Northamptonshire Central Library

Although quite a grand building, Northamptonshire Central Library is quite unobtrusive if you approach it from the side, walking along the busy shopping streets. It is a Grade II listed building built in 1910 with statues on the front of John Dryden, Thomas Fuller, George Washington and Andrew Carnegie. I like how it proudly has ‘PUBLIC LIBRARY’ in stone at the top. The building was refurbished in 2009. The registrars have also been based in this building since 2015 so it is called: LibraryPlus.

The library floorplan shows three floors however the stairs down to the basement were roped off when we were there. I don’t know how to get to the local and family history section which is in the basement and called ‘Discover’. Maybe there are other stairs or maybe the basement area was closed as this was the period in between Christmas and New Year?

Northampton 15

The children’s area was fenced off and made to look like a castle. It looked really great and had swathes of colourful fabric from the ceiling which made it look quite magical. I could also see an Elmer book box (Elmer gets everywhere).

This library also has the popular spotty chairs. Green is a theme as the walls, the plaster edging on the ceiling and the end of some the bookstacks are green.

The library is also a Business and IP Centre and has an enclosed glass pod that can be hired for meetings.

There was also a display and a social media campaign encouraging customers to download an app so that they can borrow ebooks from the library.

Northampton 4

There are some further historical details of the library and a picture of the Carnegie Room on the Carnegie Legacy in England blog.

Unfortunately the library service in Northamptonshire is under threat as the council has launched a consultation on how to save money.





Riverside House – Rotherham


Riverside House reminded me of Rochdale. Both are modern library buildings mixed in with community services in a riverside setting, in a place starting with R, with big curved glass doors and with grey and purple as the décor theme!

The library takes up the ground floor in a U shape. There are swipe gates in the middle for the council staff to access the council offices. The library areas were very nice and modern but not that big. It also includes an exhibition area at one end of the library and some display cases with pottery in at the entrance.

The children’s area was great, with a stage area still kitted out from Halloween and a reading hideaway.




York Explore Library and Archive

York (6a)

As you would expect York library is very pleasant. Outside there is a floorplan sign calling it York Explore. It is fortunate that it is open on Sundays, 11-3, as so few libraries are open Sundays at the moment. We waited at the door before opening time with a handful of regulars.

The building was a Carnegie library designed by Walter Brierley and opened in 1927. It became York Explore in 2011. This year (2017) it celebrated 90 years with a campaign to ask local businesses to donate £90 each.

The entrance is wonderfully light, largely due to the lightwell in the roof. There was a sign up saying that the building had “1,442 visitors yesterday” which would have been a Saturday in November.

On entering the lending library on the ground floor there is a small shop selling reading related items and gifts. Plenty of bookstock, lots of computers dotted around and in use. Lots of the bookcases were on wheels which I’ve seen in a number of libraries now and I always think is eminently sensible.

I like the interesting seating, even if some people need a lesson on how to use it.

The children’s library is partitioned off from the café but with a low, curved and transparent wall so you can supervise older children from the café.

Upstairs houses the local studies section with a sealed off rare books room.

All in all the library was a lovely environment and I would happily spend more time there.



Barnsley Central Library

On the November Saturday that I visited, the library felt like a real sanctuary from all the football goers outside who were getting rather loud and intimidating. The library is in an old building but it feels quite modern inside. It is largely one open-plan space sectioned off by bookcases. Apparently this is a temporary site while a new one is being built.

The children’s area takes up about a quarter of the ground floor and has a table tennis table in it. There was a café in the other corner where I picked up a snack. The library was quite active with the noise of kids chatting and the café.

Upstairs was more for quiet study there was lots of bookstock and all the computers were occupied.

I was excited to see plans up for the new library building. However local news reports that it was expected to open in 2017 – the council website now says it is due to open in Autumn 2018. It is called The Lightbox and is part of the redevelopment of the retail and leisure facilities in Barnsley.

Barnsley (3)

Wakefield Library

Wakefield Library is based with a large modern community building known as Wakefield One. I’m all in favour of these community hubs that include the council offices but one problem I have noticed is that they look a bit uninhabited, and therefore uninviting, on the weekends.

Wakefield One was built in 2011. As it is on a hill and you lose the sense of which floor you’re on as there are breath-taking views from the side windows. I came in on the ground floor but  I felt five storeys up. When you enter the library there is an Anglo-Scandinavian logboat which was so long I couldn’t get it all in one photo! It was found in the River Calder when the Stanley Ferry aqueduct was built in 1838.

The modern interiors of the library are very nice and I love the purple signs and dotty green and black furnishings.

White bookcases really brighten the interior up and even prevent the grey carpet tiles being too dour. There were plenty to people in the library, on the computers and the local studies area. The sign showed there is also a café, museum and business lounge on site as well.



Huddersfield Central Library

Huddersfiled c Mark Anderson
Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery 2005 cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mark

Huddersfield Library and Information Centre is the main library in the Kirklees Libraries. It is a Grade II building that stands quite proudly on the edge of a rather dated shopping area.

The library is on three floors with an art gallery on the top floor. There are all the usual amenities: lending and reference libraries, children’s library, local studies, archives, visitors centre and meeting room. There’s even mention of a transcription service.

Although areas show signs of modernisation some of the carpet, furniture and signage could do with updating.

There was a nice level of activity and the staff were chatting away happily giving the impression it was a harmonious place to be.

There was a wonderful Harry Potter exhibition on when I visited and looking at their impressive Twitter feed (@kirkleeslibrary) the network of Kirklees Libraries offer a range of activities, clubs to encourage readers to use the service.

Unfortunately, local news reports that the service is under threat as the council has to cut its budget again in 2018, with a consultation starting in January.

I leave you with the entry from the Historic England website regarding the features that warranted its Grade II listing:

Library and Art Gallery built in 1937, designed by E H Ashburner, steel framed and faced with local pink stone. The plan form is square with a central atrium containing the main staircase through three storeys plus basement. Main entrance facade has protruding central section with central entrance doorway with ogee-curved consoles supporting a cornice, flanked by two tall metal-framed rectangular windows with slightly recessed architraves, plus five at first floor level with cornice above. Decorative panel above cornice. Three windows on each side on ground and first floors. Second floor has no external windows. Bas-relief frieze in classical style between ground and first floor windows on either side. Windows continue in same style throughout, including basement windows to sides. Two free-standing statues in classical style with modernist influence flanking entrance steps, representing Spirits of Literature and Art, by James Woodford. Right return has similar facade with a projecting centre of 8 windows, those on the ground floor have moulded stone surrounds and hood moulds, the 8 windows above have flush surrounds. INTERIOR: Entrance hall with original coffered ceiling and lights, marble lined. Fine Imperial staircase to all floors with brass handrail. Floor paved with chequer design (hidden by carpet). Landing walls panelled in wood veneer, landing floor with original cork tiles. Meeting room also fully panelled in wood veneer with original doors and fittings. Some original bookcases in library and original doors throughout. Built 1937, opened as a library and art gallery in 1940, still in original use.

Sheffield Central Library


Sheffield (1)cropped

There was a football match on the Saturday I visited Sheffield so I had to pass about 40 police officers on my seven minute walk from the station to the library. There were even police on horses – I had to resist the urge to point out they were on a cycle path. It made for a rather intimidating atmosphere so I was pleased to find the sanctuary of the library.

It’s a large building with a museum, gallery, café and local studies facility. The stairwell had a very interesting fabric exhibit cascading down – reminiscent of birds.

Various sections of the library were on different floors behind grand doors so I didn’t venture in to all of them such as the local studies library or the computer room. The main library had a modern entrance and then sturdy wooden bookcases with plenty of book stock.

There’s a brilliant article on the BBC website about the history of the building from when it celebrated 75 years in 2009. It’s now a grade II listed building but was cutting edge in 1934 with a ventilation and vacuuming system.

There were plans to build a hotel within the library building and build a new library but that seems to have stalled.

Bradford City Library

Bradford c Michael Taylor
(c) Michael Taylor 2014

The entrance to Bradford City Library is quite small but then there’s a much larger area upstairs.

According to Wikipedia this library opened in 2013 after it was found that the previous building housing the library was a fire risk and had asbestos in its walls.

The new library is situated on Centenary Square which has cafes, bars, a theatre, gallery and museum and the stunning town hall and other municipal buildings surrounding a mirror pool. Kids were playing football outside and a film was being projected on the wall.

It was a lovely complex, full of life even on a cold November evening.

The library reminded me a little of Brighton library, particularly upstairs, even though it is much smaller. I think it was the metal and glass stairs, grey carpet and the use of pale wood.


The children’s library has the reading hideaway chairs that are very popular. Only now that I am looking at my photos have I realised that the children’s area was decorated with underpants!

Even though it was Saturday and the library was closing in 30 minutes time there were still about 40 customers and 5 members of staff in the library. It also looked like there was an activity in the adjoining gallery – it was hard to tell where the library ended and the gallery/activity room began which I’m sure is a deliberate attempt to invite people into both spaces.


Grays Library

Grays (2)

The largest library in the Thurrock area is Grays Library. From outside, the building did not look appealing. I wasn’t sure the library was even in there. I could see it was the theatre and a sign for the registry office but it wasn’t until I got to the door that I could see an opening hours sign for the library and the museum.

However, once I was in the building a lovely warm garlicky smell was emanating from the café and the foyer area was lovely. I walked past the box office and to the back of the ground floor where there was an entrance to the library.

According to the internet there was a Carnegie library here that was built in 1903 but  this library was built in 1968 behind it. I don’t know when the original was demolished.

It was a Monday morning and there was plenty of staff and customers already settled in for the day. My overall impression of the library was blue. The carpet was very blue, the seats were blue, even the bulbs in the lights in the toilet were blue. The first bookcase I came across was labelled “misery memoirs” – so clearly the person who put that together was feeling “blue”.


The fiction and large children’s area were on the ground floor. A central wooden staircase led up to a mezzanine floor where the non-fiction material was held, more computers and then leading off to a computer room, local studies and the museum.

A nice community complex on the inside – shame about the outside.