Manchester City Council

The Council & democracy Central Library Refurbishment

Proposals to transform Central Library

Central Library will re-open on Saturday 22 March 2014, a brighter and more exciting place with more space available to customers and visitors than ever before. It will be joined at lower ground level to the brand new extended Central Library that is being developed in the Town Hall extension, where the temporary city library is currently based. The aim is to create a world-class library complex, of international significance, that the people of Manchester will love to visit and can rightly be proud of.

Its new archive centre will bring together a detailed and fascinating picture of our region's past, housing materials from a range of partners. Access, storage, interpretation and display will all be hugely improved, providing a fitting showcase for Manchester's treasures.

There will also be extensive book and multi media collections, learning spaces for groups and individual quiet study, performance spaces and cafes.

Central Library reborn

When Central Library first opened in 1934, it was a spacious, well-designed, ultra-modern flagship library; a statement of civic pride and a fitting home for the city's prestigious collections. In the intervening years, the role and content of libraries and customer expectations have changed. More services have been developed and crammed into the available spaces, and it's been done in a piecemeal way. The library became tired and cluttered. It was time to re-think the way the building was used, to empty it out and start afresh, bringing back the best of the collection and introducing new services and new ways of delivering those services.

The library refurbishment will work to a small number of key principles:

  • Respect what we have  - over the years, we have filled this beautiful building almost to bursting point. If we use the library space in a smarter, more efficient way, we can make it more like it was when it first opened. New ideas, new technology and new storage methods mean we can accommodate a better, more modern library service and accommodate partner organisations, but still streamline and open up spaces, making a feature of this building's impressive architecture.
  • Make more space - previously 70% of Central Library's interior was closed to the public. A major part of this off-limits space consisted of the book stacks, the underground areas where over a million books were stored and retrieved for customers by library staff. Sending people down to collect books means that those books had to be stored on open shelves, with walkways in between. We have redesigned the interior space so we can store more in less space so that we can convert former storage/staff areas into space for more of our most popular books out on open display so that the people of Manchester and visitors can access them.
  • Improve access - this isn't just about sorting out Central Library's small lifts and the things which make access difficult for parents and carers with prams and disabled people. Although these issues are at the top of our list, it's also about putting more things within reach. We want clearly defined, attractive exhibition spaces to showcase our archive treasures and help vastly increased numbers of people to experience more of what's in the library and to better understand what makes our city special.
  • Create a place to spend time - we don't want the new library to just be a place where you come if you have an essay to write. We want you to relax there, meet your friends, drink coffee, enjoy performances, go online or just browse for a few impulse take-home treats. We want you to consider the Central Library home-from-home, open for longer and open for everyone.
  • Take advantage of technology - we are still developing plans for the use of technology but we know that leading edge technology is really going to help us to deliver better services in the future and we wish to free up our valuable staff time to help you make the most of your library, archive and information services.
  • Play to our strengths - Manchester is a major city, with a unique heritage and as a library service, we take our role as guardians of that heritage very seriously.  We believe that the Archives and Local Studies service and the Henry Watson Music Library make Central Library special and we intend to make a real feature of them in the new library.
  • Archives+ - will offer a wonderful, purpose-built showcase and repository for the region's archive and family history. The Archives+ partnership will build on the appetite and demand for accessible community history and personal heritage. This one-stop-shop will make it easier than ever before to find what you're looking for.
  • The Extended Central Library (based in the Town Hall Extension) - will be integrated with a customer service centre providing a one stop shop front for Council services. Open for longer than ever before; the library will be packed with all the things you like best, from best-sellers to DVDs, music and computers. There'll be something on our shelves for every taste. This is where new technology will really play its part in making the library more convenient than it's ever been. You'll be able to browse online, then call to pick up what you've chosen, then issue it yourself with your library card. You'll be able to download e-books and audio books from home or in the library. Everyone will find a niche in the extended Central Library, there'll be songs and stories for little ones in a bright and exciting children's zone; young people will have a place of their own with computers for school or for gaming, plus books and study support. There'll be a decent latte in the cafĂ© and a comfy place to sit while you sip it. We'll have quiet places and noisy places, you simply choose where you want to be that day. New layouts and technology will enable all types of visit, from groups working collaboratively on projects through to those who want to read the paper in peace.

In the past, libraries were all about books. Now they're about people. 

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