Stafford Library


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Staffordshire County Council don’t designate a central library so I visited the county town’s library. The current Stafford Library was opened in 2015. The previous library had been based in the centre of town at the Shire Hall and there had been an even older Carnegie library in use before that. There was some disappointment that the new library was not centrally located (see the BBC article on the subject). However, it was argued that this library was more fit for modern requirements, with emphasis on the new Innovation Suite, coding club and 3D printer.

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The library still feels brand new and clean. The overwhelming décor is grey, green and glass. I have seen this signage, furniture and layout before in Rotherham library although there the colour pallet was grey and purple.

I liked the quotes on the walls but was surprised at how many TV screens there were. I think one had the news on with the sound up and another had local adverts. There were also several freestanding digital signs. There was a quite a lot of hussle and bustle and the man on the PCs giving his entire personal details during a mobile phone call was amusing (and trusting).

The children’s area was a corner of the large space. There was a reading hideway and a pond themed raised reading area that was really imaginative.




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?

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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.

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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.





York Explore Library and Archive

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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.



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.

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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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.