Manchester Central Library was opened in 1934 but feels a lot older with its stunning architecture. The circular building with its domed structure is loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome.
The library has just reopened after a major £50million refurbishment. Now 70% of the building is in public use whereas before there was only 30%.
The ground floor has been transformed into a high-tech, interactive space now known as Archives+. This brings together local history by way of documents, photographs and films in a very accessible way.
The lower ground floor is the new Lending Library which also houses the Children’s Library. This is called the Secret Garden and is based on the classic book by local author Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is an exciting hive of activity for children.
Up on the first floor is the Wolfson Reading Room. This is the library’s breathtaking centrepiece. As you walk through the doors the silence hangs around you like a cloud. It is visceral. The room is lined with bookshelves and as you sit and take in the magnificent dome and the words of wisdom circling it, you feel your humanity.
Also on the first floor there is the Henry Watson music library named after Dr Henry Watson, a renowned composer and teacher born in nearby Accrington. He gifted the contents of his private library to the care of Manchester City Council in 1902. The music library today has some 380,000 books and individual items of music. There are also instruments to try out.
The second floor holds the Business Library where would-be entrepreneurs can access a wealth of information.
What the designers have done with this building is a marvel. The circular system with the grand staircase is wonderful; exhilarating. They have opened up an historic building, giving it air and light using,and showcasing, the original architecture. No doubt there will be people who say that it is too modern (the ground floor) and maybe people that say it is too dated in the Reading room (heathens). For me it is perfect, an absolute credit to Manchester that will have visitors coming from far and wide.