I have been looking forward to visiting this library, as I had seen pictures of it in other publications, looking new and interesting, with a pool of shimmering water beside of it.
As I have a tendency to do – I walked out of the tube station and charged off round the water only to realise the stairs to the underground were next to the library’s entrance and I was walking the wrong way.
Once I had turned around and gone back I entered through the café which was brimming with people on this cold Monday lunchtime. Adjacent to the café is the ground floor area with an enquiry point, some self-service terminals, some “Quick Choice” books and a security guard.
I immediately saw the central wooden curved stairwell that looked very warm and inviting so up I went. The next level up had a really colourful block carpet which brought the place to life. There was plenty of book-stock, windows, staff, computers and readers.
The next floor up was a mezzanine of study positions around the stairwell/atrium. Most seats were occupied including some by older kids in school uniform. There were chairs with the built-in note-taking arm which were positioned in the windows. There were plenty of meeting rooms on the sides of the library, of various sizes. Several were in use and they must be a really handy facility for the community.
The library’s opening hours are good – opening until 8pm every weekday and opening on Saturdays and Sundays. The theatre is in the same building too.
The whole library was bathed in light but also full of nooks and crannies for people to settle in and study. The children’s library had several children in it, so I couldn’t take pictures, but I was able to take a picture of their boat.
Southwark Libraries don’t designate a central library and Canada Water may not be their largest, but it was well worth the visit! Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian from when it opened in 2011.
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.
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.