Queensland State Library
The Queensland State Library is operated by the Queensland Government. There is a large family history section containing books and other records typically found in most family history libraries. However, what sets the Queensland State Library apart from other family history libraries are its extensive microfilm collection of Queensland newspapers and the current electoral roll.
The library's catalogue is available online but is not the easiest one to use. Nonetheless once you have mastered it, you can see easily if a particular resource is available before visiting the library.
The Queensland State Library is a reference library, which means you cannot borrow materials from it but must consult the information in the library. However, they have an "Ask a Librarian" online service to assist those who are unable to visit the library in person. It is sometimes said that this service is only available to residents of Queensland, but in practice this restriction is randomly enforced.
The Queensland State Library also contains the John Oxley Library, which collects material relating to the history of Queensland.
Visiting the Queensland State Library
The Queensland State Library is located at Southbank in South Brisbane and opens almost every day of the year apart from some public holidays.
For reasons unknown, there is no online information about the cost of parking at Queensland State Library (there are a series of WWW links that ultimately do not reach the information!). However, as at April 2008, the carpark underneath the library costs $12 per entry (that is, whether you stay for 1 minute or all day). There are two other nearby carparks also run by the state government (under the Art Gallery/Museum and under the Queensland Performing Art Centre) with the same prices. Generally there is a person in a booth to take your money but at quiet times you may need to use the machine which takes coins, notes or credit cards. The area is very well-served by public transport (train, bus and ferry) -- see TransLink for timetables.
Following the redevelopment of the library, the old cafeteria has been replaced by a privately-operated coffee shop. Some library users have complained about having to pay higher prices for fancier food so check the menu and prices before you order! There are other cheaper cafes and takeaways if you walk back towards the Southbank area. There are plenty of pleasant spots outside the library with fabulous river views where you can eat if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.
The best collection of old and contemporary Queensland newspapers is held by the Queensland State Library. The closest rival would be the University of Queensland.
Using the online catalogue you can find what newspapers may have been published in your area of interest and what date ranges are held by the library.
The microform and family history collection are located on Level 3 of the Queensland State Library, tucked away in the back corner. There are about a dozen microfilm readers; you need to ask at the desk in the microform area to use them. Be warned; the microfilm readers are very popular, so come early or be prepared to be put on the waiting list. Generally you cannot pre-book the microfilm readers, but I am told if you are coming from out of town for a short visit, they may allow you to pre-book (probably worth a phone call to try to pre-book if that's your situation).
The staff of the family history unit are generally very experienced with the records held by the library and their advice can be invaluable. If you are in any way unsure what to do, ask them. Generally the library seems to try to roster at least one member of the family history staff to be on duty at all times, who are augmented by some casual staff (particularly on weekends). The casual staff are generally well-meaning but not the most well-informed, so you may need to seek out the regular staff member for a complex family history question. As a general rule, the regular staff tend to be older and the casual staff younger, but it's not an infallible principle.
Apart from the online catalogue, there is a book that usually sits on the desk of the unit which lists the newspapers for the different areas. Most of the microfilms are stored on the shelves so you can access them yourself, but there may be some that have to accessed from storage -- the catalogue normally indicates when you need to ask the staff or whether you can access the microfilm direct from the shelf.
The microfilm readers themselves are very "state of the art", but like most microfilm readers there are fiddly things that have to be done to load the film. The librarians will happily show you how to use the machines (indeed, they are very patient and helpful) as I think they prefer you to ask than have you damage the machine or the film through your ignorance.
Most of the microfilm readers are also "printers", but not in the traditional sense of having an attached printer. Once you have found the item of interest, you can "print" in three different ways:
- send it to a printer "holding area" in the library - later you then go and print them (a fee per page applies)
- save your image to an attached PC and then email it to yourself (note you need to have access to a WWW-based email tool to do this -- if you don't have one, sign up with hotmail or gmail just to send the file to your normal email address)
- save your image to the attached PC and then copy it onto a USB drive (remember to bring one with you)
There is no charge for saving the image to the PC and then emailing it or copying it onto a USB. You can then view the images at home at your leisure and/or print them at home. Personally I find the USB drive very convenient. USB drives (aka "thumb drives", "memory sticks") can be bought from most "computer stores" from around $10+.
Current Electoral Roll
The current electoral roll is available on microfiche at the Queensland State Library. It is divided into States, but is then alphabetically by surname then given name within each State. It is thereforefore very easy to find someone so long as you have an idea which state they are in, and if you don't know which state, then searching all of them isn't too tedious.
Increasing concerns about privacy and identity fraud have greatly limited the accessibility of the current electoral roll in recent years. Indeed the Australian Electoral Commission have changed their access rules quite a lot over the past few years because of the competing tensions between privacy and the need for public access to ensure the integrity of the electoral roll. As a result, state libraries are one of the few organisations apart from the Australian Electoral Commission itself who are allowed to have a copy of the current electoral roll.
Because of the privacy considerations, the current electoral rolls has only the person's name and address, nothing more. Also people can request to have a "silent" entry if they can claim that they would be at risk if their address were to be published on the electoral roll (typically this is celebrities and people who are fleeing from abusive relationships).
Although the current electoral roll can be accessed at some Australian Electoral Commission offices, some family historians have reported being "discouraged" by AEC staff from accessing the roll at the AEC offices, but there appears to be no "discouragements" at Queensland State Library.
- Queensland State Library - main page