Manchester Central Library

Creative Tourist
Manchester Central Library
Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Manchester’s Central Library is up there with the city’s most stunning buildings. Its neo-Classical curves, designed by E. Vincent Harris, were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, inspiring one critic, after the library’s opening in 1934, to write: “This is the sort of thing which persuades one to believe in the perennial applicability of the Classical canon”.

Between 2010 and 2014 the library’s rotunda domed structure was refreshed, while its inner beauty was revealed with a sympathetic, yet entirely 21st century, refurbishment.

From Art Deco lamps, brass handrails, wooden carvings and the Shakespeare window above the entrance, to the intricate gilded clock and Scagiola columns (they’re hollow; give them a gentle knock) in the amazing domed Whispering Gallery of the first-floor Reading Room – the interior is as glorious as the exterior. A 1930s staircase was revealed in the refurbishment; original ceilings and floors saw the light of day for the first time in years; the “heritage stacks” became visible behind glazing – this revamp thoughtfully juxtaposed old with new.

The library’s treasures include 1846 playbills from Theatre Royal over the road, a hand-written Roman codex unearthed locally and an Elizabeth Gaskell first edition.

Alongside the old there is an impressive Archives+ area on the ground floor, alongside interactive display units and touch tables in the open plan café. Here too, you can watch films in the BFI Mediatheque and North West Film Archive pods. “It’s all about stories,” says Head of Libraries, Neil MacInnes.

The lending library has 110,000 items, a media centre, a unique black history collection (at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre), a Secret Garden-themed children’s section and as well as hosting the largest public music library in the country. There’s also an exhibition and performance space, soft seating and 170 computers for public use spread throughout the building. “It’s the city’s study, but it’s also the city’s living room” says MacInnes.

St Peter's SquareManchesterM2 5PD View map
Telephone: 0161 234 1983 Visit Now

Accessibility

Fully accessible

Admission Charges

Free

Children and Families

Children's library, highchairs in cafe, baby changing on site

Commercial and Hire Services

Meeting & performance rooms for hire

Services and Facilities

Lending library, archive centre, BFI Mediatheque, cafe, children's library, music library, live music, live theatre, events

Opening Hours

  • Monday9:30am - 4:30pm
  • Tuesday9:30am - 4:30pm
  • Wednesday9:30am - 4:30pm
  • Thursday9:30am - 6:00pm
  • Friday9:30am - 4:30pm
  • Saturday9:30am - 4:30pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

What's on near Manchester Central Library

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Manchester Psych Fest 2024

Manchester Psych Fest, the UK’s trailblazing psychedelic music and arts festival has announced a massive bill for its 2024 edition.

from £45.20
Until
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Comedy Balloon

Every Wednesday at Ape & Apple, Manchester’s official underground comedy club, Comedy Balloon’s friendly and warm comedy night takes place.

free entry
An image of author Marianne Brooker stood in front of green fauna, wearing glasses, smiling and looking up away from camera.
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Marianne Brooker at House of Books & Friends

Marianne Brooker will be at House of Books & Friends to discuss her new book, Intervals, published by Fitzcarraldo and longlisted for the inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction.

from £5.00

Where to go near Manchester Central Library

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Summery bakes, seasonal salads and fresh light meals at Manchester Art Gallery’s in-house café, courtesy of highly-regarded Head Chef Matthew Taylor.

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