Manchester Central Library
The circular Manchester Central Library is known as one of the finest institutions in the city. Sitting at the edge of St. Peter's Square, the huge, heritage-listed building dates back to the early 1930s, but is often mistakenly imagined to be much older because of its neoclassical architecture.
The library’s distinctive shape and Corinthian columns make it instantly recognizable. Architect Vincent Harris is thought to have been inspired by Roman architecture. Inside, the high ceilings, marble staircases and sweeping corridors make the library a delight to explore. On a rainy day, this is a great place to take shelter. It’s also worth a visit on fine days as it offers an oasis of tranquility in the busy city center.
Visit the large dome-topped reading room called the Great Hall, where you can find much of the original furniture designed by the architect. Look up and you’ll see an inscription from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament inscribed upon the rim of the dome.
The library holds several special collections, including sheet music by Handel and Vivaldi, and an impressive collection of works by Elizabeth Gaskell, one Manchester’s most famous writers. There are also over 30 books that were published before 1500.
Use the library’s resources, including newspapers, books, audio files, films and the internet, or simply walk around the building. The library staff are very knowledgeable and are there to help if you are looking for something in particular. They can assist you with navigating the vast archives and consulting the electronic catalog.
Major restoration work on the library has been ongoing since 2011, which has meant the building is often closed to the public for large periods of time. Check the library’s website before your visit to find out whether you can enter.
The Manchester Central Library is easily accessible from the bus or tram stops nearby in St. Peter’s Square and entry is free. Be aware that this building isn’t the best destination for young children because of its hushed atmosphere.