Manchester Central Library
Manchester Central Library is a circular library south of the extended Town Hall in Manchester, England. It acts as the headquarters of the Manchester Library & Information Service, which also consists of 22 other community libraries. The design was the result of a competition held in 1927 for a new library and town hall extension; the winner was E. Vincent Harris. The library was constructed between 1930 and 1934, but because of its traditional neoclassical architecture it is often mistakenly thought to be much older. At its opening one critic wrote "This is the sort of thing which persuades one to believe in the perennial applicability of the Classical canon". The form of the building, a columned portico attached to a circular domed structure, is loosely derived from the Pantheon, Rome. The library building is grade II* listed. The Library Theatre Company was located in the basement for 58 years but has now moved due to the Central Library refurbishments. Information about where they now perform and the chosen location for their new home can be found at . The library incorporates the Henry Watson Music Library.

The striking circular design of the Manchester Central Library was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Like its 2nd century model, the library is a round building fronted by a large portico. This two-storey portico forms the main entrance on St. Peter's Square, and is surrounded by five bays of Corinthian columns. Around the second and third floors is a Tuscan colonnade, topped by a band of unrelieved Portland stone. The pitched leaded roof appears from street level to be a dome, but this is only a surrounding roof. The dome that can be seen from within the Great Hall lies within this roof, and cannot be seen from the ground.

Interior design
Harris took much of his inspiration for the interior design from new trends in library design in the United States. Great Hall On the first floor is the Great Hall, a large reading room topped by a dome. Much of the original furniture designed by the architect can be seen on this floor. Around the rim of the dome is an inscription from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament:

In former years the dome's acoustics caused an echo problem, which repeated several times any short noise made in that room. Adding sound-absorbing material has made this echo much less. Shakespeare Hall The Shakespeare Hall is an ornate chamber displaying local heraldry and with large stained glass windows. The central window was designed by Robert Anning Bell and depicts William Shakespeare and scenes from his plays. Two side windows designed by George Kruger Gray depict the coats of arms of the City of Manchester, the University of Manchester, and the County and Duchy of Lancaster. The windows were a memorial bequest to the library by Rosa E. Grindon (1948-1923), the widow of Manchester botanist Leo Grindon. The ceiling decorations include the arms and crests of the Duchy of Lancaster, the See of York, the See of Manchester, the City of Manchester, and Lancashire County Council. The walls of Shakespeare Hall are covered with Hopton Wood stone quarried in Derbyshire. On the walls are the arms of The Manchester Grammar School, Manchester University, the Manchester Regiment, Humphrey Chetham, the Overseers of the Township, England, St. George, St. Mary (patron saint of Manchester), and over the memorial window, Shakespeare. On the left landing is a white marble statue, the Reading Girl by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Ciniselli. It was brought to the UK by the industrialist and promoter of the Manchester Ship Canal, Daniel Adamson. The statue was presented to the library by his grandchildren, the Parkyn family, in 1938.

There are four tiers of steel book stacks in the building. The first level is just underneath the Great Hall and the fourth level, the Archive unit, is in the basement of the building. There are 3,600 stack columns supporting approximately 45,000 shelves. Placed end to end, they would cover a distance of over 35 miles (56 km). The total floor area is about 7,000 square yards (5,850 m 2) . The library collections include over 30 incunabula (books published before 1500) and a large number of first and early editions of major works. The special collections include:
  • The Gaskell Collection - works by Elizabeth Gaskell, one of the most important writers to have lived and worked in the city
  • The Theatre Collection - a record of the history of theatre in Manchester
  • The Newman Flower Collection of Handel Manuscripts - works by George Frederic Handel, as well as items of Italian music from the early 18th century, including the Manchester Violin Sonatas by Antonio Vivaldi (previously undiscovered violin sonatas autographed by the composer) and the Four Seasons concerto partbooks.

Library Theatre
The Library Theatre was located in the basement of Manchester Central Library and was the home of the Library Theatre Company, a Manchester City Council service. The theatre occupied most of the library's basement. It was originally built in 1934 as a lecture theatre, and since 1952 had been used by the Library Theatre Company. A 'new' theatre is to open in Peter Street inside the old Theatre Royal from 2011 but in the meantime, the Library Theatre continues its work at other venues around the region.

Famous names
A number of famous figures have been associated with Central Library. One of Manchester's most famous sons, the conductor Sir John Barbirolli, was a regular user of the Music Library. Anthony Burgess, the famous novelist who wrote the cult classic A Clockwork Orange , was a regular visitor to the library during his school days. In a volume of his autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God (1987) he recounted his seduction by a librarian in the card catalogue. Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths, also studied in the library for his A Level exams. Having once tried to use the Language & Literature Library for an unofficial photo session, he was asked to leave by the librarian who did not know who he was.

In 1968 it was recorded that the adult lending stock was 895,000, the adult reference stock 638,200, the junior stock 114,600, a total of nearly one and two thirds of a million volumes. There were about 2,000 reading places and an estimated 10,000 people visited the library each day. There were subscriptions to 3,000 periodicals.

Temporary closure
The Library is closed from 2010 to 2013 for major refurbishment and expansion. Some of its services will be available at a temporary location nearby. - A new community library for the city centre on Deansgate is planned. During the closure its books are stored in a disused part of the Winsford salt mine.

“ Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her, she shall give of thine head an ornament of grace, a crown of glory she shall deliver to thee. Proverbs 4:7 ”


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