I have been to town this morning to help beta test the facilities at the about-to-be-reopened Manchester Central Library. The official opening day is Saturday 22nd March 2014, and we were specifically asked not to "spoil the surprise", so this will be the most unrevealing post I could possibly manage.
On the top floor there are lots of books on shelves:
Then there is another floor with even more books on shelves:
There are lots of computers:
While there are lots a lovely new plush 'designer' chairs I loved the fact that they still had these old ones in the reading room, these are definitely more conducive to serious study:
and the computer terminals have not completely replaced the old filing system:
I explored each floor, played with the moving bookshelves, tested the toilets, tinkered with the archive displays, logged on to a computer and dutifully asked the librarians some questions to check their helpfulness. I was disappointed to find that the 'lending library' section was not open yet and will be housed in the Town Hall Extension.
Then I sat on one of the plush new chairs and did the Guardian Sudoku.
Many years ago when the children were young we took a trip to the Central Library, but I confess it was not for the books. The legendary reading room has an interesting acoustic quality that causes sounds to reverberate in a particular way, so we went in to experience the phenomenon: if you drop a book the sound travels around the room and back very dramatically. I experienced another aspect of this today: a group of people were listening to a man talking when I went in, even standing quite close I could not make out what he was saying, but as I walked around to the opposite side of the circle I heard his voice coming from the dome above me, as clear as if I was standing next to him, and even the whispered conversation of two women was bounced to the ceiling and back down to me. So, a word of warning, be careful what you say in the reading room, you never know who might be listening.