Pop Culture in Libraries – Steampunk Festival in Rockhampton


Contemporary libraries are offering patrons more than information and recreational resources by extending their services to include cultural resources (Gross, 2013). This concept is designed to connect with and engage patrons in cultural activities that have previously been outside the library domain. It is designed to bring people together to open discussions that deliver education and learning opportunities through a different medium.

Black Opium / Fiona Foley / SLQ Installation Art
Black Opium / Fiona Foley / SLQ Installation Art

Whether it is a series of regular exhibits as in Samuel J. Wood Library,   or an art installation like Black Opium, or a collection of photographs from a local history group – the concept of pop culture within libraries extends the outreach to a more diverse community. Communication with the creators of thèse works is key to understanding more about community, with many libraries running a program for artists in résidence.


Creative Spaces Framework
Creative Spaces Framework

Creative Spaces Framework, developed by State Library of Queensland, seeks to define libraries as creative spaces to encourage cultural participation through formal and informal discussions, ‘Continuous learning and informal approaches to éducation’.



Rockhampton Regional Library’s Steampunk and Pop Culture Convention ‘CapriCon’ in April this year embraced the opportunity to host a mammoth event featuring Steampunk games, Cosplayers, Tabletop gaming, Costume panels, Jewellery making and a Steampunk High Tea.


Time Machine
Time Machine

Steampunk enthusiasts revel in the Victorian era, Science Fiction and the remodelling and re-inventing of 19th Century engineering artefacts. The convention platform provided a venue for hobbyists, tinkerers and professional artists to enjoy a creative experience. Table Top Gaming included Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a great example of a community project that stimulates conversation and engagement.

Popular programs for Queensland library patrons have included vintage movies, dance performances, concert workshops, and themed events.

As creative spaces within libraries is a relatively new concept for State Library of Queensland, to date there is little evidence-based knowledge of the impact of the program. However, the educational outcomes from these programs might be raising cultural awareness, exploring the history of the culture and in developing understanding and tolerance for diversity and the joy of recreational and interactive learning within a community space.  The possibilities are endless.




Author: Helen Treherne

I love learning about data, libraries, information organisation and new technologies. I also love to chill with my three kids, my partner and my dog - walking, talking, eating good food and listening to live music - especially anywhere close to the beach.

6 thoughts on “Pop Culture in Libraries – Steampunk Festival in Rockhampton”

  1. Really enjoyed your post Helen. So comprehensive and well-researched as always! I agree with you that pop culture within libraries extends the outreach to a more diverse community. It’s great to see libraries becoming ‘hip’ places to be (http://www.smh.com.au/national/libraries-become-the-hip-place-to-be-20090613-c6t6.html) and the librarians of today, being a more progressive, ‘hipper crowd of shushers’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/fashion/08librarian.html). As you pointed out in regards to culture in libraries, if libraries can open the channels of communication with local creators of works this is certainly an avenue for building stronger communities- and obviously a win-win situation for library and artist.

    1. Thanks Lisa – it’s a different concept from those quiet austere libraries that are thankfully long gone. I too enjoyed your posts and your participation in online classes and twitter. I wish you every success and hope that you will achieve your goal to support information and digital literacy.
      Best wishes,

  2. Hi – I really like the QLD library’s creative spaces framework you identified in your post. This paper [http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00049670.2016.1125756?journalCode=ualj20] identifies the benefits of creative spaces in libraries as:
    ’empowering …[the] community, fostering community collaboration and co-creation, growing a larger, more engaged user base, enabling inter-generational learning and social connectedness, facilitating trans-literacy, developing a culture of lifelong learning and adding socio-economic advantage to communities. Creative spaces also provide an opportunity for libraries to future-proof themselves and adapt to meet the changing nature of society’… I think libraries as creative spaces pretty much sums up my newly developing understanding of the role of public libraries within the community.
    Thanks for your post!

    1. Thanks Jen – yes, that is what I love about libraries too – the ability to provide much needed services to the community. Thank you for the link too – it’s very interesting.

  3. A really thoughtful post, Helen, but I am hardly surprised by that having had the pleasure of collaborating with you in the past.

    And speaking of thoughtful, I found myself wondering in this week what makes pop culture pop? Culture isn’t fixed. It develops over time, with movements and ideas and concepts emerging and evolving (and fading away to be replaced by others). Why is it that we’re calling developments of a more recent vintage pop and when does it stop being pop? And does calling it pop change the way we consider it within the GLAM field? Should it?

    Apologies in advance for opening that rabbit hole…but then I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t gambolling around in one. 😉

  4. Never thought to see ‘Steam punk’ in a library, other than in a book! Isn’t it interesting how libraries are evolving to be modern event spaces .. and impressive for a regional library to take on something so adventurous that even includes a cosplay, and a high tea. If a library in Brisbane hosted something similar, I can think of at least a handful of my friends that would love to attend 🙂

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