After the Brisbane leg of the VALA and CAVAL 30 year anniversary roadshow; Lizanne Payne, Karen Schneider and myself checked out the Brisbane City Library. This library really is a showcase in many ways. Brisbane is blessed to have two amazing library buildings; the State Library of Queensland and the Brisbane City Library. Last year the State Library was nominated as the best public building by the Australian Institute of Architects (you should check out the outside terrace with the amazing tea cup collection), while Brisbane City Library (also no architectural slouch) is an environmental masterpiece. The City Library building uses recycled materials, there is on-site treatment and reuse of solid waste, rainwater harvesting, and a river water cooling system.
There is a lot that is interesting and amazing about the Brisbane City Library other than their amazing book return system (yes I know I am using the word amazing a lot). However, what stuck me was the gaming area and the sports area. Here there are bean bag type lounges for people to sit (or slouch and slide) on while they do online gaming. There are also dedicated large scale TVs, i.e. always tuned to sporting channels. I forgot to take my camera, but I know Karen took heaps of photos so when Karen uploads them I will point to them.
UPDATE: Karen's photos are located at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kgs/sets/72157609222728130
According to the Brisbane Council annual report, "since the move, library use has exceeded Council’s expected 30% growth. An average 91,000 people visit the library each month, an 85.7% increase on visits to the former Central City Library. Loans of books and other items have increased by 53.5% to 72,000 per month." Interestingly, there has also been a massive increase in patronage from males aged between 18 and 35. This is amazing!
While this extra testosterone can't all be caused by the sport and gaming areas, they must have helped. The comment made about these areas is that in the past people got their sporting information from the newspapers. Now more and more people get their sporting information from either the Internet or pay TV. So if you can't afford the internet or pay TV, and don't want to go to a pub to watch Fox Sport, you are stuck. Personally, I think it is great Brisbane City is providing these services and attracting what has been a difficult demographic for libraries. Who knows, the sport heads might then stumble on books by Jane Austin, Russian novels, or Pinter plays. (just kidding - but then again you never know).
There must be something about gaming in the air in Brisbane at the moment, because at the same time the State Library of Queensland was about to show the excellent exhibition Game On. This exhibition is organised by the Barbican Art Gallery in London, and was previously very well received at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne.
Gaming and interactive media is certainly something VALA is about to explore. For the last VALA meeting of 2008, we are very excited to have Simon Goodrich (President of the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) and Andrew Apostola talk about the work they are doing in this space. Simon and Andrew are the guys behind the Portable Film Festival and Flickthru (which is being launched in early 2009) so keep an eye out for details on the VALA general meeting home page at http://www.vala.org.au/meetings.htm. We are planing to podcast this event.