Just in time to celebrate its 80th anniversary, the ‘reborn’ Central Library is now open to visitors after the successful completion of a major transformation project.
Central Library is the second largest public library in the UK and its transformation has made it into an exciting yet harmonious blend of old and new. The Grade II listed building’s many heritage features, such as the famous Reading Room, have been lovingly restored, while new features fit for the digital age, such as the Archives+ centre and media lounge, have been added.
Central Library is truly a place for everyone and it is expected to attract two million visitors each year.
Here are ten things you may not have know about Central Library:
1. Opened in 1934
The current Central Library building was originally opened in 1934, by King George V.
2. Air raid shelter
The building sustained slight damage on June 1 1941, during the Manchester Blitz. The basement of the building was used as a public air raid shelter during World War II.
3. Porters & pageboys
Shakespeare Hall was originally staffed by porters dressed in tailcoats and tall silk hats, while the lift was worked by pageboys, who also carried messages across the city.
4. Behind the scenes
Before its transformation, 70 percent of Central Library was behind the scenes, with only 30 percent open to the public. These ratios have now been reversed.
5. 78 apprenticeships
Contractor Laing O’Rourke, and sub-contractors, created 78 apprenticeships through the transformation of the Central Library and the neighbouring Town Hall Extension.
6. 2,000 films
Central Library’s new British Film Institute mediatheque has more than 2,000 complete films, TV programmes and even home movies. Amongst the collection are more than 100 films depicting life in Manchester and the North West.
7. 200 PCs
Almost 200 PCs are available for use over five floors, plus a new suite of Macs and PCs in the media lounge and Wi-Fi access is completely free throughout the library.
8. Famous echo
Acoustic treatment in the distinctive Reading Room has halved the reverberation time of its famous echo, while retaining the room’s distinctive character. The Reading Room is large enough to accommodate 300 readers.
9. Hilary Mantel
Double Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel researched and wrote much of her first novel ‘A Place of Greater Safety’ at Manchester Central Library, while working at Kendals on Deansgate.
10. Precious treasures
Central Library’s most precious treasures were stored in the Cheshire salt mines during the transformation, including 44,000 items which were published before 1840 and more than 30 works dating back to the 15th century.
Credit & Photography: Manchester City Council