Skip to main content

20th February 2017

Top Five: Manchester libraries you must visit

Rhys Walker suggests five stunning libraries in Manchester that are definitely worth a visit

Whether you’re a veritable library lover, or only use them when you’ve got an essay due in that you’ve barely even started yet, they’ve always got our back when it comes to helping us study or helping us wind down. But which libraries should you visit? Fear not, this article will tell all.

5. In at number five is the Working Class Movement Library in Salford Crescent. And yes, I hear your cries of “That’s not in Manchester!”, but it’s in Greater Manchester and that’s good enough for me. Anyway, at just a stone’s throw away from Salford Crescent station, it’s well worth visiting simply for its rich array of 18th and 19th century pamphlets, plays and poetry that wouldn’t half come in useful for any literature and history students when doing research. And it doesn’t stop there. There’s plenty of talks on at the library, with the International Women’s Day lecture on the 4th of March being a must-see (or must-hear, I suppose). If you’re interested in books, history, or feminism then why not give the library a visit?

4. Next up we have the Manchester Central Library which, being just a twenty minute walk away from the University, offers a nice spot for study or pleasure away from the hustle and bustle of campus. Get some work done in the reading room or check out some of the library’s collections! From reams of Elizabeth Gaskell’s original manuscripts, to first editions of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s works, if you’re a literature fan then the Manchester Central Library is the right place to go. If that doesn’t take your fancy, why not visit the library’s Oasis DNA exhibition to see photos charting the history of Manchester’s greatest rock band. Not bad all for one library.

3. It’s a cold, grey Saturday and you think you can only find solace in spending a day looking around the shops of Piccadilly Gardens. But now there’s another choice! With the Portico Library only a mere five minute walk from Piccadilly, why not give it a go? Often featuring exhibitions which celebrate Britain’s greatest works of literature, including a recent 350th anniversary commemoration of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, this library is a must-visit for literature lovers. But it’s not all about the books; the library also hosts a gallery, which will soon be housing a ‘Contemporary Art in Britain’ exhibition which displays the works of some of the greatest artists from around the nation. So, whether you’re book lover or an art lover, this library will certainly have something to offer you!

2. Of course, how could I create a list of Manchester’s must visit libraries without mentioning the John Rylands Library? Being the largest academic library in the UK there’s bound to be something in there that can help with your studies; there’s also plenty to keep you entertained there as well! Why not take in the Jeff Nuttal exhibition, which allows visitors to explore the underground, counter-culture writings produced in Manchester during the 1960s? And for you fans of the Bard there’s an upcoming talk about Shakespeare on the 21st of February that’s definitely worth a look-in! Even if that doesn’t entice you, the library’s astounding reading room is in itself a reason to visit. So, what are you waiting for?

1. In first place we have the wonderful Chetham’s Library. ‘Never heard of it’, you might be saying. Well, despite it being relatively obscure, the significance of this library is unparalleled in it being the oldest library in the English-speaking world! Dating back to 1653, and housed in buildings that go back to the early 1400s, this library has a marvellous ‘old-world’ feel to it. But it’s the library’s range of books that really steals the show, which includes a first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language and an original copy of Isaac Newton’s Pricipia Mathematica. However, if that isn’t enough, there are also guided tours every weekday where you can see the actual table where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels met to discuss their socialist theories. Not bad, eh? Bringing together books, history and science Chetham’s Library is the must-see library in this glorious city of Manchester.

More Coverage

More than Murakami: What does Japanese fiction have to offer?

Why is Japanese fiction becoming so popular? We give some insight into the rise of modern Japanese literature and recommend some of our favourite reads!

How Goodreads affects my degree: The reality behind reading goals

Alongside the growing popularity of the app ‘Goodreads’, we explore the effects that reading goals and endless tracking within the app really have on reading.

The frazzled Millennial women of literature

The Bridget Jones aesthetic has been preoccupying TikTok recently so we reveal literature’s favourite frazzled millennial women.

Books are a girl’s best friend – Valentine’s edition

Treat yourself this romantic season with a good read – books are much lower maintenance than men