Warrington Central Library

Warrington (3)

I arrived just after opening on a rainy Saturday morning – but already several people had got in before me. The entrance has statues either side which I found quite grand.

The library is in an old building which they have attempted to jazz up. The sails suspended from the ceiling attracted my attention. I don’t know if they are just there for aesthetic value or if they serve to dampen noise, shield the sun or partition areas – either way I like them. The library has a big main area and then some rooms off it such as local studies and some reference material.

This the first library crime scene rug I had seen but I think these are quite popular.

The children’s library was a corner of the main room dressed and ready for the summer reading scheme.

According to the Borough Council’s webiste, Warrington had the first public library in the country, opening in 1848, supporting the town’s museum.

Birkenhead Central Library

Birkenhead (1a)

I’m afraid I feared for my life on the short walk from the station to the library. There was a family screaming at each other in one of the houses, with neighbours standing outside ogling. I imagined drug deals and hit and runs around the corner. However, I am a Soft Southerner so that was probably the issue.

The central library is in a very impressive building but is now cut off from the town centre. The library closes for lunch (on a Saturday) so I only had 10 minutes to look around as I didn’t want to be one of the people that needed ushering out and delaying the staff’s break.

The foyer was grand with a statue in it and grand doors off the sides.

Although inviting the library felt a little in need of investment. It was mainly a large open area – there was a separate computer suite and an information centre upstairs. The large children’s library was sectioned off by bookcases.

Birkenhead (10)

The back of the building seemed to be a curved wall which was impressive but must have been a nuisance for the carpenters!

Birkenhead (7a)

Off the middle of the wall were double doors to a lovely garden area. I’ve since researched this and found that it is a “pocket park” that opened in June 2016 set up with the aid of a grant:

 

Leamington Spa Library

Leamington Spa library is not a central library.

Warwickshire organises their libraries into divisions and Leamington Spa is the division library for the Central Division. More importantly, I have family there so it was easy for me to go and visit!

The library is based in the Royal Pump Rooms which was refurbished between 1997 and 1999 to include a library, visitor centre, gallery, museum, café and function rooms. I am told that the library area used to be one of the swimming pools (not part of the original 1814 building) and that is why it is high and has a mezzanine floor.

I visited on a July Saturday. The library felt very clean and yet well-used, airy, welcoming and inviting. Plenty of readers were using the facilities and I could see several members of staff.

 

The Royal Pump Room Gardens are just outside  providing more calming ambiance than the busy road outside.

Bizarrely the Pump Rooms were featured in the Mick Jagger video for Sweet Thing before they were refurbished in the 1990s. I presume this is it:

Leamington Mick Jagger

 

Runcorn Library

Runcorn Library is another library which is off a shopping centre. As I was using Google maps and in a car it took us a while to work out how to actually get into the library. Even when we’d parked the car there were no signs to the library from the multi-storey or the shopping centre so I had to rely on my sense of direction.

The library itself is decorated in a mix of grey and bright areas. It felt very funky. The café looked good although the chair colours looked a bit sci-fi – unfortunately I didn’t have time to test out their hot chocolates.

The library is arranged on at least 3 floors. I got the impression few people make it to the ground floor where the local studies, or ‘community history’, collection is kept as I was pounced on by a surprised Saturday assistant and I didn’t feel I could stay or take pictures.

Runcorn (7)

I like the bookstacks (all on wheels I think). The signage was clear and modern and the use of colour was great.

Runcorn (13)

I really like these chairs and think they are wonderful for making notes or having a quick swivel. I’d like to have some at work but I don’t know how robust they are.

I think Runcorn have done a really good job of making use of – what felt like – left over space.

Wood Green Central Library

Wood Green

I came out of the tube station and there was a sign for the library (perfect – who needs Google maps now, ha!). I had to remind myself that I consider myself a Londoner as I negotiated the hustle and bustle of the traffic and the drunks outside the station.

A short walk down the road and then there is a rather clear LIBRARY sign. It looks like it’s supposed to look like it’s made of paper and it is striking but it could do with a good clean.

The library seems to be off the side of the shopping centre entrance.

A large area was shielded off with signs apologising for building work. This was part of a project to bring the Council’s customer service centre on site and opened about a week after I visited.  I could see the lending library bookstacks and an area with tables that looked more like plastic café seating rather than a study area. A large group of people were chatting loudly that may have been a community meeting of some sort. The library was full of people and lots of bustling activity.

Chester Library

chester

Unfortunately Chester library was a bit underwhelming. Chester itself is, of course, such a nice county town. From the outside the library building (an old motor car works) looks really interesting but the inside feels worn and lagging behind most of the other central libraries I’ve seen recently. Admittedly Cheshire arranges its libraries into regions and I picked Chester to represent Cheshire libraries as it was a the county town, it does not claim to be a “central library”.

The library is a good size and it was packed full of stock. I went on a showery July Saturday (my birthday!) at lunch time and there weren’t many readers around. But it was also a race day with race-goers tottering up the street so it’s possible locals stay indoors on such days. The library is on three floors. The children’s library is in the basement which I like (as long as there’s a lift) as it helps contain toddlers and there is a stepped area which I presume is for story-telling. The ground-floor included fiction, music scores, DVDs, CDs, teen section. Upstairs was more like a reference section with newspapers, local studies, more computers and study tables.

Generally, the inside could do with a refit to complement its outward appearance.

Islington Central Library

I have one word – turquoise.

Islington Central Library should have been a short walk from the tube but I went the wrong way – twice. When I found it I entered from a modern entrance on the side street but it is actually quite an old building (built in 1906) on Holloway Road.

The end of the bookcases were covered in fabric, possibly to make them also function as noticeboard. The fabric was turquoise. The library is on three floors: lending library on the ground floor, children’s library on the second floor and reference on the third floor.

An area of the ground floor has a full height ceiling which is ornate but at some point the detailing has been painted – turquoise! And again on the third floor.

There were plenty of people in the library, studying, looking through the books and on the computers on the ground floor and in the reference library. There was a security guard sitting in the reference library watching over the computer users.

These types of signs look decidedly old fashioned now:

The children’s library on the 1st floor looked really good but it had automatic doors so I didn’t feel I could go in as I didn’t have any kids with me. It had a more modern colour scheme so I can only assume that it has been refurbished recently.