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Submitted by on May 7, 2014 – 10:40 pmNo Comment

There is something oddly dehumanising about the new library. It is a beautiful re-development of the already magnificent circular edifice. It edges up to the Town Hall extension, wiggling itself comfortably into the caress of the hall of the democratic representation of the will of the people of Manchester.

How can one not love the fact that the first thing you see when you enter the library is a cafe. This writer as many will know was ecstatic at such a sight. Comfy chairs dotted nonchalantly about lead you to the film archives. Circularness (that is actually a word) the obvious theme for this circular building. Circular booths circle the artefacts of film, births, deaths and news.
BookshelvesSit in a circular booth, slip on headphones and search the vast media archives. I watch a 1944 film about a boy who wanted a bike but didn’t have the money so was very sad, his accent sounded as though his parents should have had the money and the house he lived in looked like they should have had the money but then if they had the money there wouldn’t be a film for me to laugh at the idiotic paradox of class contradictions.
My real excitement was to view the large circular central hall on the first floor. I spent many a long hour here while at the poly because the poly library didn’t have the books I needed but the Central Ref did. The hushed receptacle of learning a place of dread, fear and panic. The report to be finished, the essay to complete, the thesis to accomplish. This was the place to do it.
This room of huge circularness, with its spectacular ceiling, glass topped and vibrant, designed for hush.
How to create a room of silence full of people, moving, communicating, coming and going, looking for books, removing books, putting books back on the shelves, all this hassle and bustle is noisy.
This is the genius of this most resplendent of Manchester rooms, sound is so magnified, so amplified, so intensified that the slightest, smallest, minuscule tip of a tap becomes the loudest noise, a shocking intrusion, an unacceptable punch in the tranquil shush of study. Here noise is so dominant it creates silences.
This noisy silent room was once a testament of society, knowledge waiting to be explored, free for all. The ignorant become knowledgeable, not by accident, although this does happen but more commonly by design and guidance from those trained in the way of books, archives and shelves.
The handsome wooden circular desk where once many a librarian delved into filing cards, scanned the Dewey Decimal classification, longed for sliding, extending shelving, is void of life.Library interior
The desk stands naked, young library-goers look on in bewilderment at this strange circular manifestation abandoned by rebornists and anti-societists.
The humanity embedded in this expression of collective responsibility has been stripped bare. The modernisers of this public building have a vision of the future and their vision is printed on this refurbishment. Their future of individual consumers of learning is barren and lifeless. Human interaction replaced by isolated acts of self-absorption.
But they dare not remove the heart of the library, the librarians’ desk is the pump that advances knowledge and understanding. For the heart to work it needs the soul. The soul, the librarian has been ripped asunder from our circular place of society.
The desk remains waiting for us to reignite our compassion, our humanity, our soul. The building stands, the books remain, history awaits our doing. Let us, the workers of Manchester, take back our building and fill it with life and love and beauty and people and librarians.

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