Mabo Library History, Architecture and Awards

Library About Locations Townsville Mabo Library History and Awards

The Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, James Cook University is a landmark and building of the Townsville Campus designed by the prominent Queensland architect James Birrell.

The Mabo Library is an architectural icon.  Designed in the Brutalist architectural style of the late 1960s, it is a building that made brilliant use of reinforced concrete to achieve an outstanding aesthetic result.

The 3 storey, 10,460 sq m building is currently home to the University's library and special collections and to the Library & Information Services and Learning, Teaching & Student Engagement directorates.

More information including pictures of the JCU Library and the architect's vision are available at the projects gallery.

The Mabo Library Special Collections holds some items in our Library archival holdings related to the architect James Birrell.

Library Building Timeline

Library Entrance


Stage 1 of the library building completed by architect James Birrell.

The original 1968 building
The Original Building, 1968


Stage II completed


Extension completed.

The 1992 Extension
Building Extension, 1992


James Birrell wins Australia's most prestigious architectural prize - the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal.


The JCU Library Building on the Townsville Campus receives the 25 Year Architecture Award presented by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects - Queensland Chapter.


On 21st May, in honour of Eddie Koiki Mabo, James Cook University named its Townsville Campus Library the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library.


A library redevelopment project is announced, funded by the University and the Federal Government's Better Universities Renewal Funding Initiative, to provide more vibrant and contemporary learning spaces in the Mabo Library.


Brewster Hjorth architects transformational renovations to the ground floor of Mabo Library are completed.

Phase one is completed in February and some of the new features included: a one-stop service desk including Library InfoHelp and Learning Advice, Learning Commons with computers and Wi-Fi, southern entry/exit, café, Assistive Technologies lab and new staff areas and consultation rooms.

In July a new 24 hour Information Commons is, providing Wi-Fi, PC and Mac computers, colour and B&W copying and printing, drink and snack machines, free student lockers with power, group and individual seating, and access to toilets. Three new ilecture rooms are adjacent to the Information Commons. Designed for group study and interactive learning, when not booked for teaching, students are able to use the rooms for quiet study.

Project Description from Brewster Hjorth Architects

The talented students of the Bachelor of Multimedia Journalism also produced a video about the project


The Eddie Koiki Mabo Library building is placed on the local historic buildings list by Townsville City Council.


In January the outdoor seating area at the NW Café entrance is opened where students, staff and visitors can enjoy their coffee, gelato and other goodies from Juliette’s near the wonderful Heart Space and Collections sculpture by Col Henry. The outdoor space includes tables and access to power and JCU Wi-Fi (Eduroam).

In February the new purpose-built service centre for AccessAbility, servicing students with disabilities and health conditions, is completed.

In November the student kitchenette is opened. Located on the NE corner of the Mabo Library, outside of the 24hr Information Commons, with 24 hour food preparation facilities including 2 microwaves, sink, bench and instant hot/cold water.  Funded by Student Services Amenities Fees.


New outdoor furniture is added to the kitchenette as part of the completed Verandah Walk project.