Orange! That’s my first impression of Wembley Library.
The Library is in a very smart civic centre that opened in 2013. The building houses all of Brent Council’s services and is next to Wembley Arena and has a café, public toilets and a car park underneath.
The library is on the ground floor of the centre, and is comprised of glass and orange and white shelving. We visited on a January Saturday afternoon and it was packed full of readers and had the bustle of activity.
A whole table in the central area was devoted to travel. I don’t know if that is always the case or whether it was because we were there post-Christmas and that is when a large number of people turn their thoughts to their summer holiday.
There were four fixed ipads on a stand so that people could access the “Join the library” pages on the internet and presumably complete it there and then.
The staff were nice, chatty and engaging. So, it does not surprise me to read reports that in 2016 it was the third busiest library in the country after Birmingham and Manchester.
One word – Lego!
This library was really nice which was an unexpected surprise. We arrived early – about 9:40, on a Saturday and wandered around the ground floor – it took me a while to realise that the rest of the library (on the floors above) was opening later at 10am.
This building is called a cultural hub with a performance space, museum, register office and much more. The Curve is next door to the local shopping centre so it is easy to pop in when you’re going to the shops. On the other side of the building is a very attractive church so the building was designed to make the best of the view and has glass on that side. This let in a lot of light and as the building is largely furnished with white it had a heavenly feel. There was even a little reading patio on the church side of the Curve.
The ground floor had a cafe, although not open yet that day, some computer terminals, a help point and some displays of books, but once we got upstairs the ‘real’ library started.
What really excited me though was the children’s library – one of the biggest and best I have seen so far. I presume Lego helped with financial support as they have an office based in Slough and that is why it was Lego themed. There were large Lego models everywhere, Lego character stickers on the windows and a Lego portrait on the wall that looked like a tapestry and was tactile rather than hidden behind glass. There was a craft area with tables and a sink and worktops to make it easier to run craft sessions.
The other feature that really impressed me with this library was the museum pods. Dotted around the building there were at least 7, maybe 10, small square pods that were themed on different topics. You could step inside and read boards about Slough in Victorian times, or go inside another one and find it decked out like a kitchen in the inter-war period. The structures added colour and interest amongst the white and grey calm of the rest of the building.
Lancaster Central Library is in the centre of town, off Market Street, in an old building (I haven’t been able to find an exact date for when it was built). It has two entrances and we accidentally entered at the side entrance that has “Public Library Juniors” carved above the door but isn’t where the children’s library is now. The town’s museum is also next door.
Inside there is a really nice curved ceiling over the main area, with decorated windows which looks very tasteful.
In an attempt to dress up the building there are colourful silhouettes on the walls that look really good. They look alive and full of movement. There are also quotes painted on the walls and corridors.
The children’s library is a corner off the main room and had several children reading there. It is decorated with striking large stand-up Roald Dahl books. Plus, there is, of course, the compulsory Elmer rug.
There’s also posters dotted about advertising the code club and lego club. The Friends of Lancaster Libs Twitter feed and website shows that there are bands and events organised in the library regularly. Apparently Lancaster Central Library pioneered the Get it Loud in Libraries where there are music gigs in libraries. The local seed library, which started in 2015, is often based in the library too, which is a fab idea.
Oddly enough the study/meeting pod is rather close to the children’s library but I suppose there wasn’t anywhere else for it to go. Upstairs there is a more quiet area (and appears to be called the Sanctuary). The library also has the local studies material.
I really love the lampposts outside, that say ‘Library’ on them. I think they look a bit Dickensian – if you ignore the electricity part!
Sale Waterside is a very modern building which the library shares with the council and is described as a local arts complex. Although the building is great and I am in favour of these community hubs I feel that the library should have been given more space. Hubs feel quite odd at weekends when the council facilities are all abandoned but the libraries are still open. However, further along the building is the local theatre and art gallery and a restaurant and a pub. Waterside stands on the site of the old civic theatre and town hall and has preserved some of the original features.
There was a well stocked library shop in the vast entrance area, but then moving into the library area the ceilings were comparatively low adding to a feeling of “squashedness”.
The library had plenty of stock and patrons and included the local studies library and a children’s area. It even had a replica of an old shop in a corner.
There were several displays up and I thoroughly enjoyed the women’s suffrage one as I am working on a similar display in my library.
I had to take a picture of the penguin in the foyer as I love penguins. Apparently it was part of a summer public art project in 2016 created by Two by Two Hurrah.
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.
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.
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.
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.