Manchester Central Library

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

Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester, M2 5PD – Visit Now

Following a tumultuous 2020, Manchester Central Library has announced its reopening plans, meaning things will be a little different to usual but it’s all necessary so you can still visit this wonderful venue. The Central Library itself reopened on the 12th April 2021, with 60 seats in the Reading Room available, on a first-come-first-served basis. Customers can browse for an hour all the key collections, but overall numbers are limited to 250 people at any one time.

The entire building is open, aside from the third and fourth floors, but you can request a reference book from the fourth floor by speaking to a member of staff. The opening hours have been reduced down to 930 am to 430 pm every day, apart from Thursdays which remain open til 6 pm and Sundays when the venue is closed. These times will be reviewed in June of this year. The main entrance remains in place, while Library Walk now functions as the exit. The cafe is closed for now but the library shop is open.

You can expect increased safety measures, including hand sanitiser points at the entrance and throughout, and masks will be compulsory. School visits and large groups will be put on hold for the time being.

Pre-Covid, Manchester’s Central Library had a makeover like no other. Its iconic, E. Vincent Harris-designed neo-Classical curves have been refreshed to make Central Library the belle of the ball, and alongside a stunning familiar exterior,  an inner beauty has been 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 – everything has been painstakingly restored to its original glory. A 1930s staircase has been revealed in the refurbishment; original ceilings and floors see the light of day for the first time in years. The “heritage stacks” are now visible behind glazing – this is a revamp that thoughtfully juxtaposes old with new.

This is a revamp that thoughtfully juxtaposes 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 new Archives+ area on the ground floor, alongside interactive display units and touch tables in the open plan café. Here too, 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 new 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 Square
  • Manchester
  • M2 5PD
  • View map

Opening Hours

  • Mon: 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • Tue: 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • Wed: 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • Thu: 9:30am – 6:00pm
  • Fri: 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • Sat: 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • Sun: Closed
  • Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit

Admission Charges

Free

Services and Facilities

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

Accessibility

Fully accessible

Commercial and hire services

Meeting & performance rooms for hire