The country’s first dedicated library for children under 12 opened in Ipswich in June, has formed part of the Queensland city’s post-pandemic recovery. 

In an attempt to bring families back to the CBD, Buchan designed the library in collaboration with Ipswich City Council as part of the $250 million redevelopment of the heart of the city. 

The building is located on the ground floor of the council’s new administration building on Nicholas St. The library comprises 35,000 items and features innovative technology and digital experiences, including two life-sized dinosaurs suspended from its ceiling.

Ipswich Mayor, Teresa Harding, says the children’s library attracted more than 22,000 people in its first month alone. 

“The Children’s Library was purposely placed in the centre of the CBD to help activate the space and to house this new facility somewhere central and accessible for our tens of thousands of members,” she says.

“Ipswich is Queensland’s fastest growing city, with that growth being driven by young families, so it makes sense to provide a space for families to socially connect.”

ipswich childrens library

Buchan’s Brisbane Principal and Director, Todd Crighton, says the library is an exciting space with a unique urban presence.

“The children’s library has been conceived as part of a greater social gathering place, with diverse landscapes, retail, dining and entertainment offerings all orientated towards families,” he says.

The children’s library features its own external garden area while also sharing the public plaza.

“This fosters the significance of children in our community and the relationship with the urban/city environment,” says Crighton. 

“Their space is ‘front and centre’ in the civic heart, sharing the entry door of the new Ipswich Council home and plays an important role in the reoccupation of Nicholas St.

“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.”

The tree acts as an escape for children, with the ability to read in its hollow, while doubling as the central focal point of the library.

Buchan Head of Interiors Valerie Mack says the children’s library is a destination in itself.

“Every aspect of the design has been created exclusively for young people, right down to shelving and furniture heights, interactive activities, hidey holes and reading nooks,” she says. 

“Unlike the children’s section in most other main libraries, this is a space where everything is for the kids; they haven’t been made to fit around everything else.”

ipswich childrens library

Children are able to feed the resident Plesiosaurs through a pneumatic pipe, while books are sorted into kid-friendly categories and feature pictorial cues to suit interests. A quiet zone in a corridor space provides a sanctuary for children. Curved nook shelving houses feature ever-changing collections. The sinuous shelves offer colourful, upholstered recesses for children to relax and read.

A separate event space with modular furniture and stage pieces is used for louder activities and yarning circles. There is also a secured external reading area outdoors. Indigenous landscaping featuring sculptures of native animals are placed throughout the garden. 

“Kids are an important and growing demographic in the city and Council is committed to building more events, services, resources and facilities to meet their needs,” says Mayor Harding.

“Council appreciated Buchan’s fun and creative approach to the brief and their collaboration with the Libraries team to design Australia’s only dedicated public library for children.”