Maidenhead Library

The Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor doesn’t designate a central library so I chose Maidenhead. The one-way road system of Maidenhead defeated us so we ended up parking outside Homebase and walking back to the library. This meant we approached it from the side but did mean we were able to walk alongside the canal rather than the road. There is also a fountain and amphitheatre at the side entrance.

From the front, the library is opposite the Town Hall which looked very nice with a lot of flowers in bloom outside. From the canal vantage point, our first impression was more about why the whole building was swathed in a large net?

The library building was reminiscent of the Lord Louis Library in Newport on the Isle of Wight – although much bigger. I am assuming that the net was in place to stop birds flying in through the open slat ventilation and nesting in the open rafters above. However, the net meant that the windows hadn’t been cleaned and it did make the inside feel a little darker than I would have liked.

The local studies area was in the centre and from the teenage zone looked like an air raid shelter. My teens liked the teen zone with it’s laptop bar, sofa and collection of young adult fiction and graphic novels.

There was an area at the front of the library that had a book sale in. I can’t work out if it was intended to be a cafe area or a bus shelter area (as there was a bus times information screen) or a versatile exhibition area (there was an NHS exhibition up). Above was a huge mobile of bulsar wood type aeroplanes which was lovely but the vast open vaulted ceiling meant it’s impact was rather lost.

This is the first time I’ve noticed parcel collection boxes in a library. I’ve seen them at petrol stations which is a good idea as you can get to them 24 hours. I would be very interested to hear how well used these are.

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Bracknell Central Library

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Bracknell Central Library looks a bit cubist from the outside but on the plus side it looks big and has a car park next door. It was refurbished at the end of 2012 and still looks and feels in very good condition inside.

It was quite a brave decision to go for black as the colour scheme and have black stack-ends, wood and chairs but there are splashes of colour elsewhere and the plants are a nice touch.

I really like the study tables at the end of many of the bookstacks. They are like little hidden away study pockets. The clusters of computer terminals around the pillars is an excellent way to soften the corners of the pillars.

Love the red/read display of books and the past pictures of the High Street in the hallway. Many libraries have exhibitions and displays marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS, including Bracknell.

 

And Karen, you’ll be pleased to know your colleague’s are respecting your request, even on a Saturday.

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Carlisle Library

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Cumbria Council is another area that doesn’t designate a central library. Cumbria is a large area with many libraries and book drops. Carlisle appeared to be the biggest library and had the local studies facility so that was the one I chose to visit to represent the region. Regardless, this was a wonderful opportunity to visit the Lake District and Carlisle for a few days.

Carlisle Library is housed within – and above – a shopping centre. This always worries me as I am concerned that people may not remember that their local library is still there, as it is above them, but I do see the benefit of people being able to pop in to the library at the same time as going to the shops. I also expect people drop off teenagers and elderly parents who would prefer to sit and read while retail therapy can take place for other members of the family.

The library feels quite modern and yet a bit industrial because of the tubing on display which I assume is for air conditioning. The fiction and children’s library is on the entrance floor (the first floor of the shopping centre) and then the next floor above has reference and local studies material.

There were comfy tub chairs clustered around windows and study carrels too. I had got to the library just a few minutes after it opened on a May Tuesday and there were already plenty of customers arriving and settling down for some reading or studying.

This was another library that was full of displays – which I like. I hope they are able to change them and mix them up occasionally.

Sale Waterside

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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.

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Portsmouth Central Library

 

“Standing in bold contrast to the adjacent international-style Civic Offices and neo-classical Guildhall, the Norrish central library in Portsmouth, Hampshire was designed by city architect Ken Norrish and completed in 1976.  Its striking sculptural form in incised concrete is a grandiose composition of curvaceous volumes and heraldic turrets.” Brutalism Online

I love the above quote. Brutalism is a very apt description of the architecture. Portsmouth Central Library celebrated 40 years in 2016. It became the Norrish Central Library in 1995 named after its designer. It is a vast building of five floors and packed full of books. The décor is a bit brown and orange and in a 70s way rather than a modern way.

There were two Jane Austen exhibits and what looks like a permanent local authors display. I like a library that has jigsaws out but I’m not sure of the etiquette when doing a communal jigsaw. I have seen posters about getting free ebooks from the library but this was the first time I have seen a poster mentioning free music downloads from the library – very interesting.

 

Virtually all of the second floor is the Portsmouth History Centre.

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It wasn’t very busy on a Friday early lunchtime in August, but this library will be able to hold a lot of people without it being obvious. I think the CCTV signs are a consequence of  that.

Winchester Discovery Centre

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Winchester Discovery Centre was very busy on a Friday lunchtime at the start of the school summer holidays. There was a science festival on and the Animal Agents summer reading challenge was in full swing.

The Discovery Centre opened in November 2007 after a £7million refurbishment. The entrance still has grand pillars outside but inside it is very modern and clustered around the central circular area. It was colourful, inviting, lively and with funky colours and signs.

I think Winchester wins the prize for the best library name as “Discovery Centre” really is a wonderful name for a library and cultural hub.

There were lots of study spaces dotted around the library – a large number in use for a summer Friday. There is a café, performance hall, gallery and small library shop.

There was a display of a Jane Austen books as she lived in Hampshire and it is the 200 year anniversary of her death. There was a proper exhibition earlier in the year but that had finished before we got there.

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Aylesbury Library

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Buckinghamshire County Council doesn’t designate a central library but Aylesbury seemed to have one of the largest libraries and had a separate study centre in the County Hall next door. It seemed like the ideal choice to represent the county. The main lending library is a large open plan building. It was bustling with activity the Saturday morning we were there with a craft activity in the children’s library. The extensive community noticeboards show that there are lots of activities within the library – I was most impressed with the free homework club. In between the shelves of books there was a fossil display from the local museum – always good to see link ups with other community facilities.

I also had a look at the study centre which was rather tucked away, behind the County Hall and on a raised level. Apparently locals have mixed feelings about the County Hall building and call it Pooley’s Folly.

The study centre was smaller than the lending library but had a computer area and study tables that were all in use. There was a tourist information section with a rather interesting map displayed. There was a science display which caught my eye and I spent time reading it all. The separation worked well as the lending library was noisy and the study centre could be quieter but it must be a nuisance to have to staff the two sites.

I wasn’t clear whether there was a third section to Aylesbury libraries’ offerings. I saw some signs pointing to a reference section. I couldn’t understand if that was different to the study centre or (more likely) just an old sign using an old name. The council’s website talks of the County Reserve Stock also being based at Aylesbury and open on Tuesdays.