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Human Libraries and Big Sky Borderlands: Queensland meets New South Wales

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Long view of country dirt road. Photo credit Matt Finch 2016

A guest post from Dr Matt Finch 

What does it mean to live on the frontier between New South Wales and Queensland? What part do libraries play in the shared identity of border towns?

 Matt Finch is the 2016 Creative in Residence for the State Library of Queensland. Last week he ventured from Brisbane to Mungindi on the QLD-NSW border, as part of the library’s year-long Belonging project exploring Queenslanders’ identity. 

Mungindi is a true border town, lying across two states. It has two police stations, two preschools, plus two timezones - and shares other services including hospitals and a library. The latter is part of Big Sky Libraries which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Big Sky manager Sally Walters says: “We got our name by considering what was common to each of the member councils and the branches. We have an uninhibited view of the sky both day and night so it seemed to make sense! I have the view that the sky is the limit for us as a library service.”

Matt explains how the Mungindi librarians helped him on his trip: “It wasn’t just about resources on the shelves. They were able to point me to a local historian who gave me a tour of the area, and a local butcher who had been on the sharp end of some interstate pranks during State of Origin. In an informal but highly effective way, this simple job of putting a visitor in touch with the right local voices echoes programs like the worldwide Human Libraries. It was regional librarianship at its best.”

New South Wales libraries were pioneers of the Human Library concept in Australia: the first one was established by Lucy Kinsley at Lismore.

Read about Matt’s adventures on the NSW-QLD border. You can subscribe to his newsletter Curious, Mysterious, Marvellous, Electrical for more big sky adventures.