It is now nearly one year since the reopening of the Manchester Central Library to the public in March 2014, after three years of closure for renovation work. Perhaps the stated goal of the council prior to the opening, that the library would become ‘Manchester’s living room’, was a little too ambitious, but it remains an important resource for members of the public and students alike.
Despite being conveniently located just a few bus stops away from the University of Manchester (at the top of Oxford Road), this was my first visit to the central library, and I suspect that its facilities are used infrequently by university students. That’s understandable, given that on campus locations like the Main Library and Alan Gilbert Learning Commons are sufficient for everyday purposes. Nevertheless, the Central Library has extra resources that could be of particular interest to history students, such as an onsite BFI Mediatheque and an extensive collection of local archives. However, potentially the most useful area is the Great Hall, a reading room which has space for over 300 people to work in silence. When I went, there was less than a tenth of that number present, and it could be a useful alternative to the university library as a reading area during busy times of the day or in the exam period.
Those who do make it to the Central Library will be amongst good company. Morrissey used the library as a schoolboy, as did the novelist Anthony Burgess. Burgess later recalled that during one of his visits, hemet an older woman wholured himto a flat in Ardwick and seduced him. Aside from famous visitors of the past, the range of current library users is also appealing, and is representative of a much broader cross section of the city’s residents than might be found on the university campus. As a result, it is a true community facility, especially since it is now directly connected to the Town Hall. That makes for a welcoming atmosphere within the library, although I was a little disconcerted by the surprisingly heavy presence of highly visible security guards.
Having never visited the Central Library prior to its refurbishment, I can’t comment critically on the changes that have been made. However, the facility as it currently stands has a pleasing and clean-cut interior and would be a good location to study or access archival materials.