Tags: history. Queensland. Bribie Island Library.
BY BARRY CLARK- BRIBIE ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Bribie Island Public Library is arguably the most used public facility in our community. The building these days is modern, spacious and well utilised but it started from very humble beginnings.
The site where the library stands today was originally known as “The Hill”, being an elevated sand dune that ran beside swampy ground through what is now the bowling club and caravan park. It was a popular vantage point in the early days of tourism through the 1920’s and 30’s, where campers pitched their tents and crowds of visitors enjoyed picnics and games.
Featured Image(above): Soon after the new library had opened an interesting weather event was captured in a photo taken by local Pharmacist Don Mullen, showing a white covering of hailstones on the ground and a rainbow arching over the new building.
During the Second World War, the site was used for fuel and water storage tanks and pumps. After the war, a small wooden building on the site was used as an amenities and changing shed by visitors. This shed was used in the period from1956 to 1959 as a snack bar and fish & chip shop by Jim Looke, and then remained empty and largely unused for several years after that.
With a resident population of just a few hundred people at that time, nobody had seen the need for a public library on Bribie Island. In 1963, just before the new Bribie Bridge opened, a large new hall was built in Cotterill Avenue as a roller skating rink and dance hall. This building has had an interesting history over its 50 year life, becoming a cinema for several years in the 1970’s before TV became popular, then as the Busy Fingers Op Shop for over 20 years, until it eventually became the Baptist Church as it is today.
It was in this brand new hall in 1963 that a group of local business people held the first meeting for the formation of a Bribie Island Chamber of Commerce. The small but very active Bribie community were hopeful of establishing a civic centre with meeting rooms and a library. This idea coincided with the return to Bribie Island in 1963 of a lady who would play a very significant role in the establishment and development of a public library.
Marguerite “Lou” Young had spent some time on Bribie Island during the war years at their family cottage named “Toga”, when the military were in occupation and just a few civilian residents remained here. In 1963 she came back to live on Bribie with her husband Ken and three children. They established and ran “Bribie Welding Works” which continued for 28 years. Lou Young soon became involved with the Bribie Island State School P&C where she reorganised the school library.
Lou had always been a self confessed “Book Worm” but this task involved her first and only book burning, of old and battered books, and a request for funds to obtain new books for current student needs. Although having few formal qualifications, Young was then asked by the local Police Sergeant to set up a public library, which she promptly did in the old wooden shed on The Hill.
This very basic library opened in the shed in 1964, with just 200 fiction books and 100 non-fiction books. Lou’s mother, Mrs Farleigh was the very first member to sign up. However, book reading was not very popular on Bribie in those days as only 19 members joined in the first three years. Interestingly, records reveal that the islands most famous resident and International recluse artist Ian Fairweather became library member number 23.
The many thousands of visitors and holiday-makers were keen readers, and a second-hand book exchange was also available in the shed for those who were not eligible to be members of the official Caboolture Council Library. The library continued to operate in this small shed for the next 16 years until 1976, when the Caboolture Council built a brand new modern brick library, just south of the shed.
Lou Young served as the librarian from inception, initially part-time, and then becoming the full-time Council Librarian. The 1976 building is today’s southern end of the library complex housing the large Hector Holthouse room, used for exhibitions and functions, and the smaller John Bateman meeting room. Soon after the new library had opened an interesting weather event was captured in a photo taken by local Pharmacist Don Mullen, showing a white covering of hailstones on the ground and a rainbow arching over the new building.
In the first 20 years to 1984, membership of the Library grew to some 3800 members, but over the following 30 years membership and usage grew to over 14,000 members today. This dramatic increase in library services led to a major new extension to the library building in 2004. The original old shed remained on the hill until 1992 when it was finally declared unsafe and demolished by the Council.
The granddaughter of Jim Looke, the fish & chip operator in the 1950’s, sought to retain the shed as an item of Bribie history. However, it was demolished. However, in recognition a small plaque was placed in a garden in front of the library entrance, which can still be seen today, paying tribute to Jim Looke’s business in the shed from 1956 to 1959. The humble shed played a significant role in the development of the Bribie community, and its demolition in 1992 coincided with the retirement of Lou Young as librarian after 27 years of dedicated service.
Just prior to her retirement Lou Young compiled a document titled “Bribie Island – Collection of Information for Student” capturing many aspects of Bribie Island history. She sought to document answers to the many thousands of questions she had been asked about Bribie Island over her many years of service.
This publication may soon be updated and republished by the Bribie Island Historical Society as a tribute to Lou Young, who retired to Esk and died in 2010. The library was significantly enlarged in 2004 with an extension on the northern end, which today houses all of the books and technology of the modern library services. The current Librarian Bronwyn Ash and her exceptional staff invite the public to commemorate 50 years of service by the Bribie Island Library next month.