Ghost libraries

posted in: Playing by the book | 7

**[This is a picture-heavy post so please be patient waiting for them all to load]**

As we continue to fight to save our local public library, which turned 80 years old last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lifecycle of libraries and how they change over time, and what happens when they’re gone.

Among other things, this has led me to visit several “ghost” libraries – buildings originally built as libraries, but which no longer house libraries, either because they’ve been moved to new buildings or simply because the library has been closed and lost entirely to its community.

Hunting for these “ghosts” has been meditative and moving. I can’t help but wonder what books were read and borrowed, what lives were changed as a result of these former libraries.

Aston Library, Birmingham

Although there was a sign on the building suggesting that it is now used as an religious school for girls, it didn’t look like the building was in use.

Aston Cross (Aston Manor) Library, Birmingham

As far as I could tell, judging by what I could see in the window sills, this building is currently used as flats.

Bloomsbury Library, Birmingham

This former library building now houses a pre-school nursery.

The Old Library, Digbeth, Birmingham

This building is now an events space for hire and is often used for weddings!

Library and Museum, Lichfield

This building now house the local registrar’s office (births, marriages, deaths).

Small Heath Library and Public Baths, Birmingham

This building is now used as a religious complex, with a place of worship and other facilities.

Rednal Library, Birmingham

This former library is now a private home.

If you enjoyed these pictures, you may be interested in this website too: The Carnegie Legacy in England

You might also enjoy the pictures of the (living) libraries we visited as part of sponsored librarithon a few years’ back.

And I can’t leave the post without a book recommendation. This is just delightful:

The Ghost Library by David Melling.

Older children might also enjoy:

The Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (the 3rd novel in the Miss Peregrine series).

If you’ve any “ghost” libraries near you, I’d love to hear about them.

Please note: I’m happy for anyone to re-use these photos for non-commercial purposes, but please credit Playing by the Book and link back to this post.

7 Responses

  1. Julia

    Thanks for collecting these – a lovely set of photos, if a melancholic subject. And thanks for referencing my website!! I’ll certainly update the entries I have with some of your photos, and I must create an entry for Rednal – what a beautiful building, and how great it was turned into a home, rather than demolished (surely that is the saddest fate of all.)

  2. Rebecca Stonehill

    They are all such beautiful buildings. I especially like the Small Heath Library & Public Baths. What struck me looking at your photos is how many libraries have closed in the Birmingham area alone…has this area suffered more than others in the UK with library closures or is this representative of the UK as a whole?
    I do hope you manage to keep your local one open.
    Rebecca Stonehill recently posted..Matala Snapshots: Then & Now and Title for Book #3!

  3. Joan B. In S. C.

    These are some of the most beautiful and fantastic facades I’ve ever seen for libraries, but I guess that’s expected as I’m in the United States. My nearest branch just moved into a massive state of the art building near shopping and restaurants. It shares the building with our school’s district office. I’m hoping moving into larger, more convenient locations was the fate of some of these branches.

    • Zoe

      Certainly some moved into more modern buildings, though not necessarily larger and rarely more beautiful! Several sadly simply closed.

  4. Anne Hunt

    Beautiful photos of a majestic past. Thank you for the ghost journey.

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