Liverpool’s new Central Library

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It doesn’t look very new from the outside, the imposing neo-Classical facade has been there since the 19th Century, but a major refurbishment of the Liverpool Central Library has been completed recently. We were in the city yesterday and passing the library on the way to the Walker art gallery we decided to pop in and have a look.

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I liked the pavement leading up to the entrance, full of book titles

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Inside the main part of the building has been completely gutted and rebuilt. Although the library was originally built during the 19th Century it was badly damaged in the blitz during WW2 and the main part of the building behind the facade had been rebuilt during the 60’s and 70’s. But there were structural and other problems so a decision had been made to demolish and rebuild(before the recession of course, no-one would have committed to spend the sort of money required under this Government)

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They’ve done a fantastic job, creating a five storey atrium with a central staircase that spirals up towards a glass dome

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and the roof terrace, which is accessible and provides views of St George’s Hall

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and over the city centre.

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They’ve also restored the circular Picton library which is rather like the old British Library reading room (you know, the one where Marx used to study).

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This is what it looks like from outside

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An excellent example of Victorian neo-Classical extravagance with massive Corinthian columns supporting the done and the decorated frieze.

So the new library is a really good mix of old and new. Lots of computers and ipads for people to use as well as the old microfilm readers and lots of books. It was very busy too – people accessing the internet, family and local history researchers and students studying. It brought back memories of when I used to come to the library to study there when I was at University. They had a copy of an expensive text on Oceanography and I used to go to the library to read it and so avoided having to shell out for it!

Libraries are an important resource. As well as a repository of books they’re a place to study away from distractions and provide access to the Internet for people who may not otherwise be able to get online – particularly important these days when so many vital services can only be accessed over the web (including applying for benefits) and when utility companies and the like are trying to drive people to access bills online and charge for sending out a paper bill. It’s criminal that libraries, including those in Liverpool, are being particularly targeted by local government cutbacks. That’s “austerity” for you.