The beautifully refurbished Central Library opened its doors on Saturday 22nd March and we were among the thousands of visitors who passed through its doors during the opening week.
Costing £48 million and taking four years during an era of sweeping budget cuts across the city, the refurbishment certainly had a lot to live up to, however, I defy anyone visiting not to be awestruck by what has been achieved. Just five minutes inside the lovingly restored building will convince you that it’s been worth every penny.
Lots of original features sit happily alongside contemporary additions. It’s spacious and inviting – prior to the refurbishment only 30% of the building was open to the public, that figure now stands at an expansive 70%. Indeed, the whole project seems to have been designed with a view to welcoming people in: whether you’re in the Music Library or the Children’s Library there’re nooks a plenty to sit down and read or study (compliments to whoever chose the seating – we’re loving the upholstery choices!), but there are also wide, open spaces, flooded with light for meeting and gathering. There’s a real sense of flow and connection between the floors, most eloquently expressed in the cleverly installed glass floor of the formal reading room which sits above the uber contemporary archive+ space and café.
The refurbishment has also meant that there’s finally a proper general lending library in the building. Incorporating the basement of the Town Hall extension, it offers an extra 20,000 sq ft of space. Flooded with light and packed with brand spanking new book stock, it’s a great boon for Manchester residents. It also houses the charming new Children’s Library.
Themed on The Secret Garden by local author, Frances Hodgson Burnet, the children’s library is a breath of fresh air. Whilst it makes the most of technology with fun interactive digital projections, the wall and shelf graphics and well-chosen colour scheme make this a both a very calming and very refreshing space. It’s got fun seating galore, perfect for little ones and their parents and with baby changing facilities, a nursing room and a café, it seems they’ve thought of everything. There’s a regular weekly storytime for the under fives scheduled to start and they promise an active programme of events and activities to get young readers inspired.
You should definitely find a reason to visit!