Friday, 12 February 2010

Mucky Old Manchester: Central Library About to Disappear for Good


Manchester Central Library will soon be closed, and will remain that way for the next 3 years. During this time it will be completely gutted, its 22 miles of shelving packed carefully into moving boxes and its rare and unique archive materials handled cautiously into sealed containers.

When it returns to us in 2013, it will be "beautifully and sensitively restored" and will have grown "an adjoining, ultra-modern city centre community library"; a cyborg combination of faux-classical early 20th Century architecture and glass, plastic and computer.

Undoubtedly, Central Library is in dire need of a complete renovation. Walk in today and you'll note the blocky 1980s font above the ENQUIRIES desk, the scrawled graffiti, the musty smell and the horribly uncomfortable wooden chairs, designed for the early 20th Century flat, stiff back.

Currently, what Central Library is, is a snapshot of Manchester pre-IRA, pre-Beetham Tower, pre-Media City UK, in all its dilapidated post-industrial grandeur. And, despite Manchester's seemingly backwards-looking trend of late (see Urbis becoming football museum and the opening of Fac251), it is a piece of old Manchester that will soon cease to exist.

I urge you to go in, have a wander; before it disappears forever.

Words: James Roome


  1. To be fair although the building is stunning it is a poorly functioning and dated library.

  2. Yep I absolutely agree with you - the renovation is definitely a good thing. What I was trying to get at here is the fact that Central Library is one of the few surviving pieces of pre re-development Manchester, so if you're interested in that kind of thing it's definitely worth taking a look around.

    As you say the interior is stunning, particularly the central room, and I find the lack of sympathy between the Enquiries desk (which has just been plonked in the middle of the room) and the building itself amusing and kind of interesting. When it returns in 2013, it's going to be sleek and polished; this kind of incongruency will have disappeared.

  3. Perhaps if some of that money was spent on creating a proper computer index of the stack, then the collection might get used more. A nice new sprkly interior might be nice for the staff - and for people who want to wander around admring the decor - but a library is still a place to go for books (which means finding them - and not having to spend hours working you way through a prehistoric card index system).

  4. A proper computer index would also definitely be an improvement - however I tend to browse the Eng. Lit and poetry sections and select that way, so personally I don't really use the card index.

    Who's to say they aren't going to create a computer reference system anyway? Has that been ruled out?

  5. I hope that they dont decide to 'regenerate' this wonderful library in the way they have to other community libraries; the standard of books available in them are absolutely shocking. My local library (hulme) contains zero classics and dazzles the purveyors of fine literature with such literary milstones as Jade Goody's autobiography and The Complete Idiot's Guide To Motherhood. Please dont ruin our wonderful and unique library.

  6. The library is beautiful just the way it is. This is vandalism of the highest order.