of the Robina Library and Community Centre in 2010
• Opening of the new Southport and Local Studies Library in July 2002
• Opening of the Nerang Library on the corner of Price and White Streets in November 2003
• Opening of the new Elanora Library in February 2007
• Opening of the extended Broadbeach Library in August 2008
• Construction of the new Upper Coomera Library and Community Centre 2013
• Opening of the new Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre in July 2013

Sources of information and further reading

  1. Public Library Practical and Informative Literature, The South Coast Bulletin, 7 May 1958, page 35
  2. South Coast Public Library An Attractive Range of Books, The South Coast Bulletin, 23 April 1958, page 6
  3. South Coast Town Council Assistant Librarian, The South Coast Bulletin, 12 February 1958, page 29
  4. South Coast Town Council, Health Committee Meeting 29 March 1957, page 7582. South Coast Women’s Organisation of Burleigh Heads, Ref. 124438 – Proposed alteration of Rest Room
  5. South Coast Town Council Statement of Receipts and Disbursements in relation to the budget – nine months ended 31 March, 1957, showing anticipated position at 30 June, 1957
  6. South Coast Town Council, Report of Health Committee Meeting held on Friday, 12th April, 1957 at 10.00 AM, page 7630
  7. South Coast Town Council Report of Works Committee Meeting held on Thursday, 2nd May, 1957 at 10.00 AM, page 7678
  8. South Coast Town Council Report of Works Committee Meeting held on Friday, 31st May May, 1957 at 10.00 AM, page 7766
  9. South Coast Town Council Notice of the 185th Ordinary Meeting of the Council to be held in the Council Chambers, Southport on Friday, 5th July, 1957 at 2.00 PM, page 7833
  10. South Coast Town Council Notice of the 19th Ordinary Meeting of the Council held in the Council Chamber, Southport on Friday 21st February, 1958 at 2.00 PM, page 8558
  11. Gold Coast City Council 20th Annual Report and Financial Statements, 1968-69
  12. South Coast Town Council, Health Committee Meeting held on 28th February, 1958, page 8653
  13. Letter dated 21 November 1967 from Mr Jas. L Stapleton, State Librarian, to the Town Clerk of the Gold Coast City Council regarding the extension of library facilities to the Albert Shire
  14. Letter dated 16 June 1969 from the Albert Shire Council to Mr A. H. Chapple, Secretary of the Logan and District Council of Progress Associations
  15. Albert Shire Library Service Report of the Month of March, 1979 submitted by Ruth Smith
  16. Ninth Meeting of the Albert and Logan Library Board, Wednesday 23rd July 1980 at 7.30PM in the Council Chambers, Nerang
  17. Sixteenth Meeting of the Albert and Logan Library Board, Thursday 24th September 1981 at 7.30PM in the Council Chambers, Nerang
  18. Ordinary Meeting of the Albert and Logan Library Board, Monday 10th October 1983 at the Beenleigh Memorial Hall
  19. Ordinary Meeting of the Albert and Logan Library Board, Monday 9th April 1984 at the Beenleigh Memorial Hall
  20. Letter dated 3 March 1970 from the Albert Shire Town Clerk to Mr E. Briggs, Secretary of the Beenleigh School of Arts
  21. Albert Shire Minutes of Meeting 26 June 1986
  22. Albert Shire Minutes of Meeting 27 April 1989
  23. Albert Shire Minutes of Meeting 15 September 1994
  24. Albert Shire Council Annual Report 1977-1978
  25. Albert Shire Council Annual Report 1980-1981
  26. Albert Shire Council Annual Report 1989-1990
  27. Albert Shire Council Annual Report 1990-1991
  28. Gold Coast City Council Annual Report 1973-1974
  29. Gold Coast City Council Annual Report 2003-2004
  30. Gold Coast City Council Annual Report 2005-2006
  31. Gold Coast City Council Annual Report 2006-2007
  32. Gold Coast City Council Annual Report 2007-2008
  33. Council of the City of Gold Coast Annual Report 2013-2014
  34. Gold Coast City Council Forty-Third Annual Report and Financial Statements 1991-1992
  35. Gold Coast City Council Minutes of Meeting 13 March 1992
  36. Gold Coast City Council Minutes of Meeting 27 August 1993
  37. Gold Coast City Council Minutes of Meeting 15 March 1996