Liverpool Central Library

Liverpool, England

Liverpool Central Library is more than just a place of literature, its a community space and architectural vision.

Exploring Liverpool Central Library

"We wanted a new public library space.”

Joyce Little, Liverpool's head of libraries.

Following a £50 million restoration, the Liverpool Central Library within the World Heritage Site of William Brown Street, has become a Grade II listed building and a cultural landmark in Liverpool.

Funded by a Private Finance Initiative, the restoration project employed nearly 200 individuals at its peak. Apprenticeships in joinery, plastering, and concreting contributed to local skill development, aligning with the library's broader mission of community enrichment.

“The gaming area will bring in that age who traditionally do not use libraries, and we have retained the Liverpool Record Office archive which complements the library service.”

Joyce Little.

The restoration and rebuild, occurring in 2011, took two years to complete. In the process historic elements were successfully preserved, while new areas were added such as the gaming room to entice a new demographic. The library was then reopened to the public on 17th May 2013 and it has become an important part of the neighbourhood, with its grand entrance visible from William Brown Street.

In recent years, the library has become increasingly popular, with approximately 750,000 visitors recorded at the museum in 2017. In 2018, the library received The Bookseller’s Library of the Year Award, underscoring its importance and contribution to the literary landscape.

Liverpool Central Library: A Literary Landmark

Situated on William Brown Street, Liverpool Central Library is one of several historic buildings in the area. The earliest of these, the William Brown Library and Museum, was constructed in 1860 under the direction of John Weightman, Surveyor to Liverpool Corporation. Together with the city's museum, now recognised as the World Museum Liverpool, this initial structure formed the nucleus of the library.

Over the years, the library expanded, incorporating the Picton Reading Room in 1879 and the Hornby Library in 1906, both of which are also Grade II listed buildings. Reflecting the classical architectural style of its neighbours, the library blends perfectly with the surrounding structures.

Following its comprehensive redevelopment, the library emerged not only as one of the largest public libraries in the United Kingdom but also as one of its most visually stunning. Situated amidst iconic landmarks like St. George's Hall, The Walker Art Gallery, and the World Museum, its grandeur adds to the cultural allure of the area.

Liverpool Central Library 3
- Kilgarron

Liverpool Central Library: A Wealth of Knowledge

As you wander through Liverpool’s Central Library, you'll discover a wealth of knowledge spanning every genre and era. Its treasures include the Hornby Library, the Oak Room, and the Picton Reading Room, each housing famous collections of around 15,000 rare books. From manuscripts and historical archives to contemporary bestsellers and multimedia collections. But there are also modern amenities such as free WIFI, 130 computers, a business centre, and a dedicated family space.

“We are still providing traditional library services, but at the same time we have new areas for children to encourage schools and nurseries, to spark their love of reading, writing, poetry, literature, performance, and to be creative.”

Joyce Little.

At its core the library understands the importance of fostering a love for literature, creativity, and learning among children and young adults. This is evidenced by innovative spaces like the gaming area designed to engage traditionally non-library users.

Furthermore, the Liverpool Record Office, housed within the Central Library, holds the key to the city’s history. Here, around 3 million items dating back to the 13th century, including archives and printed materials are carefully collected, preserved, and made accessible to the public.

Redesigning the Central Library in Liverpool

Beyond the riches contained within, the Liverpool Central Library is a masterpiece of design. Created by architect Cornelius Sherlock, the building combines classical elegance with Victorian grandeur. Its soaring ceilings, ornate balconies, and stained glass windows create a safe and enticing atmosphere perfect for quiet reverence.

The refurbished library, which reopened on 17th May 2013 was designed by architectural firm Austin-Smith:Lord. After the main library building closed its doors on William Brown Street in July 2010, services were temporarily relocated to the adjacent Liverpool World Museum. When it reopened, the Central Library had several striking new features.

Liverpool Central Library
- Elliott Brown

As visitors approach the entrance, they encounter a 72-foot granite walkway adorned with literary classics, each inscribed with a tantalising riddle hinting at treasures within the library's collection. There is also a central atrium crowned with a glass dome, offering panoramic views of the city centre from its rooftop terrace.

Inside, the library features a modern layout with open-plan floors, escalators, and a wealth of amenities. There is a cafe on the ground as well as a bookshop, and a performance circle adorned with poetry by Levi Tafari. The first and second floors, known as "Inquire," house a vast collection of books, and is where you'll find the historic Picton Reading Room and the newly accessible Hornby Library and Oak Room.

The third floor is dedicated to the Liverpool Record Office's extensive city archives, while the fourth floor, titled "Meet," invites visitors to explore a rooftop terrace and meeting rooms for community use. Throughout the building, natural light floods in through light wells, illuminating features such as the "Liverpool Firsts" list and inspirational quotes.

Outside, the Literary Pavement welcomes visitors with titles from world literature, cinema, and music, while the gold-coloured record repository pays homage to 53 literary figures associated with Liverpool. Affixed to the north wall is a literary granite panel honouring writers linked to the city,..

The library's commitment to accessibility is evident with loop systems, tactile guiding, and specialist software catering to individuals with disabilities.

Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

In an age dominated by digital technology, Liverpool Central Library remains steadfast in its commitment to preserving the past while embracing the future. Its extensive digitization initiatives ensure that rare manuscripts and historical archives are accessible to a global audience, while modern amenities such as high-speed internet and e-book lending platforms cater to the evolving needs of contemporary readers.

Liverpool Central Library 2
- Gerald Murphy

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