Carlisle Library


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.

Mansfield Central Library


Mansfield Central Library is based in the corner of a shopping centre. There is a lobby downstairs with a desk and some self-issue machines, stairs and lifts. I wasn’t positive the Library was open as there wasn’t any activity in the foyer. Once upstairs I found a really modern library.



I loved the curvy bookcase set up that can be seen from the mezzanine. It helps section off the children’s area and local studies area. There were, what looked like, two grannies having a picnic with their grandchild on a table in the children’s area.


The mezzanine above was great but empty of readers. There was another floor above that which was gated off but looks like it is probably used for events.

The need for two security guards wandering around was worrying.





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.

Wood Green Central Library

Wood Green

I came out of the tube station and there was a sign for the library (perfect – who needs Google maps now, ha!). I had to remind myself that I consider myself a Londoner as I negotiated the hustle and bustle of the traffic and the drunks outside the station.

A short walk down the road and then there is a rather clear LIBRARY sign. It looks like it’s supposed to look like it’s made of paper and it is striking but it could do with a good clean.

The library seems to be off the side of the shopping centre entrance.

A large area was shielded off with signs apologising for building work. This was part of a project to bring the Council’s customer service centre on site and opened about a week after I visited.  I could see the lending library bookstacks and an area with tables that looked more like plastic café seating rather than a study area. A large group of people were chatting loudly that may have been a community meeting of some sort. The library was full of people and lots of bustling activity.

Cambridge Central Library

Cambridge central lib

A very well-used library (Study reveals Cambridge Central Library is the seventh most popular in the country) the Central Library was being built when I moved to the area so has only been open since 19th October 2008. (Local journalist blogging about the opening).

It is accessed from the first floor of one of the main shopping centres. I find its entrance (and existence) rather too unobtrusive for my liking, so I am pleased to read that it is popular. The times that I have visited I have found it packed with customers. People are in comfy chairs and at tables or on the floor. They’re using Library computers or on laptops, headphones in. Rearranging the furniture, eating their lunch and drinking their coffees (despite the signs! I had to stop myself walking round confiscating them!!). There’s self-issue, escalators, a colourful kids library, loos, café and staff. Lots of leaflets, lots of community posters. Exactly how it should be.

I expect the integration of the library within the city centre shopping area helps bring customers in – as long as they know it’s there.

Feb 2015