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Funding success for modernisation of Bristol Central Library

Funding success for modernisation of Bristol Central Library

Bristol Central Library awarded £117,650 to transform iconic reading room and study spaces.

14 March 2022

Residents, learners, students, and other library users in Bristol are set to benefit from significant improvements to Bristol Central Library, including almost 100 modernised study spaces. 

Following a successful bid to create an event and exhibition space, and to modernise study spaces, Bristol Libraries service will receive £117,650 of Arts Council England funding to update the facilities of the reading room in the historic Grade I listed library on Deanery Road. 

The two floors of the reading room will be transformed to meet the needs of twenty-first century library users and to welcome more community groups, city partners and external event organisers to use the space.

Among the work to be carried out is the refurbishment of the listed study tables, adding energy efficient lighting and sockets for charging laptops and devices, which will create 96 modern and accessible study spaces. The adjacent marble exhibition corridor will also be upgraded to include secure display units, hanging displays and interactive touch display screens.

Visitors to the library will be able to easily access items from the extensive local history collections on new interactive display screens, bringing Bristol’s story to life in a more accessible way than ever before.

Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries, said: “It is fantastic news that Bristol Libraries service has been successful in its bid for this improvement fund from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), administered by Arts Council England. 

“Bristol Central Library is an iconic building built in 1906 and its architecture is of national significance, but it does now need modernisation and sensitive transformation. The work that will be carried out will make sure that residents of Bristol and visitors to the city will have an innovative, beautiful space that will be accessible to all and technologically up-to-date.

“We are looking forward to a greater diversity of people and groups being able to benefit from using the reading room in a much more flexible way for personal, community and commercial use.”

Kate Murray, Head of Bristol Libraries said: “Our vision for Bristol Libraries is that they are responsive, relevant and sustainable, working with communities and partners for the good of local communities and the city as a whole.

“This funding means we can make these much-needed improvements for all our residents whilst protecting the ambience and history of the room but also that we can now confidently open the space up to accommodate events in the centre of the city. This will support both community events and also create an income source that will make sure we can make future improvements to libraries across the city.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive Officer, Arts Council England, said: “Our artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries are experts in making villages, towns and cities better places to live, work, visit or play. This investment means they’ll be able to help more people across England to lead happier, more creative lives”.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson, said: “Culture is the bedrock of society. It brings people together, entertains and informs us, and helps us to understand our common past and shared future.

“As of today [12 March] we are announcing a raft of new funding for treasured cultural institutions up and down the country.

“This will help them to continue their great work, advance our work to level up access to arts and culture so they can be enjoyed by people no matter where they live, and protect these cherished institutions for future generations to enjoy.”

The funding will help deliver suggestions proposed during a citywide community engagement process with residents and library staff which was carried out in 2019. Ideas proposed then included holding more events such as performances and evening shows, different uses for the buildings on closed days and out of hours, as well as increased opportunities for community groups to use the Central Library.

Reading room transformation works are set to begin this spring and the entire project will take two years to complete. The library will remain open throughout the works, so please bear with us and be patient with library staff and workers while these exciting works take place.

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