The Edge, Queensland’s experimental library of the future, is tucked away next to the State Library of Queensland in a concrete bunker-like building that stretches along the Brisbane river.
The building itself has had a varied history — six years ago it was the Gallery of Modern Art, before that a restaurant, and even before that it was the home of the Queensland theatre company.
Now, it is an experimental space housing of what all libraries look like could look like one day.
“Seemingly every ten years libraries ask themselves: ‘what does the library of the future look like?'” says Daniel Flood, creative director of The Edge.
“Intermittently, over the past thirty years it’s been the internet is going to kill libraries, Google is going to kill the libraries, eBooks are going to kill the libraries, and it never has actually happened.”
The Edge was born out of the last brainstorming session, designed to be a place “where people can come and engage in a free range of learning practices”, according to Flood.
Rather than dispensing books, it would be a space for working and learning from practical activities.
“Our mission is to empower creative experimentation across art, science, technology and enterprise for the entirety of Queensland,” he says.
The first space as you enter The Edge is a long room, spanning the length of the building and broken up into pods for working. Edge members can book a pod, which has tables and projectors, and can also be closed off with a curtain for privacy.
Flood says the space sees everything from university students through to distributed-companies getting together a couple of times a week for meetings and work.
At one end of the building is a glass-walled lab full of desks and Mac computers. This space is for people who are working on digital projects and can be booked for four hours at a time. In the afternoons and on weekends, it is used for workshops.
“Pretty much anything you can imagine for film-making, web design, design and music production is available to be used in there,” says Flood.
“We run about thirty weeks per workshops per year — introduction to Photoshop, web design and small business.”
The Edge also runs more advanced courses for people already in industries, with the money used to subsidise the other courses.
All of the Edge staff, even those manning the front desk or the coffee machines, are professionals in some area — game design, arts, programming etc.
Tucked behind the Mac lab is a fully kitted out recording studio.
The space is large, easily fitting a band, but it is mainly used for smaller projects. Edge members aren’t allowed to use the space for commercial endeavours, but it is one of the most popular spaces anyway, as people try their hands at podcasting, small plays and voice overs.
One Edge member uses the space to record his voice translating anime.
The Edge also has an auditorium, a holdover from when the building was the home of the theatre company. It seats 300 people, has a 4k projector as well as a full lighting rig and sound system.
“It’s to allow organisations that we feel passionate about an opportunity to use a state-of-the-art venue,” says Flood.
“If we had a project arrive to us that was awesome – that really did empower creative experimentation across art, science and technology — and they said to us, ‘the only thing standing in my way is your space’, we can waive [the fee].
“Under no circumstances should money be the reason that someone couldn’t be awesome.”
The space has seen everything from young people practicing hip hop routines through to the Australian Cyber League grand final, rock concerts, and Apple events.
Upstairs, the Edge has established a temporary fabrication lab while one downstairs undergoes some renovations. In a small room overlooking the river, the have a laser cutter, CNC machine and a sewing and soldering bay.
“This is open to the community three days a week,” says Flood.
“You do an induction on the laser cutter and then you can book it for free use.
“If you want to use the laser cutter to cut out jewellery, which one woman does who sells it at the market, you can just book time on the machine and bring your own materials.”
“It also allows us as an organisation to do stuff we wouldn’t do normally. If we wanted to build a little robot kit, each prototype would have cost us $110. With a laser cutter, it costs us the acrylic.”
Downstairs there is even wilder experimentation going on. There are 3D printers of various sizes, an entire bay of sewing machines, a space for experimentation with biological projects and desks galore.
The projects dotted around the space show the kinds of workshops, events and projects The Edge hosts. There is an old arcade game, a few stain glass windows and a bunch of fungus that they are growing to make pants.
“This is generally where we would have our open lab,” says Flood
“We also run programs down here like Hack The Evening, which is for people who are interested in nerding out about interactive computing, interactive design or any other any shenanigans involving circuitry.”
“They built a 3D scanner which will be commissioned for public use next year.”
“In an ideal world, a space like ours isn’t required,” says Flood.
“In an ideal world people would feel inspired, curious, active and engaged with their learnings, but we don’t live in an ideal world.”