LIVERPOOL LIBRARIES; PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE.

An occasional commentary from 'The Flying Column' about urban design, heritage issues and architecture in The Merseyside City Region.

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At a previous MCS Annual State of the City one of the events was about "Liverpool Libraries; Past, Present and Future Social and Spacial Possibilities." This item is was a primer for the discussions.

Greetings from the People's Carnegie Library in College Road, Crosby. Unfortunately, the gates are locked but of course it's not the only one....

In these days of Internet Access, cyber cafés and Kindle Books the Carnegie was an oasis of tranquility. With very few exceptions, TVs multi-channels have done very little to encourage the art of reading, storey telling and poetry. The Reader Project at Caldersones has changed our thinking about the value of reading. So in the Carnegie Library we switched of our mobile phones, turned off the techno-babble and shut out the constant hum and silence was still an important word. We could be welcoming in new "Idea Stores" or community "Fab-Labs" with a mix of monastic atmospheres of collegiate libraries and the art of memory as a true treasury of knowledge. In addition, research shows that Libraries may also make a contribution to society through their impacts on health.

The Carnegie Library was opened in 1906 and soon is over 100 years old. The building was a gift to the Crosby Community from Andrew Carnegie an American iron and steel industrialist, who wanted his wealth to be put to constructive use for those less fortunate than himself.

The architectural qualities of the library are well recognised as a Grade II Listed Building. The beautiful clock tower,  was visible at night and day, is a landmark which marks the transition between Crosby and Blundellsands. The library is built out of red-bricks stone dressings, Welsh roofing slates and an entrance porch with two substantial granite columns.

Overall, the library can be described in a Free Renaissance style reminiscent of Thomas Skelmerdine, a Liverpool Corporation surveyor between 1871 and 1914, who designed the Kensington and Toxteth Libraries. But the Carnegie was actually designed by Anderson and Crawford, Architects of Liverpool.

When completed, the building had a lending library, boys room, news room and magazine room, reference library, ladies room, a rear staff entrance and a spiral staircase that rose to an upper book store. The library then had, as now excellent lighting from the lantern lights and tall windows.

The library, until closure, had an excellent local history section, a special collection of colourful children's books and held a good selection of daily newspapers. The newspaper room was very popular, giving access to current events in the wider world. A regular reading circle met each week. There was even an aborted plan for a poetry corner.

When first opened, coins were buried in the Library foundations and until recently the Carnegie was was a accessible and well used community storehouse of knowledge. Now many of  the Merseyside's Libraries, such as the Carnegie are closed and have the books been sold off ? Sadly, The buildings are rotting before our eyes. Hopefully, these issues about The State of our Libraries can be discussed on the 20th June at The Bluecoat ?

"The Flying Column" is Dr Robert G MacDonald RIBA. President Emeritus Liverpool Architectural Society, Merseyside Civic Society Councillor.

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Further reading from the Liverpool Echo 18 NOV 2015

New future for Crosby's Carnegie Library

The building will be renovated to include a community resource room

Crosby’s historic Carnegie Library is set for a new future as a community resource for local people.

Following an open tender process Sefton Council has awarded a 21-year lease on the Grade II listed building to Bootle-based regeneration specialists Regenerus, the organisation responsible for bringing Antony Gormley’s Iron Men to the town.

The bid was supported by local councillors, the Friends of Carnegie Library (FOCAL) and a large number of the town’s community groups, voluntary organisations, businesses and residents.

The Regenerus plans for the 1905 architectural gem on College Road include the physical renovation of the fabric of the building, and creating a ‘third space’ within which will be used as the base for a range of activities that will benefit the local community.

These could include a community information point, free-to-access computer facilities and a book exchange, training rooms, a music and arts area and a cafe.

The £1.6-million bid also proposes to create a dedicated area for children and teenagers to read and learn, and a dementia-friendly space for older residents.

A renovated Carnegie Library would also provide safe and affordable meeting facilities for Crosby-based clubs and societies, and function space available for private hire.

Regenerus chiefs say they are delighted that their tender has been successful, but they stress this is just the start of a much longer process. They now have the job of attracting funding from a range of sources to enable them to turn their plans into reality.

Chief Executive, Cate Murphy, commented: “We are very grateful to Sefton Council for their faith in our ability to reopen the Carnegie as a resource for the whole community.

“We have had some excellent backing from the local councillors, who share our vision for the building to become a centre of excellence for knowledge, learning and local heritage.

“We would also like to thank the residents, community groups and businesses who have been so generous with their ideas and support, and have inspired us to take the project forward.”

“Clearly the Carnegie has a special place in the hearts of Crosby residents, and we will be doing everything we can to attract the funding needed to secure the exciting new future for the building mapped out in our bid,” added Mrs Murphy.

The Regenerus Carnegie bid was supported by award-winning social enterprise We Make Places who organised the community consultation events, and came up with the initial designs. Surveyors Rowley Szilagy provided detailed advice on the building’s condition.

Crosby’s Carnegie building is one of 2,509 libraries across the world built between 1883 and 1929 with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. There were originally 660 Carnegie libraries in the UK and Ireland.

For regular updates on the Carnegie project, visit www.carnegie-crosby.org.uk