West Bromwich Central Library

West Bromwich (2)

West Bromwich Central Library is the central library for Sandwell Council. It is another Carnegie library, opened in 1906 and is incredibly grand both inside and out. There are paintings in the entrance stairwell and fresco paintings on the walls of the library which seem to be depicting scenes from Canterbury Tales. The library’s ceilings are painted in colourful reds and purples, there’s a lot of use of green tiles and some fancy leather chairs. There is a metal spiral staircase (although not in use) and leaded windows.

I think this is the first library I’ve seen with fitness equipment in but it may well be there temporarily as part of a fitness campaign. It’s also the first time I’ve noticed a photo booth – very useful. There was a TV on the wall, as I’ve seen in many libraries now, but this was the first time the sound was on! There was a door to a café but that was closed.

It’s also the first library with a foosball table! Unfortunately we couldn’t play as you had to hand in your library card in order to get the ball and we weren’t members. The librarian tried to encourage us to join – pointing out it’s free – but I explained we weren’t local.

Swiss Cottage Library

Swiss Cottage 5c

A recent trip to London for a book launch at the British Library allowed me an opportunity to visit Swiss Cottage Library. This is the central library for the London Borough of Camden. It was built in 1964 to a design by Basil Spence and underwent a clean and interior improvements in 2003.

It is an oval building with two circles at either end; fiction and arts at one end and CDs and science at the other end. In between there is an art gallery, the children’s library, a learning centre, the magazine reading room and a cafe.

Each circular end has two spiral staircases leading to a mezzanine. There were bookcases all round the walls and coming out in spokes. Each divided area had a desk populated by a reader or two. The design allows lots of light in without having to sacrifice wallspace to windows.

The children’s library, according to Wikipedia, was designed by Laura Ford who took her inspiration from Ordnance Survey maps and it certainly is green but I can see how it would help kids’ imaginations soar.

Swiss Cottage 3