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.
Lancaster Central Library is in the centre of town, off Market Street, in an old building (I haven’t been able to find an exact date for when it was built). It has two entrances and we accidentally entered at the side entrance that has “Public Library Juniors” carved above the door but isn’t where the children’s library is now. The town’s museum is also next door.
Inside there is a really nice curved ceiling over the main area, with decorated windows which looks very tasteful.
In an attempt to dress up the building there are colourful silhouettes on the walls that look really good. They look alive and full of movement. There are also quotes painted on the walls and corridors.
The children’s library is a corner off the main room and had several children reading there. It is decorated with striking large stand-up Roald Dahl books. Plus, there is, of course, the compulsory Elmer rug.
There’s also posters dotted about advertising the code club and lego club. The Friends of Lancaster Libs Twitter feed and website shows that there are bands and events organised in the library regularly. Apparently Lancaster Central Library pioneered the Get it Loud in Libraries where there are music gigs in libraries. The local seed library, which started in 2015, is often based in the library too, which is a fab idea.
Oddly enough the study/meeting pod is rather close to the children’s library but I suppose there wasn’t anywhere else for it to go. Upstairs there is a more quiet area (and appears to be called the Sanctuary). The library also has the local studies material.
I really love the lampposts outside, that say ‘Library’ on them. I think they look a bit Dickensian – if you ignore the electricity part!
Brixton Central Library was the first Tate free library that I have visited – it makes a change from all the Carnegies. If you haven’t heard of Henry Tate he is the man who endowed the original Tate Gallery in London and whose sugar company became Tate & Lyle.
Brixton Library is the central library for the London Borough of Lambeth. I have an affection for this library as my father worked here in his early twenties (where he first used a photocopier) and the library is always in the press being supported by its community so I was looking forward to visiting.
I was a little disappointed by the entrance but a sign explained that the door hinges were over a hundred years old and had to be sent off for repair and that these were temporary doors – fair enough. The library is now over 120 years old (built in 1893) and, if you have time, take a look at the excellent old postcards and photos on the BrixtonBuzz website showing how the Library and the Tate Gardens have changed over the years.
Inside, the library feels very modern, with some older features still retained – like the spiral staircase in the corner. I am only just realising now that I look at the photos that most of the libraries I have visited have carpet or industrial flooring and yet Brixton has wood (or wood effect) which made the space feel warm in a homey sense.
I was captivated by the glow on top of the DVD cabinets. I don’t know why – maybe I was a moth in a former life. I couldn’t see where they plugged in and I wondered if the staff go home and kick themselves that they forgot to turn them off.
I wasn’t sure whether upstairs was also open to the public but as I saw a few people go up – I also ventured upstairs. The reference and study areas were upstairs and very busy with most desks filled (it was a Monday afternoon in April). There was even a queue at the enquiry desk.
I really like the signs on the wall that look like street signs and the modern study pod was cool.
The library is a short walk from the tube station and on the way you pass Electric Avenue. I spent the rest of the day with Eddie Grant’s song in my head and researched the street’s history.
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.
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.
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.
This window seat below was lovely as it made use of the light and views but it looks very “plastic-ky”and dated now.
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.
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.
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.
Lincolnshire Libraries are now run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd. This was quite an embattled process with vocal sides: Save Lincolnshire Libraries site, another perspective. The Guardian wrote about the changeover in January 2016.
Fortunately Lincoln’s Central Library is still standing and well used. There was a handy display showing the history of the library.
The library has a Carnegie frontage, was extended in the 1990s and given another refurbishment in 2009. The décor still feels quite art deco inspired.
Interesting study booths
Fabulous castle themed children’s area.
There’s also a rather warm and fun Downton Abbey inspired tea rooms opposite the library too – Lady Rose’s Edwardian Tea Rooms where we sampled the afternoon tea.