University of Queensland and its Libraries (Gardens Point)

University of Queensland and its Libraries (Gardens Point)

Name: University of Queensland and its Libraries (Gardens Point)

Time: 1911 - 1950

Epoch: Early 20th Century

Category: University Library

Institution Category: Education

Institution Group: Public Community Education

Coordinates: -27.4772783333333, 153.029055

Street Address: University of Queensland, Gardens Point

Suburb: Brisbane City (CBD)

Sector: State

Local Study Area: Spring Hill-CBD-Fortitude Valley-New Farm (Inner City)

Study Stage: MBNH Stage 9 Local Study Areas

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The prelude to the history was the affiliation in 1897with the University Extension Movement, organised by the Brisbane Grammar School Headmaster, R.H. Roe. Classes were sponsored in Brisbane for the Sydney University matriculation qualification. The idea of the University of Queensland’s libraries at Gardens Point is to go the foundation of the university itself. As Malcolm Thomis explains, the university foundation for Queensland had a long arch (1870-1911). Thomis refers to Ross Johnston’s ‘call of the land’ thesis – “[in] the years 1891-1921 the rural areas of the state received more immigrants than the urban, and in 1911Brisbane contained no more than 23 per cent of Queensland’s population” (Thomis: 3). It was a hard fight to justified the creation of a university for Queensland to the agrarian society (in imagination if not by the demography). The University Act (1909) was only achieved by combining the adoption of the American state university model, with matters of agriculture and landscape studies, into the traditional British model with Classics and Languages at the fore.

The first classes for the university began in March 1911 at the Old Government House, now the new university campus at Gardens Point. The first registrar, Cumbrae Stewart, was the part-time librarian, who oversaw a very limited collection in a confided space. The lack of having important texts and the size of the reading room (accommodating fewer than 24 persons) marked the early challenges. By the end of 1916 the library had 15,000 volumes. The establishment of the university’s small Department of Correspondence Studies furthered the work of expanding a literary and reading culture across the state. The beginnings were modest. In 1912 twenty-one external students had been enrolled, and twenty were examined. The first permanent library collection and building was opened in 1938, thanks to the Darnell Bequest of £5,000 and the Forsyth Gift of £10,000. The most significant collection for the university was the Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature. In 1929 the Fryer Library began as a reading room off from the study of its founder, F.W. Robinson.

Geographic Description 1: Inside The Green Belt

Geographic Description 2: Brisbane River

Geographic Description 3: Flood Plains (Major); High River Banks (still floods); Ridgeline (Slopes off Wickham Tce)


Evans, Raymond. A History of Queensland, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, Vic, 2007.

Fitzgerald, Ross; Megarrity, Lyndon; Symons, David. Made in Queensland : a New History, Special Q150 commemorative edition, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld, 2009.

Helen Gregory, Vivant Professores: Distinguished Members of the University of Queensland, 1910-1940. University of Queensland Library, St. Lucia, Qld, 1987.

Johnston, W. (William) Ross. The Call of the Land: a History of Queensland to the Present Day, Jacaranda Wiley, Brisbane, 1982.

Shaw, Barry; Metcalf, William James. (ed) Brisbane: Training, Teaching and Turmoil: Tertiary Education 1825-2018, Brisbane History Group, Salisbury, Qld, Boolarong Press, Moorooka, Qld, 2018.

Story, John D. The Spirit of Caledonia in the Formation of the University of Queensland, Emmanuel College, St. Lucia, Qld, 2011.

Malcolm I Thomis, A Place of Light & Learning: the University of Queensland’s first seventy-five years, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, Qld, 1985.

Unnamed. The University of Queensland, 1910-1935, Published by Authority of the Senate, Brisbane Qld, 1935.

Image Citations

Ceremony of Inauguration of the University of Queensland held in the Exhibition building, Bowen Park, Brisbane, 1911. Photographer: H. W. Mobsby; Archive: Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland []