To represent North Somerset council libraries I opted to go and see the library at Weston-Super-Mare which is called The Weston and is based in the Town Hall. The library and other council facilities moved to the revamped town hall in late 2012. The library seems to have most of the back of the ground floor with council offices on the floors above.
On entry to the library you come to this very attractive, open, atrium-like, central area with a large circular map of North Somerset built into the flooring. The designers have zoned the areas of the ground floor very effectively using the bookcases and different carpets and colours. There’s a good variety of seating, like the large sofa in the picture below. There were lots of customers reading and studying and particularly lots of people studying at the desks along the windows.
The stack ends were colourful, attractive and clear. There was lots of book stock and I noted self-issue machines, water coolers, vending machines, a teen library and a security guard. The staff were in uniform.
When it first opened, the Town Hall and the Library were open until 8pm on weekdays but the hours were reduced in 2018 due to low visitor numbers.
However, according to a local newspaper article in 2016 the library books at The Weston are “overworked” – they are older and borrowed more than average library books in the England. The library budget has remained stagnant even though the local population is increasing and more people are using the service.
It was nice on entry to be greeted with these children’s model making exhibits (below). And draped over the balcony above were banners made locally to mark the marches for women’s suffrage that took place over 100 years ago.
The library was built in 1986 and refurbished inside in 2012. It still looks in good nick with modern signs and bookcases and clean carpets. The library is on three floors with a central atrium. The children’s library was off to the side and too busy with kids for me to be able to take a photo. In 2013-14 Redbridge Central Library was the 14th busiest in England.
As the library shares the building with the museum they have placed some exhibits in amongst the bookshelves which is a nice touch.
There is also a Hub Central – a popular space for business start-ups, where you can use your library card to enable the use of a tablet – not seen a hublet unit before.
On-site there was also the Hardback cafe (where I presume the Hardbacks book group meets) and I saw a knitting group in action. There were few seats available as it was so busy and people were making good use of the quiet study area. There were plenty of staff about – they wore uniforms of black T-shirts and fleeces so they were easily identifiable.
Oldham library has a lovely approach – it feels like it has its own front garden. The new building is from 2006. It has a nice café, a gallery and a performance space. Its address is the cultural quarter. I really like its name – the “library and lifelong learning centre”.
Inside it was very modern, open plan with concrete pillars and splashes of red. There were large floor to ceiling picture windows on several sides. Between the book stacks there were sofas and chairs next to the windows arranged in a sitting room format. They looked like lovely spots to sit and read.
The children’s and teens’ library upstairs was extensive with study desks, comfy sofas, another picture window and high computer desks.
Interestingly the staff all wear T-shirts. I am in favour of staff being identifiable, usually by a badge, but I wouldn’t be keen on having to wear a uniform.