Gayton Library


Gayton library is one of the libraries of the Harrow area. It is referred to as the Central Lending Library on the Harrow Libraries website and does seem to have the most extensive opening hours including Sundays. The shopping centre is just a street away so the library is in a very good location.

The library is on three floors and rather box-like with a central staircase. It was well stocked with material and well used with every desk and chair in use.

The stairwell is rather boring and uninviting, I would put up some old local photos or posters but maybe, as it isn’t a large space, that would be considered too cluttered.

The general local area is being developed which is promising, but it does make the library look a little dated – there is mention in the Harrow Times in December 2018 of investment in a new library.

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.

Lord Louis Library

The Lord Louis Library is in Newport on the Isle of Wight. It was opened in 1981 and named after Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin and diplomat, and opened by his wife, Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Newport is in the centre of the Isle of Wight and although it doesn’t explicitly claim to be the central library, Newport is the biggest town on the Island. We go to the Isle of Wight on holiday. A lot.

The library is in a very central location, beside the bus station and near the shops. I think there is a park and pavilion behind but we visited in torrential rain (typical British summer) so I didn’t try out the greenery.

The central part of the library is an octagonal shape with a mezzanine, with further areas coming off it. However there is not a great deal of room for books on the upper level. They have done their best to dress up the library with colourful signage, artwork on the walls and the children’s library has a huge tree structure.

We visited on a weekday and there were several people in the library, reading, researching or just sheltering in from the rain. The staff were happy and helpful but the building is feeling run down and the stock neglected.

The Isle of Wight library service is suffering from budget cuts and recently reorganised closing a couple of libraries and moving the library service headquarters to the Lord Louis Library. Another sign of cuts was the need to put out book crates to catch the rainwater dripping into the library.


Chesterfield Library

Chesterfield Library was on the edge of the market square. Inside there is a long reception area and then three floors of library behind.

The library was well used and packed full of stock but could do with refurbishment.

The children’s library was on the lower floor and had a great space display. There was also a large café with a selection of jigsaws.

Chesterfield (10)

This window seat  below was lovely as it made use of the light and views but it looks very “plastic-ky”and dated now.

Chesterfield (7)

I was very interested in these bookable study booths. Although they look very uninviting and dark they were all in use (admittedly I was there in exam season) but clearly they are in great demand.

Chesterfield (11)

Nottingham Central Library

The Central Library is nestled in amongst the shop fronts and is the Central Library and Contact Centre. The ground floor has some fiction and the children’s area but there are three more levels above. It is a bit of a rabbit warren with two sets of stairs.

Nottingham (1)

A very impressive music section. Staff and help points on every floor. The children’s area doesn’t feel large enough for the city’s population. There’s a local studies area and an exhibition area which is a large square room. The exhibition area felt a bit empty at the time but had displays about the First World War round the walls.

Even though it’s a Monday morning on a warm day the desks were packed with readers.

Rudimentary study booths had been created by sticking display boards between the one- person desks that were by the window but they were very popular.

Security guard, lift, self-issue. The signs outside were green but inside there are blue wooden bookcases with red signs.

Would benefit from some investment.

Doncaster Central Library

Doncaster Central Library is based in a civic area of Doncaster on a street called Waterdale. Opposite the library there is a new council building and a performing arts theatre called Cast.

By comparison the library building looks a little dated. (This is an old picture as the front is now pedestrianised but you get the gist).

The entrance is not at all inviting as the library itself is on the floors above.

However, it was packed with stock:

The library had a refurbishment in 2013 worth £120,000 but I think it deserves a complete overhaul! Someone start a petition.



Birkenhead Central Library

Birkenhead (1a)

I’m afraid I feared for my life on the short walk from the station to the library. There was a family screaming at each other in one of the houses, with neighbours standing outside ogling. I imagined drug deals and hit and runs around the corner. However, I am a Soft Southerner so that was probably the issue.

The central library is in a very impressive building but is now cut off from the town centre. The library closes for lunch (on a Saturday) so I only had 10 minutes to look around as I didn’t want to be one of the people that needed ushering out and delaying the staff’s break.

The foyer was grand with a statue in it and grand doors off the sides.

Although inviting the library felt a little in need of investment. It was mainly a large open area – there was a separate computer suite and an information centre upstairs. The large children’s library was sectioned off by bookcases.

Birkenhead (10)

The back of the building seemed to be a curved wall which was impressive but must have been a nuisance for the carpenters!

Birkenhead (7a)

Off the middle of the wall were double doors to a lovely garden area. I’ve since researched this and found that it is a “pocket park” that opened in June 2016 set up with the aid of a grant:


Chester Library


** There is now a brand new library in Chester, Storyhouse, which I am looking forward to visiting**

Unfortunately Chester library was a bit underwhelming. Chester itself is, of course, such a nice county town. From the outside the library building (an old motor car works) looks really interesting but the inside feels worn and lagging behind most of the other central libraries I’ve seen recently. Admittedly Cheshire arranges its libraries into regions and I picked Chester to represent Cheshire libraries as it was a the county town, it does not claim to be a “central library”.

The library is a good size and it was packed full of stock. I went on a showery July Saturday (my birthday!) at lunch time and there weren’t many readers around. But it was also a race day with race-goers tottering up the street so it’s possible locals stay indoors on such days. The library is on three floors. The children’s library is in the basement which I like (as long as there’s a lift) as it helps contain toddlers and there is a stepped area which I presume is for story-telling. The ground-floor included fiction, music scores, DVDs, CDs, teen section. Upstairs was more like a reference section with newspapers, local studies, more computers and study tables.

Generally, the inside could do with a refit to complement its outward appearance.

Peterborough Central Library

Peterborough’s central library is not in the most salubrious end of town but is in an attractive modern building with a theatre.

The entrance to the library was inviting and, sensibly, windproof with a glass barrier. The library was well used with all the usual features. The newspapers stuffed into grey crates wasn’t too attractive but practical. There were computer terminals dotted around and there was a dedicated IT suite with a member of staff but also signs up explaining the internet was free for the first hour and that USB sticks were available to purchase. I loved this large print keyboard:

Peterborough 2

There were children happily reading and playing in the children’s section, a vending machine area with signs saying food was only to be consumed in that area. It was a Friday in the Easter holidays but there were plenty of staff and the library looked well used but still tidy. I saw self-issue machines, CDs and DVDs and a local studies room.

I am however most intrigued by the stairs that go nowhere:

Peterborough stairs

These stairs are in the middle of the ground floor but seemed to have been blocked off at the top permanently and blocked at the bottom. It also provided a light well and must have been a design feature originally. I can only assume the area above was supposed to be meeting rooms and access is now by a different set of stairs/lift or due to budget cuts the purpose of the floor above has changed.

Peterborough libraries are run by Vivacity “an independent, not-for-profit organisation with charitable status. We manage many of Peterborough’s most popular culture and leisure facilities on behalf of Peterborough City Council”.