With Liverpool Literary Festival soon approaching, our Intern Lauren thought she’d get herself into the bibliophile festive spirit and take her first ever trip to Liverpool Central Library… and what a lovely morning it truly was.
Studying mainly in Liverpool John Moores Library and not living in Liverpool prior to that, it sometimes meant that my cultural knowledge of Liverpool was somewhat lacking as I was often consumed by student activities. And shamefully, despite my English Literature degree I found that I never got round to visiting the RIBA Award nominated Liverpool’s Central Library situated in the cultural heart of this fantastic city. This is difficult to admit, I can assure you. The sheer amount of people that would always say ‘oooh you study English, you must love the library here, isn’t it beautiful?’ I would always blush and mumble an answer to avoid admitting that I had never been before.
It was only when I was inspecting Liverpool Literary Festival’s ‘What’s On’ guide that I thought, it really is time to pay this mysterious place a visit. On the festival’s amazing itinerary, not only do they have a lecture from our patron, Lemn Sissay but also one delivered by a favourite author of mine, Ali Smith who will be discussing why the words public and library go together. So, with this all happening on Friday night, I thought I’d go and inspect the difference between public libraries and what I’m more usually acquainted with, university libraries. Libraries are something we ought to cherish within this world of technology, so I was super excited to see what all the fuss was really about!
To begin with, I was amazed by the sheer size of this major library… how can one building hold so many books?! Alongside this awe, it was refreshing to not witness a group of students moaning about how much work they had on, and how much they hated spending time at the library. I was onto a real winner already!
A literary hero of mine, Virginia Woolf, once declared how she: “Ransack[s] public libraries, and find[s] them full of sunk treasure.”
And boy, what treasure did I come across. It wasn’t even treasure in the amount and selection of books that’s held in this wondrous library, but also in the architecture of the building, how people around me looked in admiration at their surroundings and the rooftop terrace which had views spanning over our breath-taking city.
I wish LJMU Library had a rooftop where I could have sat with a book researching my dissertation!
The library also has a history within its own right: The Picton Reading Room and Hornby Library were the first electrically lit library in the UK when it was completed in 1879. I found myself sitting on one of the big wooden chairs in this room thinking about how many decades of people would have congregated here, all doing what I was doing now: exercising my love for literature. For this reason, I can now fully understand how the Shared Reading sessions which take place in libraries across the nation are a massive success!
It was from this experience that I realised how libraries play a key role in our cultural existence and how crucial they are in finding peace and solidarity from our busy lives. Unlike university libraries, public libraries are seen as a sanctuary to those who just want to get their heads down and get creative or become inspired for their own merit and not because they have a deadline to complete.
To say that I am disappointed in myself for not visiting this library before this trip would be an understatement. I already cannot wait to find time to visit again, grab a cup of tea from the café and nestle in one of the many reading nooks that this bibliophile haven has to offer! But, in the meantime, I’m going to book myself a ticket to see Ali Smith’s talk on the connection between public libraries and literature – I think you should too!
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Join a Shared Reading group at Liverpool Central Library:
Every Monday 10am-11.30am.
Or find a group near you on our Reader Map.