Sneak preview of restored library

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The famous clock that sits in the Picton Reading Room has been restored

The famous clock that sits in the Picton Reading Room has been restored

JMU Journalism has been given a special preview of the newly refurbished Liverpool Central Library ahead of its re-opening in May.

The £50 million restoration project is due to be completed and open to the public on May 17th, with more than 4 million items being returned to the shelves.

The majority of the items held by the library are currently in four different locations across the city, with the most precious artefacts, including the original City Charter of 1208, being kept in a bunker 500ft below ground level in a salt mine in Cheshire.

The library is expecting more than 1million visitors inside its first year with new attractions including free wifi, a café, gaming centre and a 24 hour book drop, and Liverpool City Council has announced a literary festival to celebrate the reopening.

The library is centred around a glass dome that tops the building, directly above the ground floor “performance circle”, decorated with a poem by Liverpool’s Levi Tafari, while a 22-metre literary pavement, engraved with titles from world books, cinema and music, welcomes visitors as the enter the building.

A view of the dome from the top floor

A view of the dome from the top floor

The building also includes a showpiece four-storey central atrium with escalators up to public roof terrace overlooking the city; a children’s library called “Discover” in the former international library below the Picton Reading Room; and an “Imagine” space for music and gaming, as well as over 150 computers and iPads for public use.

The majority of the work done since its closure in 2010 has been on demolishing the old Brown Library, built in the 1950s, as well as the 1978 extension, and constructing a new building behind the library’s Grade-II listed section.

A major challenge for the architects and engineers was reconstructing the Picton Reading Room, including the procedure of French polishing all of the shelves in the room and restoring the intricate design around the walls.

Joyce Little, Liverpool City Coucil’s head of libraries, told JMU Journalism: “Thousands of hours has gone into making sure the room matches the paint and plaster work from the original design in 1875.”

The Hornby Library has never before been open to the public

The Hornby Library has never before been open to the public

Work has also included the restoration of the Hornby Library, which was built with a donation from Liverpool merchant Hugh Frederick Hornby in 1906. This spectacular stone section of the library has never before been open to the public.

The library also features a state-of-the-art repository which will hold thousands of delicate artefacts and documents.

The room is controlled by a thermostat to keep the items at the correct temperature for preservation.

Mrs Little said:  “We wanted a new public library space, an archive repository which met British standards.

“We wanted to restore the historic areas and make the library a visitor destination in its own right.

“We were aware of the high level of tourism in the city and people are going to see other fabulous buildings, but we had the Picton library and it was a shame not seeing it, and I feel that we have met all these ambitions.”

About Rory O'Reilly, JMU Journalism