How a kids’ library is helping Ipswich turn a fresh page after darkest chapter

A dedicated children’s library has been held up as an example of Ipswich’s efforts to move on from the corrupt Pisasale era of local politics.

Oct 07, 2021, updated Oct 07, 2021
The library has attracted 22,000 users since it opened earlier this year. (Supplied image)

The library has attracted 22,000 users since it opened earlier this year. (Supplied image)

Ipswich City Council, under current Mayor Teresa harding, is hoping the library – the first of its kind in Australia – will become a major drawcard to lure residents back into the once deserted heart of the city.

The facility is a major tenant of the newly developed administration centre in Nicholas St, attracting more than 22,000 users in its first month of opening earlier this year.

Now, Griffith University planning lecturer Laurel Johnson has hailed the library as demonstrating how “child-centred design” is helping the city make a “moral, economic and social recovery” from its controversial past.

The library is a feature of the new council’s $250 million redevelopment of the CBD, a feat that the previous administration was unable to accomplish despite a decade of planning.

That administration, headed by former mayor Paul Pisasale and chief executive Carl Wulff, both of whom were jailed for corruption, wasted $78 million in ratepayers money trying to get the redevelopment off the ground.

Dr Johnson said the library was helping the city move on from the “spectacle of moral bankruptcy” presented at Pisasale’s court trial.

While Ipswich was Queensland’s oldest provincial city, its population was relatively young, with an average aged of 32 compared with 37 statewide, and a higher number of families than the state average, she said.

However, she said the latest Australian Early Development Census found that up to one in five Ipswich children were either developmentally vulnerable or at risk for language and cognitive skills.

“Introducing children to learning in an engaging and city-centric place shows them that learning is important, and that they matter as residents of the city,” Johnson said.

“Investment in the children’s library has many benefits: it rebuilds trust in the Council; brings young, vibrant energy and families to a once failed city centre; and signals the important place of early childhood education in the city’s future.”

Design studio Buchan aimed to make the library a fun and vibrant space for children under 12 years old as well as highlighting the importance to the city of its youngest residents, the firm’s director Todd Crighton said.

“The interior is vertically defined by a sculptural reading tree, which shares a dialogue with the adjacent mature vegetation along the Bremer River — a relationship that the city sadly hasn’t embraced in the past,” he said.

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