as has previously been mentioned here on more than one occasion, manchester’s central library is currently closed for a complete renovation and repurposing as a home for the city’s special collections. this hasn’t left the city centre without a library though, as the temporary solution of city library at elliott house opened on deansgate to provide services to city based users.
i’ll admit, i was never a massive user of the lending library at the central library before it closed, mainly because it was such an uninspiring space where books appeared to lie in hope, rather than expectancy. stepping into city library, there is more of a sense that this space is here to encourage users to take a book out. whilst other libraries i have visited this week are so impressive due to their gravitas, city library is great because of quite the opposite. there is a simple approach to display, possibly more akin to a bookshop than a more traditional library – surely a forward thinking move to make the non-library users feel at home.
city library doesn’t hold a huge collection, which is understandable given it’s temporary nature whilst the majority of the central library’s 25 miles of books are stored offsite. the most impressive section of the collection is the manchester room, which does what it says on the tin. a floor of books about the city, it’s history, and an impressive range on specific suburbs. alongside this local collection is the microfilm archive, which i’ll admit always makes me feel at home in a library. seeing a broad range of people reeling through archives of newspapers on cumbersome microfilm readers sums up local library services for me. on my last visit i noted two old gents and one group of school kids using this invaluable service.
city library is also impressive thanks to it’s surroundings in elliott house. this grade II listed building fits in perfectly alongside the other red bricks on deansgate, a statement of manchester’s boom years. the building was once home to the corporation’s education department, later becoming the manchester registry office before its current incarnation as a library. the central stairway of the building is a lovely piece of architecture, strong wooden handrails which sweep past subtle but impressive stained glass windows and a single patterned wall.
as a temporary fix i feel that city library is a more than adequate resource. all the hallmarks of a modern library service are present – computer provision, self-service loan machines, and thankfully the majority of the central library’s music library has moved directly across. one final plus point about city library for me is the understated logo. i’m a sucker for a good pun, and leaning a book against the B really works for me.