Chelmsford Library


As we approached the Library from the road at the side we could see in through the windows. The Library is slightly underground, almost like a basement but still light and welcoming. As we could see in it made it very inviting. It was incredibly cold outside so when we entered through the sliding doors the warmth was much appreciated.

I really liked the fact that jigsaws and board games like Chess and Connect Four were left on the tables. It sent the message that you can stay a while and be comfortable and that the library is a place to socialise and enjoy yourself.

The children’s area was vast and well stocked. My daughter reliably informs me that the book cases had arches that you could climb under to read your books. There was an empty area at the back which I presume is used for events and storytime which currently had a disco ball in so various children were playing there and calling it the disco area. There was a display on Shakespeare (as it was a week before his 400th birthday). There was a separate young adults section over the other side of the library.

I was very impressed with the two displays of leaflets headed TLC Talk to me, Listen to me, Cuddle me! They recommend titles on particular issues, such as healthy living for children, autism, what to do when someone is in prison:


I saw several members of staff very patiently and expertly training members on the use of IT and the library catalogue. There was also a poster about the library’s Code Club for children to learn computer coding which I am all in favour off.

I particularly liked the big audio books section and the eye-catching book displays.

Another well stocked and spacious library, although not as vast as some of the others I have visited recently. There was plenty of seating (a choice of sofas or desks and chairs), self-issue machines, a couple of photocopiers. Clear signage and helpful staff. No loos in the building but some new public loos just up the street.

Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

One of the most dramatic things to happen in the world of public libraries was in 1994 when Norwich Central library was destroyed by fire (BBC News, Eastern Daily Press). In 2001 The Forum was opened.

The library is within the Forum so there is a gallery, café, restaurants, tourist information centre and proper well maintained loos. The website claims around 5,000 people visit every day. The library is the most well used public library in the country according to the stats.

I’m not usually impressed by signs but these ones were perfect in height, clarity and appearance.


There were a lot of trolleys waiting for reshelving and bookcases of material waiting to be shelved sorted into sections which I found quite shocking but I suppose that is a casualty of success. Most of the old battered trolleys looked a little out of place.

The separate children’s library with doors, provided a contained area to keep the children safe, deter lone adults (I felt like I shouldn’t go in) and meant you didn’t have to worry about your kids disturbing other readers. Baby rhymetime was taking place and was well attended.

There was a series of eye catching display cases with recommended books. I really liked this one:


I’ve never seen such a vast Mills and Boon (and equivalent) section before and an entire section on walking.

There is also a 2nd Air Division memorial library to American serviceman who lost their lives in World War II is in a separate room off the main library.

All in all a very busy and well stocked library.


Ipswich Central Library

We entered the library through a modern glass automatic door and then discovered that there was an old entrance at the front of the building. From the front this library reminded me of Croydon Central Library, a red brick gothic style, with a new interior behind the façade.

This library building was originally opened in 1924 and is a “Carnegie library” (built with money from the Carnegie Trust). It was then refurbished in 1994. However, upstairs they have retained the Northgate reading room in the original style which felt very grand. It had lovely solid desks, and bookcases, a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows – you can even get married there. I can see how it would be a wonderful place to study particularly if you wanted a studious environment with some gravitas and history. It was packed with people and I felt I couldn’t intrude and take a picture.

As I had my two daughters with me I spent most of my time examining the children’s section. There was a really extensive collection of teen and young adult literature. There was a junior novel sections and “Grabbit books”. Lots of displays of books to tempt people and there were plenty of items we wanted to take home.

Ipswich 4


Ipswich 3

I was also impressed that they still have a dedicated music and drama section with enquiry desk. Admittedly, nobody was at the desk on this Friday morning but the main customer service desk was a long low inviting desk so I felt I could easily approach the staff there.

Peterborough Central Library

Peterborough’s central library is not in the most salubrious end of town but is in an attractive modern building with a theatre.

The entrance to the library was inviting and, sensibly, windproof with a glass barrier. The library was well used with all the usual features. The newspapers stuffed into grey crates wasn’t too attractive but practical. There were computer terminals dotted around and there was a dedicated IT suite with a member of staff but also signs up explaining the internet was free for the first hour and that USB sticks were available to purchase. I loved this large print keyboard:

Peterborough 2

There were children happily reading and playing in the children’s section, a vending machine area with signs saying food was only to be consumed in that area. It was a Friday in the Easter holidays but there were plenty of staff and the library looked well used but still tidy. I saw self-issue machines, CDs and DVDs and a local studies room.

I am however most intrigued by the stairs that go nowhere:

Peterborough stairs

These stairs are in the middle of the ground floor but seemed to have been blocked off at the top permanently and blocked at the bottom. It also provided a light well and must have been a design feature originally. I can only assume the area above was supposed to be meeting rooms and access is now by a different set of stairs/lift or due to budget cuts the purpose of the floor above has changed.

Peterborough libraries are run by Vivacity “an independent, not-for-profit organisation with charitable status. We manage many of Peterborough’s most popular culture and leisure facilities on behalf of Peterborough City Council”.