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.

 

Chesterfield Library

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.

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This window seat  below was lovely as it made use of the light and views but it looks very “plastic-ky”and dated now.

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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.

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Lincoln Central Library

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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.

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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

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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.