Barnsley Central Library

On the November Saturday that I visited, the library felt like a real sanctuary from all the football goers outside who were getting rather loud and intimidating. The library is in an old building but it feels quite modern inside. It is largely one open-plan space sectioned off by bookcases. Apparently this is a temporary site while a new one is being built.

The children’s area takes up about a quarter of the ground floor and has a table tennis table in it. There was a café in the other corner where I picked up a snack. The library was quite active with the noise of kids chatting and the café.

Upstairs was more for quiet study there was lots of bookstock and all the computers were occupied.

I was excited to see plans up for the new library building. However local news reports that it was expected to open in 2017 – the council website now says it is due to open in Autumn 2018. It is called The Lightbox and is part of the redevelopment of the retail and leisure facilities in Barnsley.

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Wakefield Library

Wakefield Library is based with a large modern community building known as Wakefield One. I’m all in favour of these community hubs that include the council offices but one problem I have noticed is that they look a bit uninhabited, and therefore uninviting, on the weekends.

Wakefield One was built in 2011. As it is on a hill and you lose the sense of which floor you’re on as there are breath-taking views from the side windows. I came in on the ground floor but  I felt five storeys up. When you enter the library there is an Anglo-Scandinavian logboat which was so long I couldn’t get it all in one photo! It was found in the River Calder when the Stanley Ferry aqueduct was built in 1838.

The modern interiors of the library are very nice and I love the purple signs and dotty green and black furnishings.

White bookcases really brighten the interior up and even prevent the grey carpet tiles being too dour. There were plenty to people in the library, on the computers and the local studies area. The sign showed there is also a café, museum and business lounge on site as well.



Huddersfield Central Library

Huddersfiled c Mark Anderson
Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery 2005 cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mark

Huddersfield Library and Information Centre is the main library in the Kirklees Libraries. It is a Grade II building that stands quite proudly on the edge of a rather dated shopping area.

The library is on three floors with an art gallery on the top floor. There are all the usual amenities: lending and reference libraries, children’s library, local studies, archives, visitors centre and meeting room. There’s even mention of a transcription service.

Although areas show signs of modernisation some of the carpet, furniture and signage could do with updating.

There was a nice level of activity and the staff were chatting away happily giving the impression it was a harmonious place to be.

There was a wonderful Harry Potter exhibition on when I visited and looking at their impressive Twitter feed (@kirkleeslibrary) the network of Kirklees Libraries offer a range of activities, clubs to encourage readers to use the service.

Unfortunately, local news reports that the service is under threat as the council has to cut its budget again in 2018, with a consultation starting in January.

I leave you with the entry from the Historic England website regarding the features that warranted its Grade II listing:

Library and Art Gallery built in 1937, designed by E H Ashburner, steel framed and faced with local pink stone. The plan form is square with a central atrium containing the main staircase through three storeys plus basement. Main entrance facade has protruding central section with central entrance doorway with ogee-curved consoles supporting a cornice, flanked by two tall metal-framed rectangular windows with slightly recessed architraves, plus five at first floor level with cornice above. Decorative panel above cornice. Three windows on each side on ground and first floors. Second floor has no external windows. Bas-relief frieze in classical style between ground and first floor windows on either side. Windows continue in same style throughout, including basement windows to sides. Two free-standing statues in classical style with modernist influence flanking entrance steps, representing Spirits of Literature and Art, by James Woodford. Right return has similar facade with a projecting centre of 8 windows, those on the ground floor have moulded stone surrounds and hood moulds, the 8 windows above have flush surrounds. INTERIOR: Entrance hall with original coffered ceiling and lights, marble lined. Fine Imperial staircase to all floors with brass handrail. Floor paved with chequer design (hidden by carpet). Landing walls panelled in wood veneer, landing floor with original cork tiles. Meeting room also fully panelled in wood veneer with original doors and fittings. Some original bookcases in library and original doors throughout. Built 1937, opened as a library and art gallery in 1940, still in original use.

Sheffield Central Library


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There was a football match on the Saturday I visited Sheffield so I had to pass about 40 police officers on my seven minute walk from the station to the library. There were even police on horses – I had to resist the urge to point out they were on a cycle path. It made for a rather intimidating atmosphere so I was pleased to find the sanctuary of the library.

It’s a large building with a museum, gallery, café and local studies facility. The stairwell had a very interesting fabric exhibit cascading down – reminiscent of birds.

Various sections of the library were on different floors behind grand doors so I didn’t venture in to all of them such as the local studies library or the computer room. The main library had a modern entrance and then sturdy wooden bookcases with plenty of book stock.

There’s a brilliant article on the BBC website about the history of the building from when it celebrated 75 years in 2009. It’s now a grade II listed building but was cutting edge in 1934 with a ventilation and vacuuming system.

There were plans to build a hotel within the library building and build a new library but that seems to have stalled.

Bradford City Library

Bradford c Michael Taylor
(c) Michael Taylor 2014

The entrance to Bradford City Library is quite small but then there’s a much larger area upstairs.

According to Wikipedia this library opened in 2013 after it was found that the previous building housing the library was a fire risk and had asbestos in its walls.

The new library is situated on Centenary Square which has cafes, bars, a theatre, gallery and museum and the stunning town hall and other municipal buildings surrounding a mirror pool. Kids were playing football outside and a film was being projected on the wall.

It was a lovely complex, full of life even on a cold November evening.

The library reminded me a little of Brighton library, particularly upstairs, even though it is much smaller. I think it was the metal and glass stairs, grey carpet and the use of pale wood.


The children’s library has the reading hideaway chairs that are very popular. Only now that I am looking at my photos have I realised that the children’s area was decorated with underpants!

Even though it was Saturday and the library was closing in 30 minutes time there were still about 40 customers and 5 members of staff in the library. It also looked like there was an activity in the adjoining gallery – it was hard to tell where the library ended and the gallery/activity room began which I’m sure is a deliberate attempt to invite people into both spaces.


Grays Library

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The largest library in the Thurrock area is Grays Library. From outside, the building did not look appealing. I wasn’t sure the library was even in there. I could see it was the theatre and a sign for the registry office but it wasn’t until I got to the door that I could see an opening hours sign for the library and the museum.

However, once I was in the building a lovely warm garlicky smell was emanating from the café and the foyer area was lovely. I walked past the box office and to the back of the ground floor where there was an entrance to the library.

According to the internet there was a Carnegie library here that was built in 1903 but  this library was built in 1968 behind it. I don’t know when the original was demolished.

It was a Monday morning and there was plenty of staff and customers already settled in for the day. My overall impression of the library was blue. The carpet was very blue, the seats were blue, even the bulbs in the lights in the toilet were blue. The first bookcase I came across was labelled “misery memoirs” – so clearly the person who put that together was feeling “blue”.


The fiction and large children’s area were on the ground floor. A central wooden staircase led up to a mezzanine floor where the non-fiction material was held, more computers and then leading off to a computer room, local studies and the museum.

A nice community complex on the inside – shame about the outside.



West Bromwich Central Library

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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.

Walsall Central Library

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The entrance to Walsall Central Library is a modern glass box with stairs and a lift but the adult library is within an older building. There is also a museum on the site but it was closed for refurbishment (part of a £4 million overhaul to the building). The reference library and learning centre were upstairs with the children’s and adult lending library downstairs.

The marble sculpture pictured below, called Little Eva, is amazingly intricate. The inscription on the plinth says: Loti Scolpi, 1870. It was donated to the library in 1932. It is thought to be of Little Eva from Uncle Tom’s Cabin although some people think it is Little Nell or Alice in Wonderland. The library also has a locally painted bookbench.

These posters were heart warming.

Nice children’s library with a handy booklet explaining the classification system for kids.

The Walsall library service is struggling with budget cuts and closure threats – The Guardian, local newspaper Express & Star.

Dudley Library*

*Not to be confused with the Dudley Library in Buffalo.

Dudley Library doesn’t call itself a central library but it is the largest library within Dudley Metropolitan Council’s area. The library service is contracted out to Greenwich Leisure Limited.

I like the statue at the entrance which is similar to the one we saw in Walsall Library called Little Eva but I can’t find any information about his one. This was another bustling library on the Saturday afternoon we visited. It has lots of nooks and crannies, wooden shelves and comfy blue seating.

I really like the teen section situated on a mezzanine floor with a purple sofa. Fortunately I had a teen on hand to try it out.

The first floor had the local history and non-fiction stock. Nice, bright children’s library with a huge Elmer poster on the ground floor.

There’s a great tale on the internet about one of Dudley’s library books being returned to a library in the USA eight years overdue. Dudley let them keep it.

Wolverhampton Central Library

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Apparently, Wolverhampton has had a public library since 1869. This attractive red brick building was designed by Henry Hare, chosen through a competition. It opened in 1902. It was built on the site of an old theatre and has a corner location giving it quite a presence. Inside there is a central staircase with two rooms off the ground floor (adult lending and the children’s library) and two off the second floor (reference library and learning centre).

There were wolf statues about town and one in the library entrance called Meditation by Nigel James Kilworth. If we’d had time we would have done the trail and spotted them all.

Both the adult and children’s libraries are full of book stock which I like to see.

The children’s library was nice and had some tablets attached to a frogpod where we saw a small child playing. That little girl had to be dragged away by her mother when it was time to read. My 11 year old then had a go – happily ignoring the signs that said they were for under 5s. At the back of the children’s library there was a bank of PCs for older children.

I love this poster promoting the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals. I saw it in two libraries that day. I follow the Carnegie award and buy up all the shortlisted books for my eldest to read. It’s wonderful to be able to buy a whole batch of books that you know are good quality – they have librarians’ seal of approval. I love seeing it promoted.

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