Manchester Central Library

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.

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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.


Huyton Central Library

According to the internet, Huyton Library opened in 1997, however it felt brand new to me. Perhaps it has recently been refurbished although I doubt it as Knowsley had to reduce its libraries opening hours in order to meet budget cuts.

The building is modern although the doorway didn’t look too inviting (as I approached I couldn’t see any signs of life and I thought it might be closed!). Once through the automatic door I could see an art gallery ahead and the library to the right.

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The library was a pleasant surprise. The colour scheme of orange and blue really worked. There isn’t an enormous amount of book stock (Knowsley’s population is only about 150,000) but I liked the smaller touches. The knitting corner was lovely, the homemade chalk outline rug in front of the crime section was funny.

The children’s area on a separate mezzanine floor was very spacious, colourful and inviting (I noted the Elmer book boxes – that elephant gets around).

There was a rolling video of locals’ memories from the war in the middle of the library. I found the noise a bit strange but it did prevent the uncomfortable quiet that some libraries can have and there was  a quiet study area upstairs.

Also upstairs were computers, reference and a family history section, plus a display about  Huyton’s Internment Camp.

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The grand piano on the ground floor was a surprise. This is the first time I’ve seen a grand piano in a library but it looked right at home there!

All in all this library is one of my favourites so far.