STOCKING UP: Ipswich Libraries visual merchandiser and communication officer Naomi George.
STOCKING UP: Ipswich Libraries visual merchandiser and communication officer Naomi George. Cordell Richardson

Fresh approach, cutting edge tech driving library growth

SUCCESSFULLY flipping the outdated perception of libraries on its head has led to Ipswich City Council being recognised as an industry leader.

Ipswich Libraries now has more than 50,000 members, with a 41 per cent increase in people signing up in the past 12 months over the previous year.

Although the facilities are about more than just reading these days - with state-of-the-art technology just as much at home as shelves of books - finding new ways to present traditional staples was the key to engaging new people.

The Springfield Central Library, which opened up a year ago, was credited with bringing on 9000 new members but library business services manager Matt Pascoe said membership had increased at facilities across the city.

Two more are on the way with a new library at Rosewood expected to open early 2020 and another in the CBD by the middle of next year.

"We've been growing at a significantly higher rate than the state and national averages," Mr Pascoe said.

"We've been putting through a lot of change and everyone has been working very hard to basically bring some best practice ideas and new systems to fruition.

"We've been implementing a lot of new self service options which people have been responding really well to. We've had hundreds of really good public events for people of all ages but particularly kids."

Over the past year, Ipswich Libraries fell just short of one million loans, including books, DVDs and e-books, which was a 25 per cent increase on the year before.

The implementation of the award winning "marketplace" layout at the Springfield and Ipswich libraries, which is more akin to a book shop than a library, had worked wonders.

Maker spaces, 3D printers, virtual reality and augmented reality were also big drawcards.

"Books are interestingly where we are getting a lot of growth but it's in the way we curate and market our books," Mr Pascoe said.

"It's really cool technology and anyone can come up and use it. It's all about these really cutting edge digital immersion experiences that people might not be able to get at home."

Mr Pascoe said being able to build the two new libraries from the ground up was exciting and he was aiming to reach 80,000 members within the next two years.

"We are doing things differently and getting really good results," he said.

"To be able to build these two libraries from the ground up with these ideas about how we can best deliver services for the community of Ipswich is really exciting.

"We can really be a force for public libraries in Australia and do things as best as we can.

"It's not just about them being well indexed archives of lots of dusty books. You don't need to know what you want, whether it's a good read or to watch a movie or to interact with cutting edge technology. You've just got to want that experience and know we deliver."

"I've just personally come back from two interstate conferences where Ipswich City Council was asked if we would go to talk about what we're doing. Over the past 18 months, we've been invited to nine (conferences). Within our industry we're recognised as leaders."