Tag Archives: Liverpool Central Library

A Visit to Manchester Central Library…

I can’t work out if it I in America all over or just parts of it this week, but I do believe that this week might (important word to cover myself if I feel an utter fool when I discover it isn’t at all) be National Libraries Week – something I think we should bring over to the UK as a single day simply isn’t enough and a week really gets in the consciousness.  Anyway, back off my soapbox, I thought if this was the case it would be nice to share a little trip I made around the all newly revamped Manchester Central Library a few weeks ago.

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I didn’t really know what to expect and as libraries are such wonderful things I was hoping it would be amazing, I wasn’t disappointed so knowing you all love books and the places that home them I thought I would share.

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What I think is wonderful about renovated libraries is when they are modernised and yet have the history and the old sense of a library, as I think Liverpool Central Library does. Manchester council were clearly on a similar wave length as you have the wonderful old features like the stain glassed windows and wooden beams (above) and then you walk into something that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie set in the future.

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It is done again when you look through the clear glass into the wonderful archives brimming with hidden treasures…

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Or when you are wandering around the thoroughly modern exhibition, café and seating area and find gems of the old library still being used amongst the new.

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Note – I want one of those old archiving files in my house, just saying. It also carries on as you head up to the top floor, the modern architecture meeting the new and somehow, brilliantly, feeling like they were always meant to work together…

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I think on of my favourite classic meets modern designs was on the top floor where you find all the reference books and the shelves, which run on a track, meaning much more space, have been given these wonderful new case covers that stop it looking like some old nuclear bunker, which sadly can be a look in the library world…

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The other thing I loved about it was how light and airy it was, come on, don’t tell me you couldn’t spend hours sat reading in here? I was pretty much ready to move in.

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Now there is a proper library down in the basement, which is again marvellously light, where all the new books of contemporary and classic fiction sit side by side, non fiction, travel etc all waiting in the wings and you can go and borrow books which is most important of course…

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Yet for me the most astounding room was the main Reading Room which I am slightly obsessed with.

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If ever I am in Manchester you know where to find me, spending a few hours with a book or just sitting people watching and taking in the atmosphere of the place. Marvellous.

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It feels like the heart of the place, not just because it is the dead centre and the centre circle of the building, but because you look around and think ‘wow, all these people are using it again, after all those generations before them’ and it seems to highlight exactly why libraries are so important and why we need to keep them, and as many as possible, forever.

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It was a wonderful trip and I think I spent about three hours just wandering, not even picking up a book. I should add that the whole time I lived in Manchester this building was the biggest tease in the city. It was closed the whole time but looked so marvellous from the outside and so, so tempting. So it is lovely to see it up and running. Manchester you are very lucky, though I know I am exceptionally lucky having the Liverpool Central Library down the road – I haven’t forgotten.

What do you make of this renovation? Which is your favourite library, where is it and why do you love it so?

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A Library Reborn…

I mentioned earlier in the week, when I was asking which five books you would fill a library with first, that I had the pleasure of a sneak preview tour of Liverpool’s all new and revamped library. Well today I thought I would share some pictures of what the stunning £50,000,000 make over and restoration book project has achieved because there is no question that it is one of the most impressive libraries I have ever been around and one which should prove a destination for book lovers all around the world as a complete book haven.

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From the outside of the library it looks very like many central library’s around the UK, a grand Victorian building constructed in grandeur and stone that is built to last. Indeed the facade is from the 1800’s and is Grade II listed. What it has hidden behind it though is rather like something out of a science fiction novel or the future…

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Many people have mentioned Star Trek apparently…

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Isn’t that just incredible!?! Normally I am not a fan of knocking down building and leaving the facade but a) I think this entrance will bring people flocking from miles around to have a nosey and encourage people locally to do the same getting more readers via inquisitive footfall b) they didn’t knock the original down but a 1970’s ugly edition that had replaced it prior. So in this case I am all for what they have done and love the welcoming ‘Read’ section where all the contemporary fiction is housed with its matching contemporary feel and shelves that light up.

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As you go on through the building each floor is dedicated to a different zone. ‘Discover’ is a library for children I could only have dreamed of in my youth…

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Further floors about include ‘Enquire’, for all your reference and academic books as well as ‘Archive’ which if you want to learn about the past, not only of Liverpool, has the most exceptional resources…

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It made me feel like I was in a movie and could go and solve some cold case murder. Anyway… You also have the top floor which is named ‘Meet’ where there are meeting rooms as well as the most amazing roof terrace which I think you will find me on for most of the summer sat with a book frankly.

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Though if you don’t like heights maybe take the lift back down afterwards…

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What is also amazing is apart from all this modern wonder the restoration project has been amazing. Both ‘The Oak Room’ and ‘The Hornby Library’ were rooms the public had not been able to use since their construction in 1914 and so were storage rooms. Now they have been restored to the initial glory and are area’s where you can see rare books from all around the world through all points in history.

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We even got to see them bringing out John James Audubon’s massive ‘Birds of America’, described as the greatest natural history book ever produced which was oddly thrilling.

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My favourite room of all, though room seems slightly inadequate as it’s gargantuan really, is the Picton Reading Room which too has been restored to its former glory and houses all the ‘reading only’ copies of books as well as the ‘reserved’ central stock.

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The reserved stock looks amazing, I was thinking of all the out of print or special older editions of books that might be found…

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Because really the shelves are endless…

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Isn’t it amazing? You can tell where I am going to be spending a lot of time on and off over the coming months and years. I am actually thinking of moving in and seeing if anyone notices? Do you think I would get away with it? It certainly highlights what a library can be in the modern world, if only everyone saw every little library as important as the people here have the central library. We need them after all don’t we?

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In A Dream Library…

I have meant to put up several posts and book reviews in the last few days, either I have not thought the book reviews were quite right or good enough (I am still slightly sulking that none of you commented on what has been one of my favourite reviews I have written ever, ha) or I have been too manic in the final few days of Liverpool’s Literary Festival, ‘In Other Words’,  which ends on Sunday. This week the big, big news is the forthcoming reopening of Liverpool’s Central Library on Friday… and guess where I was today?

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I have to say that walking through a fairly people-less library is a very odd feeling indeed – especially one that sprawls over five stories and goes into several different buildings. It has to be seen to be believed (and I can’t give too much away yet but expect a post on it this weekend). I can say they have pulled off something very rare as the library mixes the brand spanking new with a facade from 1860 and the restoration of The Hornby Library and Picton Reading Room from 1906 which link into the main building magically. Oh go on then… as you have seen some of the new I will let you see some of the newly restored too.

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As we were shown the finished building I discovered that it took 4 months to stock the library (with old and new stock – I imagined it was all knew and that they had binned, thank heavens they hadn’t) which has 15,393 metres of shelves which can house approximately 355,000 books. Amazing! You can guess where my new favourite place in Liverpool is going to be! This also made me ponder…

If you had 15,393 metres of shelves at your disposal, for your own lending library, what would be the first five books that you would put in them for people to borrow? I would love your suggestions (I am bound to have read hardly any of them) and will reveal mine when I do a big library reveal blog post later in the week. So over to you, name your five…

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