Manchester Library


The iconic Library (and Town Hall Extension) was designed by E Vincent Harris in 1927 and officially opened in 1934. It was the country's largest library provided by a local authority and was a spacious, well-designed, ultra-modern flagship library; a statement of civic pride and a fitting home for the city's prestigious collections. The Library has been in use for almost 80 years by citizens, businesses, students and researchers and has become one of the busiest and the second largest public library in the UK, s


More recently, however, the role and content of libraries and customer expectations and needs have changed, particularly given the advent of new technology. The library building was failing and becoming no longer fit for purpose with inadequate mechanical and electric systems, poor health and safety systems and fire evacuation procedures as well as being non DDA compliant.  In 2008 Manchester City Council agreed plans to refurbish the library and  it has been temporarily closed since 2010 whilst undergoing a tasteful, ambitious  and sensitive restoration as part of the wider  Manchester Town Hall Complex Transformation Programme . This will safeguard the building's future to ensure it meets the needs of a 21st century city library. Many of the existing facilities require upgrading to deliver a modern library service and to assist the Council in meeting its carbon footprint reduction targets.


Aims and Objectives

The overall aim is to create a world-class library complex, of international significance, that the people of Manchester will love to visit and can rightly be proud of. A series of principles underpin the Library Transformation Programme:

  • Respect what we have:New ideas, new technology, new spaces and new storage methods mean we can accommodate a higher quality, more modern library service and accommodate partner organisations, but still streamline and open up spaces, making a feature of this building's impressive architecture.
  • Make more space: Previously 70% of Central Library's interior was closed to the public. The interior space has now been redesigned to make 70% internal space accessible to everyone.
  • Improve access: This refers to accessibility in terms of improved lifts and access for parents / carers with prams and disabled people, and also in terms of creating attractive exhibition spaces to showcase the archive treasures and increase numbers of visitors who get to experience the library and understand what makes Manchester special.
  • Create a space to spend time: The library will be a place to enjoy and spend time rather than simply to work or study. The space will be a
  • Play to our strengths: Manchester has a unique heritage and the library service is the guardian of that heritage. The Archives and Local Studies Library,  Henry Watson Music Library and our Information and Business Service will make Central Library special and will be presented as major features of the new library.


The transformation project will ensure that Central Library fulfils its role in supporting the creative life of the region by adding to the vibrancy and attractiveness of the city as a place to live and visit. A socially inclusive range of services will be established, removing barriers to participation and fully reflecting the cultural and social diversity of Manchester and the north west. It is anticipated that the library will receive 2 million visitors per year.



2010: Closure of the library

Spring 2014: Re-opening of Library


The new Central Library and services offered

new ideas, new software and new ways of thinking to help Manchester connect with the world. Central Library will also house a centre of excellence for Archives in the North West with a new Archives+ partnership.



Area Challenges:

Growth pressures and cultural infrastructure needs

Manchester City region is home to 2.7 million inhabitants and is the powerhouse of the North West; it is the largest and most productive economy outside London and is a largely monocentric region with Manchester as the economic centre. There are divisions across the city region - the old mill towns in the north of the city region are still struggling with economic restructuring and contain pockets of significant deprivation, while the southern towns are more diverse and home to more knowledge intensive industries.


The population of Manchester (local authority) is expected to increase to 581,300 by 2027, requiring approximately 60,000 new dwellings (Manchester City Council Core Strategy 2012). The city does have a strong retail, leisure and cultural offer along with good economic opportunities currently, but in light of the predicted population increases an enhanced cultural offer will be essential for retaining and attracting new people to the city. The Central Library Transformation Programme and wider city centre regeneration scheme is a big step towards providing the necessary cultural infrastructure for the future of the area.


Business/operational model

Key partners / stakeholders


         Ryder Architecture are the lead designer for the refurbishment of the Central Library with Ian Simpson Architects designing the extended part of the library which will be contained in the refurbished Town Hall Extension.



         Heritage Lottery Fund

         The partners in the Archives+ scheme are Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester County Record Office (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities), Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society (M&LFHS), Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust (The University of Manchester), The North West Film Archive (Manchester Metropolitan University), BFI Mediatheque and Manchester Registration Services.

         The British Library and the 5 other major city libraries in England have formed a Business and Intellectual Property Network


Working arrangement


         Develop and deliver new and innovative ways of making Central Library services, resources and facilities available and accessible to all




         Invest in Central Library capital projects, enhance the building, and provide equipment to deliver and present work


The Manchester Cultural Partnership is responsible for the delivery of the wider Cultural Strategy for Manchester.


Negotiating planning and delivery for cultural infrastructure needs


th century, the city has now developed a new basis for economic success and culture has been central to this transformation.


reduce risk to the Central Library, as a heritage asset, secure its optimum viable use in support of its long term conservation, and ensure that its original use can be sustained in the future.


No major difficulties were encountered with the planning process as the proposals were largely in accordance with the development plan (the UDP at the time of approval) in relation to the location and type of development, the design and layout, heritage and sustainability objectives.


Financing and funding arrangement


Outcomes, risk and monitoring


Contact Details for Further Information


Neil MacInnes, Head of Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

PO Box 532,Town Hall, Manchester, M60 2LA

[email protected]

0161 234 1902