Retro: Big chapter in city story

Mobile Library - 24th March 1982'Picture shows Debbie Glossop, Senior Library Assistant, and driver, Mr Harry Young, at work with their mobile library.
Mobile Library - 24th March 1982'Picture shows Debbie Glossop, Senior Library Assistant, and driver, Mr Harry Young, at work with their mobile library.
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As 13 Sheffield communities have had to take over their libraries just to keep them going this week, we’re looking back at other highs and lows for the city’s service.

In 1934 Sheffield was the envy of Europe as the Central Library opened.

The Duke and Duchess of York opened the library and Graves art gallery in Surrey Street.

The new Greasborough Branch Library was opened 9th April 1970 by Ald. P.C. Wright, Chairman, Library, Museum and Arts Committee. This picture shows Ald P.C. Wright (left) accompanied by Coun. Mrs E.A. Hattersley of the Sheffield Libraries and Arts Committee, and Coun. Eric Mann, Vice-Chairman, Rotherham Library Museum and Arts Committee

The new Greasborough Branch Library was opened 9th April 1970 by Ald. P.C. Wright, Chairman, Library, Museum and Arts Committee. This picture shows Ald P.C. Wright (left) accompanied by Coun. Mrs E.A. Hattersley of the Sheffield Libraries and Arts Committee, and Coun. Eric Mann, Vice-Chairman, Rotherham Library Museum and Arts Committee

Alderman James Hawnt spoke of “the dedication of this great building to the service of knowledge and art”.

An article in the Daily Independent two years before it opened heralded the building as part of “the march of progress in Sheffield”.

The building, that cost £141,700 and could house half a million books, was a pioneer in its design.

Inquiries came from Paris and Leningrad for copies of the architects’ plans and a breakdown of how the city library service worked.

The Central Library replaced Sheffield’s first reference library, opened in February 1856 in rented rooms at the Mechanics Institute, which then stood on the site.

Although not more than a third of Sheffielders could read fluently, there were more borrowers than books.

Upperthorpe, Highfield, Burngreave and Attercliffe had branch libraries by 1886 to help cope with demand.

In 1921, the city set about a big expansion plan to serve all parts of the city properly.

Fast forward six decades and to a pretty depressing picture.

In 1992, council chiefs were cutting opening times at 18 libraries and threatening closures and staff cuts.

Campaigns fought to keep libraries including Walkley open and to oppose the cuts to opening times. A year later, people in Grenoside planned to raise £30,000 to pay for a new building to save their library amid more cuts.

In Jordanthorpe, protesters occupied their library and ‘kidnapped’ a willinglibrarian, Ann James.

Councillors approved cuts that led to average opening times being reduced from 41 hours to 28.

Sheffield celebrities including actor Sean Bean, author Margaret Drabble and comedian Michael Palin rallied round to stress the importance of libraries.

In 1995, 350 library staff took strike action as the council threatened to cut extra pay for Saturday working. They won after standing firm for eight weeks.

That year the council planned to close Grenoside, Hemsworth, Hackenthorpe, Lane Top, Handsworth and Concord branches.

At least Stannington was rebuilt after an arson attack.