West Bromwich Central Library

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West Bromwich Central Library is the central library for Sandwell Council. It is another Carnegie library, opened in 1906 and is incredibly grand both inside and out. There are paintings in the entrance stairwell and fresco paintings on the walls of the library which seem to be depicting scenes from Canterbury Tales. The library’s ceilings are painted in colourful reds and purples, there’s a lot of use of green tiles and some fancy leather chairs. There is a metal spiral staircase (although not in use) and leaded windows.

I think this is the first library I’ve seen with fitness equipment in but it may well be there temporarily as part of a fitness campaign. It’s also the first time I’ve noticed a photo booth – very useful. There was a TV on the wall, as I’ve seen in many libraries now, but this was the first time the sound was on! There was a door to a café but that was closed.

It’s also the first library with a foosball table! Unfortunately we couldn’t play as you had to hand in your library card in order to get the ball and we weren’t members. The librarian tried to encourage us to join – pointing out it’s free – but I explained we weren’t local.

Walsall Central Library

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The entrance to Walsall Central Library is a modern glass box with stairs and a lift but the adult library is within an older building. There is also a museum on the site but it was closed for refurbishment (part of a £4 million overhaul to the building). The reference library and learning centre were upstairs with the children’s and adult lending library downstairs.

The marble sculpture pictured below, called Little Eva, is amazingly intricate. The inscription on the plinth says: Loti Scolpi, 1870. It was donated to the library in 1932. It is thought to be of Little Eva from Uncle Tom’s Cabin although some people think it is Little Nell or Alice in Wonderland. The library also has a locally painted bookbench.

These posters were heart warming.

Nice children’s library with a handy booklet explaining the classification system for kids.

The Walsall library service is struggling with budget cuts and closure threats – The Guardian, local newspaper Express & Star.

Dudley Library*

*Not to be confused with the Dudley Library in Buffalo.

Dudley Library doesn’t call itself a central library but it is the largest library within Dudley Metropolitan Council’s area. The library service is contracted out to Greenwich Leisure Limited.

I like the statue at the entrance which is similar to the one we saw in Walsall Library called Little Eva but I can’t find any information about his one. This was another bustling library on the Saturday afternoon we visited. It has lots of nooks and crannies, wooden shelves and comfy blue seating.

I really like the teen section situated on a mezzanine floor with a purple sofa. Fortunately I had a teen on hand to try it out.

The first floor had the local history and non-fiction stock. Nice, bright children’s library with a huge Elmer poster on the ground floor.

There’s a great tale on the internet about one of Dudley’s library books being returned to a library in the USA eight years overdue. Dudley let them keep it.

Wolverhampton Central Library

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Apparently, Wolverhampton has had a public library since 1869. This attractive red brick building was designed by Henry Hare, chosen through a competition. It opened in 1902. It was built on the site of an old theatre and has a corner location giving it quite a presence. Inside there is a central staircase with two rooms off the ground floor (adult lending and the children’s library) and two off the second floor (reference library and learning centre).

There were wolf statues about town and one in the library entrance called Meditation by Nigel James Kilworth. If we’d had time we would have done the trail and spotted them all.

Both the adult and children’s libraries are full of book stock which I like to see.

The children’s library was nice and had some tablets attached to a frogpod where we saw a small child playing. That little girl had to be dragged away by her mother when it was time to read. My 11 year old then had a go – happily ignoring the signs that said they were for under 5s. At the back of the children’s library there was a bank of PCs for older children.

I love this poster promoting the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals. I saw it in two libraries that day. I follow the Carnegie award and buy up all the shortlisted books for my eldest to read. It’s wonderful to be able to buy a whole batch of books that you know are good quality – they have librarians’ seal of approval. I love seeing it promoted.

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The Hive

I have been really looking forward to seeing Worcestershire’s Central Library for some time. The Hive is the first (and only?) collaboration between a public central library and an academic library in the UK. It makes for a huge library on 5 floors which is bustling with activity.

This is probably the only library I will come across in England with a Roman oven in the foyer! I like the way each floor is characterised on the sign, e.g. Floor 2 Explore the past.

This is also the first time I’ve seen an automated sorting returns point. You put the books in the slot, there are checked-in by RFID and then they go along conveyor belts to drop into the correct trolley for the floor/section of the library. Fab!

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The library is packed full of book stock, colourful comfortable seating, study desks, study lamps, computers. It has quite high wooden ceilings and felt quite church-like.

It has an extensive children’s and teens library which is the length of level 1. There is a café and shop, toilets and lift and everything you’d expect from a modern building. Its opening hours are impressive at 8am-10:30 EVERY day!

If you’ve got time there’s a good 12 minute video explaining the thinking behind creating the Hive and its first 6 months after opening. It is on The Hive’s website About page  where there’s more information about the building and the vision behind it.

Long live The Hive!

Swiss Cottage Library

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A recent trip to London for a book launch at the British Library allowed me an opportunity to visit Swiss Cottage Library. This is the central library for the London Borough of Camden. It was built in 1964 to a design by Basil Spence and underwent a clean and interior improvements in 2003.

It is an oval building with two circles at either end; fiction and arts at one end and CDs and science at the other end. In between there is an art gallery, the children’s library, a learning centre, the magazine reading room and a cafe.

Each circular end has two spiral staircases leading to a mezzanine. There were bookcases all round the walls and coming out in spokes. Each divided area had a desk populated by a reader or two. The design allows lots of light in without having to sacrifice wallspace to windows.

The children’s library, according to Wikipedia, was designed by Laura Ford who took her inspiration from Ordnance Survey maps and it certainly is green but I can see how it would help kids’ imaginations soar.

Swiss Cottage 3

Guildford Library

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Surrey County Council don’t designate a central library so I picked Guildford as it was listed as one of their area libraries and we found ourselves passing Guildford on the way back from our holiday.

The children’s library has a great “reading house” underneath the stairs which was occupied by a mum and daughter.

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The picture window was lovely and let in lots of light (but that doesn’t come across in my photo). People were happily reading in the adjacent chairs.

I always love to see evidence of lots of community activities.

It was interesting seeing multiple copies of books stacked on a table like in a bookshop.

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