Out and About//Liverpool Central Library Revisited

“I remember this place used to have the worst coffee in Liverpool…” said a relative when I recently took her to see the recently reopened Liverpool Central Library. Indeed, as coffee is an almost religious substance for the ‘Zine, we’d have to agree in hindsight that the coffee MACHINE that once glugged and burbled away before serving me didn’t exactly produce the gold we now find all over the city.

But the grand reopening of the Central Library has certainly rectified that – with a shiny new café right in the entrance, where once the sad looking information desk stood. But beyond the caffeine related contexts we so often entangle ourselves in the library itself is a huge architectural and cultural achievement. In terms of architecture, the ultra-modern interior is a triumph. When I first set eyes on it on the Light Night launch evening I was impressed – amazed even! Although the old building had its triumphs, most notably many places to hide away from reality in dusty book lined corners and a maze like structure that was almost labyrinthine, this open plan vision of literary shrinedom is note-perfect.

Many conversations in the crowds on that excellent late night opening  exclaimed the similarity to the flagship Primark store on Liverpool’s Church Street but in many ways this is not a haven for shoulder to shoulder bargain shopping. The only similarity on the evening itself was the never ending stream of people filling the space, each and every one of them impressed! (Does that sort of thing happen on your average branch of high street retail?) Although notably, the white décor and organisation of the stairs did look a little bit similar so we can put it down to colour scheme similarities only!

The weeks since have turned the idea of any resemblance to the high street upside down completely and the new building is essentially a modern retelling of the cultural and societal impact of literature and the new worlds of technology that surround us. With computers on all the main floors offering high speed internet to all who may possess a need to use them and a games room offering much fun or the kid(ults) it’s bang up to date.

The inclusion of cultural references in the décor as well is telling. Liverpool, like many port towns, has a colourful history with the stories of past adventures still passing from generation to generation now in the form of books, adventures and photographs. The images of the library’s past are atmospheric recollections of the past and reveal that just much has changed – much still remains the same! The library still has books in it, not a million e-readers and on the basis if the public’s response to the building following it’s reopening it’s very likely that books will remain a part of this unique collection of wordy treasures for many years to come.

The crowning glory though of the new library is the viewing gallery on the very top floor – previously home to the archive office. From here you can observe the city’s skyscape of modern and classical features and wonder just what it will look like many years from now. The meeting rooms on the same floor are equally as tempting, offering surroundings that make you feel right at home and ready to work.

In short then a seriously excellent rebirth for a valued piece of the city’s culture – Long may it reign!

Written by Sebastian Gahan.  

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