We Built This City (Central Library)

During our recent pamphlet packaging-up work - which, incidentally, got a mention in both the Store E and Solon Room Store Tours - our volunteers discovered a wonderful booklet produced by Stoke-on-Trent City Council to mark the opening of the City Central Library on the 10th December 1970. Although there's naturally no mention of the Archive Service - long-time readers will recall we opened our doors here in 1998 - a reference to the "local studies department", where this publication would've originally been located, appears in the opening pages. Nice!

Despite being relatively slim there's plenty of information packed inside, beginning with an explanation as to why a new, modern, central library is needed and giving some useful facts about the new facility. There's a comprehensive breakdown of what can be found on each of the six floors, photographs of stand-out areas, and a fantastic inclination to get into the nitty gritty details. Thanks to this booklet we know exactly the type of cladding used on the exterior (Westmorland slate on the long elevations), how the building is heated (hot water coils embedded within the floor slabs), and even what types of lighting can be found inside (How futuristic do "reflectorlite fluorescents" sound?!). There turned out to be so many snippets of interesting information like this that we couldn't possibly have covered them all in a single blog post, so we've gone the whole hog and digitised the booklet in its entirety instead. Hit the button below to download a copy and check it out for yourselves!

Mention of the library's construction also jogged our memory back to the Bentley Slide Collection and a quick search turned up a pair of photographs taken in April 1968, two years before the official opening. In the first, taken looking roughly north-west, you can see the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery (then known as the City Museum & Art Gallery and much smaller than it is today) in the background and in both images the mass of reinforcing bars waiting to be cast within the concrete foundations of the new building are clearly visible.

And that's not all! As luck would have it, around the same time as our volunteers were working through the pamphlet packaging the local Sentinel newspaper happened to illustrate one of their articles with a photograph of books being delivered to the new library building. With their kind permission we can include it here on the blog along with another two photographs taken during the build process, one showing the semi-completed structure clothed in scaffolding and the other a close-up of the front entrance under construction. Thanks again to The Sentinel for these!

Posted on 14th April, 2023