Barking Learning Centre


The Barking Learning Centre (or BLC) is packed full of facilities, including a cafe, nursery, citizens advice, digilab and much more. The library feels very new and colourful although most of my pictures feature lime green….

There were a couple of meeting pods dotted around which I think are a very sensible use of space.

Interesting reading chair…

Barking5 (1)

The children’s library was decorated nicely. I like the red reading chair which reminds me of a cosy cubby-hole and the tree book displays are ingenious.

This is the first time I’ve seen a spa based in a library but it fits with the relaxation and leisure theme of libraries, reading and mental health.


The opening hours of the centre are extensive as it is open every day and until 9:30pm on Mon-Wed.

Barking and Dagenham Library Services have produced a video showing all the facilities available at the centre.

Plymouth Central Library


Plymouth Central Library doesn’t look that attractive from the outside – I admit I didn’t see the colourful blocks above when I was at pavement level. However, inside it is lovely and bright and modern.

Work began on the vacant commercial units at the end of 2015 and it opened in March 2016. It does make sense to use this space and bring the library to the heart of Plymouth.

It was busy and bustling on this April Friday afternoon and felt a little cramped in certain areas of the ground floor

I like the quote on the wall above the computers “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein. There were lighthouses decorating the stack ends and walls and stairwell – a nice theme for the maritime location.

Nice looking children’s library with a performance/reading/imagination tree in the middle. A great cosy red reading cubby hole.

There is a nice view of the other side and a roof terrace off the first floor which must be great on a sunny day.

I don’t know if the monster glass art are always there or if it was a recent school project – fun though – they are really large and eye catching.


Apparently the staff are so lovely there they have even opened on Christmas Day in the past to combat social isolation for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone.

There are more professional photos on the designers website – Thedesignconcept.

Tameside Central Library



Tameside Central Library in Ashton under Lyne, Greater Manchester, is in an old Victorian building with the library downstairs and an art gallery upstairs. According to the web the building was once a school.

The art gallery upstairs was particularly lovely. The library was shabby but I was told that the service is moving soon. The foyer and flooring were very grand. There was an old booth in the reception area that reminded me of a box office and made me feel like I was entering a theatre.


The main library room had a red wrought iron mezzanine floor. The book shelves on the mezzanine looked largely empty but there were students studying at the desks.

I loved the “Blooming Good Books” display with copies of book jackets growing on the tree. The children’s area looked colourful and inviting and had some children playing in it.

Along a corridor there was a separate reference reading room and two computer rooms. There were signs to the adjacent local studies and archives centre. Even the large print stock was in a room of its own. I can see how this building requires a lot of staff but I am disappointed to read reports that the number of qualified librarians will be cut after the change over to the new service.

There were other signs of under-investment such as a ventilation or heating grate that was making an awful racket in a corner. As I usually comment on the chairs I have to point out how threadbare they were at Ashton.

Tameside 12

I look forward to seeing the new library service when it has moved and I wonder what will become of this building.

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.



Kensington Central Library

Wood. My first impression was wood. Proper wooden bookcases, wood covered pillars, wood tables, wooden window seats – even the lift is hidden behind wooden doors. It does make the library look quite grand.


The ground floor has the lending library and an area sectioned off for the children’s library. Upstairs is a large reference library, plenty of computers and a local studies area partitioned by a glass wall. There is a third floor which appears to be rented out to 2 companies.

The tub chairs have wheels on them which I’ve never seen before.


I was so comfortable here that I actually joined and used a computer for an hour! The staff were very helpful and patient.

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.

Loughborough Central Library


I walked into the new extension which felt up-to-date, welcoming and clean. However, this was the first time I’ve seen a (money) donation point in a library – slightly alarming.

There was a large book sale in the middle dominating the shop area. The signs were all modern and clear. I liked the seats snug between bookcases, many of which were on wheels.

The ladybird Shakespeare listening chair caught my eye but I was too scared of it to sit in it!


Off to the side of the of the new build is a ramp to the 1905 Carnegie library which now houses the children’s library and the local studies library which felt like a museum.


I didn’t see a great many members of staff but it was lunchtime. I also liked the ICT suite, the cycling maps, the public loos and the park opposite with marching band.

Welwyn Garden City Central Library

Welwyn Garden City opened this new library at the end of 2012. It still feels very new and modern. I liked the funky seating areas.

The library wasn’t as full as the others I’ve visited lately but it was a Wednesday rather than a Saturday.

The library has a big sweeping, wood and metal central staircase.

Welwyn GC (6)

Downstairs had the children’s library, local studies, fiction and non-fiction lending books. Upstairs had plenty of study desks and reference material and nice views. I was attracted to the official publications section – probably because it was the day before the Brexit referendum. The stock was organised and easy to navigate with informative posters and leaflets provided on the shelves.

Welwyn GC (4)

There were fewer computers than in some of the other libraries but lots of study areas and places to plug in laptops. I didn’t see an opportunity to search the catalogue.