For London’s Newham Council I visited Stratford Library. Even though it was spring the twinkly lights were still in place – now I’m writing this in December they look more appropriate.
The library has very good opening hours being open until 8pm – even on Saturdays – and is open 1-5pm on Sundays too. There’s an extensive list of clubs and events held at the library listed on the website and a pleasant meeting room that can be hired by the community and booked online.
It is not surprising that in 2018 the local community voted Newham Council Libraries as some of the best libraries in the country largely due to their work engaging with local people.
The inside of library seemed quite well kept and modern with the grey carpet and white wooden bookcases on wheels and then some splashes of colour on the occasional wall.
Some nice banner displays of local women produced in conjunction with University College London. Also banners encouraging people to take tango lessons in the library.
I really liked this permanent illustrated map of the area on a curved wall near the exit.
Whilst at a conference in Bournemouth (June 2019) I had the opportunity to visit the library there.
It is a large building however, the upside down pink house that was outside really draws the attention! Apparently you could go in and take your picture in the upside house (for a fee).
The library shares the building with some other council services and shop units so the library is mainly on the first floor. Inside it is a large building with a lovely feeling of space even though it was full of books and people. The walls and carpet are very blue, the bookcases are wooden and on wheels.
There were pockets of study spaces and readers at the desks along the walls by the windows.
There was a vast music section with a dedicated music enquiry desk. There was a quiet zone, meeting suite, sitting area and local and family history sections. Interestingly there was a wall of trees – which I presume were fake – and must be there to softly divide up an area.
There were cases dotted around displaying collections, such as this crockery one, and a small D-Day exhibition.
Generally a very nice atmosphere and welcoming library.
The outside approach to Exeter Library, one of Devon’s largest libraries, is lovely. It is a 1960s buildings that was refurbished between 2013 and 2014 at a cost of £4 million. Now you enter into a welcoming cafe area. The colour scheme is quite grey, white and turquoise.
The library building was on three floors but most of the library activity was on the ground floor. There were lots of staff around.
There was an interesting listening booth in the left photo that my daughters tried out. Lovely view from the seating area on the right.
Bustling children’s library. They run FabLab Maker Spaces, Bounce and Rhymes and story clubs, they have code clubs, raspberry jams, and computer clubs and gadget days for people who need help with their devices.
There were little exhibition cabinets dotted around. I loved the old dummy waiter style book lift still on display – no idea if it still in use. There was also a Business and Information Skills and IP Centre.
The opening hours are good, open until 6pm or 7pm on weekdays and even open four hours on a Sunday.
The Barking Learning Centre (or BLC) is packed full of facilities, including a cafe, nursery, citizens advice, digilab and much more. The library feels very new and colourful although most of my pictures feature lime green….
There were a couple of meeting pods dotted around which I think are a very sensible use of space.
Interesting reading chair…
The children’s library was decorated nicely. I like the red reading chair which reminds me of a cosy cubby-hole and the tree book displays are ingenious.
This is the first time I’ve seen a spa based in a library but it fits with the relaxation and leisure theme of libraries, reading and mental health.
The opening hours of the centre are extensive as it is open every day and until 9:30pm on Mon-Wed.
Barking and Dagenham Library Services have produced a video showing all the facilities available at the centre.
Truro is one of the largest libraries in Cornwall (I know because I tweeted to ask and got a very prompt and jolly reply).
The Library is in a lovely old building in a town centre location. There was a band playing outside on a sunny Saturday during April.
It felt like a big house arranged in rooms.
Love the terrazzo flooring in the corridor.
The children’s library is in one of the rooms and is called a Junior Library.
Torquay Library is one of four libraries within the Torbay Library community. I’m afraid Torquay Library looks a little neglected. The signs (and building) could do with a a bit of a clean. On the plus side there was a car park next door.
The staff were very nice despite the fact we were lingering 20 minutes before closing time on a Saturday.
Inside there is quite a lot of green, yellow and wood. The carpet and trolleys are green – as are the window frames outside. Inside, the space is very open and it is lovely that you can see there’s lots of stock on offer. There is a large gallery around the central part of the building with study desks and more books.
The children’s library is colourful and there is a separate local studies room dedicated to a local historian.
I could see from their posters that they have lego club and code club and their website lists regular history and poetry evenings. Although the library is closed Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
They had an unusual customer – a pigeon.
They have a great active twitter presence with fun gifs and photos: @TorquayLib
Since we visited in April the Library has improved its teen space which is discussed in this video:
To represent North Somerset council libraries I opted to go and see the library at Weston-Super-Mare which is called The Weston and is based in the Town Hall. The library and other council facilities moved to the revamped town hall in late 2012. The library seems to have most of the back of the ground floor with council offices on the floors above.
On entry to the library you come to this very attractive, open, atrium-like, central area with a large circular map of North Somerset built into the flooring. The designers have zoned the areas of the ground floor very effectively using the bookcases and different carpets and colours. There’s a good variety of seating, like the large sofa in the picture below. There were lots of customers reading and studying and particularly lots of people studying at the desks along the windows.
The stack ends were colourful, attractive and clear. There was lots of book stock and I noted self-issue machines, water coolers, vending machines, a teen library and a security guard. The staff were in uniform.
When it first opened, the Town Hall and the Library were open until 8pm on weekdays but the hours were reduced in 2018 due to low visitor numbers.
However, according to a local newspaper article in 2016 the library books at The Weston are “overworked” – they are older and borrowed more than average library books in the England. The library budget has remained stagnant even though the local population is increasing and more people are using the service.
Plymouth Central Library doesn’t look that attractive from the outside – I admit I didn’t see the colourful blocks above when I was at pavement level. However, inside it is lovely and bright and modern.
Work began on the vacant commercial units at the end of 2015 and it opened in March 2016. It does make sense to use this space and bring the library to the heart of Plymouth.
It was busy and bustling on this April Friday afternoon and felt a little cramped in certain areas of the ground floor
I like the quote on the wall above the computers “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein. There were lighthouses decorating the stack ends and walls and stairwell – a nice theme for the maritime location.
Nice looking children’s library with a performance/reading/imagination tree in the middle. A great cosy red reading cubby hole.
There is a nice view of the other side and a roof terrace off the first floor which must be great on a sunny day.
I don’t know if the monster glass art are always there or if it was a recent school project – fun though – they are really large and eye catching.
Apparently the staff are so lovely there they have even opened on Christmas Day in the past to combat social isolation for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone.
There are more professional photos on the designers website – Thedesignconcept.
It was nice on entry to be greeted with these children’s model making exhibits (below). And draped over the balcony above were banners made locally to mark the marches for women’s suffrage that took place over 100 years ago.
The library was built in 1986 and refurbished inside in 2012. It still looks in good nick with modern signs and bookcases and clean carpets. The library is on three floors with a central atrium. The children’s library was off to the side and too busy with kids for me to be able to take a photo. In 2013-14 Redbridge Central Library was the 14th busiest in England.
As the library shares the building with the museum they have placed some exhibits in amongst the bookshelves which is a nice touch.
There is also a Hub Central – a popular space for business start-ups, where you can use your library card to enable the use of a tablet – not seen a hublet unit before.
On-site there was also the Hardback cafe (where I presume the Hardbacks book group meets) and I saw a knitting group in action. There were few seats available as it was so busy and people were making good use of the quiet study area. There were plenty of staff about – they wore uniforms of black T-shirts and fleeces so they were easily identifiable.
I really like the name – Idea store.
The Tower Hamlets website advertises it as “the borough’s flagship library, learning and information service.” It was designed by Sir David Adjaye, opened in 2005 and shortlisted for the RIBA award in 2006.
It was a large square, blue and green glass, box like building but inside the light was nice and the spaces were welcoming. Although there’s a concrete ceiling and concrete pillars the hard-wearing red floor added colour and the wooden bookcases warmth. The building is on five floors which are very accessible with wide spaces, a lift and toilets on every floor. Readers are encouraged the use the stairs and burn 4 calories per floor.
The opening hours are impressive – open till 9pm on Mondays-Thursdays, 6pm Friday, 5pm Saturdays and also open Sundays, 11-5pm.
It was packed with people studying on a February half-term weekday. Many people making use of the Learning Labs on each floor.
I was impressed that there were water coolers on every floor – part of the campaign to allow people to reuse bottles rather than having to keep buying more plastic. I liked the books display such as this valentines one in the picture above.
We stopped and had a snack in the cafe – which has impressive London views, the TV was on Sky News, there were sofas or tables and chairs. There was also a gallery space along one of the walls.