About Special Collections

James Cook University Library collects information resources that have significance to North Queensland. The University’s Strategic Intent and the University Plan include statements that indicate a strong commitment by the University to the advancement of northern Queensland. The Special Collections are developed in line with this focus and the four major teaching and research themes of James Cook University:

  • Tropical Ecosystems, Conservation and Climate Change

  • Industries and Economies in the Tropics

  • People and Societies in the Tropics

  • Tropical Health, Medicine and Biosecurity

The geographical area of North Queensland for the purpose of collection building is defined as the area in Queensland above latitude 22.5. This area includes the Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and other islands which are part of the State of Queensland.


All material acquired for the following collections is listed in the Library’s catalogue:

  • North Queensland Collection

  • Rare Book Collection

  • Shaw Collection

  • NQ Ephemera

  • NQ Maps

A detailed listing of the Library Archives is maintained on the Library webpages. The arrangement of Archives is determined by their provenance; that is papers and records are maintained according to their creator or source rather than according to a subject classification system. Collections are kept together and where possible, the original order established by the creator is retained.

The North Queensland Photographic Collection and the North Queensland Oral Histories Collection can be searched using specialised electronic finding tools accessible from the JCU Libraries.


Special Collection items may be used on the Library premises by visiting the appropriate Reading Rooms during opening hours. All Special Collections are kept in environmentally controlled rooms where the temperature and relative humidity are set within ranges recommended for the preservation of library collections. This environmental control is constantly monitored and maintained.

Where possible, two copies are purchased of every new published item acquired for the North Queensland Collection. One copy is held in the North Queensland Collection and one held in the main borrowing collection which is available for loan. In cases where the Library holds both printed and microfilm copy of a north Queensland newspaper, serial or monograph, the microfilm copy will be made available.

Special Collections may be copied in accordance with Australian copyright law with the exception of fragile items. In order to increase access to its collections the Library intends, where possible by law, to digitize materials and make digital copies available for use.

The Cairns Special Collections Room is located on the top floor of the Cairns Campus Library. Access is by arrangement with staff at Library Services.

At the Townsville Campus the Helen Mays Reading Room is set aside for the use of Special Collections materials.

It is the policy of the James Cook University Library that members of the community are welcome to come into the Library and use resources on the premises.

Opening Hours

Townsville Campus

Special Collections are accessible through the Helen Mays Reading Room which is open from Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am – 4.30pm. The reading room is not open weekends. To confirm your visit and ensure assistance contact InfoHelp in the Library or the Special Collections Librarian before you visit.

Prior appointments are very much appreciated and requests may be made in advance by email.

or by calling (07) 4781 5002

Cairns Campus

Access to Special Collections in Cairns is by arrangement with staff at Library Services and is open during library opening hours.

Are you interested in freelance work on library tasks?

The James Cook University Library maintains a database of people who are interested in occasional free lance work.

Library staff are sometimes asked to undertake work for which we do not have staff resources. In some cases the enquirer is willing to pay for this work to be done. The register will enable the Library to provide a list of suitable candidates for such work.

Typical tasks that the Library might refer include searching newspaper microfilms for a particular public notice or preparing a bibliography on a historical topic.

If you are interested in having your name on this register, please prepare a statement of your interests under the headings indicated below and send it to the Special Collections Librarian.

This register will be subject to ongoing revision so there is no deadline for completion of the form.

Application for inclusion in James Cook University Library Register of Free Lancers

You can register by emailing the Special Collections Librarian with the following details. Please note that inclusion on the register does not guarantee that work will be referred to you.

Phone Number
Other Contacts (e.g. Fax, E-mail)
Relevant experience
Availability (e.g. which days, months are you available, are there periods when you are never available?)
Special Interests