Manchester Central Library

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the refurbished Central Library for Manchester after the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians conference in June 2017. A whole group of law librarians were shown around the Grade II listed 1934 building which underwent a major refurbishment in March 2014.

We congregated in the hall that had very impressive stained glass windows while we awaited our tour guide. When he arrived and told us about the refurbishment and pointed out that before the refit only 30% of the building was accessible to the public but now it is 70%. This was partly achieved by moving staff offices to a town hall extension.

We were taken up to the fourth floor which is a big circle. All around there is electric powered mobile shelving (it would be inaccurate to call it rolling stack – even though I want to). A really nice touch is that they have put pictures of well known Mancunians across the stack ends which really dresses up the shelves in what would have otherwise been a very boring vista. Every few metres there is a break in the shelving where there are some tables, chairs and study space – all of which were occupied (this was a Saturday afternoon).

There is an enormous reading room in the centre of the library which was packed with students revising for exams. The reference desk is still a feature in the middle but is no longer staffed. In fact it has a glass floor to let some light into the floor below.

We saw the former Chief Librarian’s Office which has now been converted into a meeting room with secret doors. There are other function rooms where they can hold ceremonies. The second floor has a Business and IP Centre run with the British Library to encourage young entrepreneurs. There is a mini lecture theatre where Google have held some talks. The library even has a 3D printer.

There are community dance rooms that can be hired and there was a troupe rehearsing in there while we are looking around. There are restaurant-style circular booths where people can watch footage from the North West Film Archive.

There is a very impressive music library with people playing drums and pianos in amongst the book shelves.

 

Useful study rooms off the corridors.

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There is more book stock and the children’s library in a lower area that feels more modern, however it is less lit by artificial light and feels a bit subterranean. There was also a Nick Sharratt exhibition on outside the reading room.

There is a sizeable café and a local museum section plus the archives area which we didn’t get into.

An incredibly impressive library and community hub. There are similarities to Liverpool as there is the traditional reading room and modern areas. I don’t think I can choose between them.

 

Stockport Central Library

Stockport Central Library looks and feels like a Carnegie library because it is one! Inside it has an amazing domed roof, collumns inside and stained glass windows.

There were plenty of people still studying and using the library even at 3:10 on a Saturday. There’s a reference and reading area. Upstairs are the computer and local studies facilities.

The children’s library and a magical looking Narnia door:

There is public art all over the library which gives it a great feel. Including a “knitted jungle”.

 

I’ve seen stained glass windows like this before.

Chesterfield Library

Chesterfield Library was on the edge of the market square. Inside there is a long reception area and then three floors of library behind.

The library was well used and packed full of stock but could do with refurbishment.

The children’s library was on the lower floor and had a great space display. There was also a large café with a selection of jigsaws.

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This window seat  below was lovely as it made use of the light and views but it looks very “plastic-ky”and dated now.

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I was very interested in these bookable study booths. Although they look very uninviting and dark they were all in use (admittedly I was there in exam season) but clearly they are in great demand.

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Bury Central Library

Bury 5

It took me a while to find Bury Library as there are so many community buildings in the one area. The Library is based in an impressive building built in 1901 and refurbished in 2005 with an art museum, the archives and I think a tea room. There was some impressive colourful art in the building’s arches which looked really good.

Inside, the library is not that big but there is a study area and computer room extension off the side. Plus, there is a separate adult learning centre in another building. The children’s area was cosy and there was a member of staff answering an enquiry from a child.

 

Unfortunately, Bury Council is having to close 10 of its 14 libraries: ‘Bitter disappointment’ as Bury set to close 10 libraries

Rochdale Central Library

I arrived in Rochdale by bus and then walked all around Rochdale before I realised the library had been right behind the bus station where I started. Doh!

In my defence there isn’t a library sign outside; it’s called Number One Riverside. It is very modern glass building but because it was a grey day the building seemed grey. Inside, however, the theme is purple. The staff have purple badges and scarves, there are purple trolleys and purple signs and floorplans. I liked the swirly doors.

It is a very noisy and bustling community centre although the coffee bar was shut and the children’s library was empty. All the computers are in use.

This was the first library where I’ve seen counter-terrorism posters.

Bolton Central Library

This is the first time I’ve come across a library, archives and … aquarium in the same building. It is an impressive looking building – particularly after the modern ones I have seen recently.

A member of staff stopped me in the foyer to warn me that the computers weren’t working today – which I thought was considerate. The reserved books are left out so that people can pick them up themselves – which I find very trusting. The returned books are sorted into subject while they await shelving which is very helpful for readers. Lots of stock. Open Sundays. All in all scoring lots of points for customer service.