‘Marvellous’ Nottingham Central Library opens amid turbulent times for city council

The lobby at Nottingham Central Library
The lobby at Nottingham Central Library
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottingham’s new £10m Central Library has officially opened its doors, welcoming a waiting crowd of hundreds of visitors.

The city has been without a central library for more than three years following the permanent closure of the old Angel Row library in 2020.

On Tuesday (November 28), Lord Mayor Cllr Carole McCulloch (Lab) was joined by children from three city schools as she cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the new centre on Collin Street.

The street, once used by thousands of cars every day, is now completely pedestrianised and features a children’s play area with swings and a see-saw.

The building itself has a café, conference rooms, an immersive cinema room and more than 180,000 books and reading materials spread over three floors.

The library also features 58 computers and free Wi-Fi.

Lord Mayor Cllr Carole McCulloch cuts the ribbon
Lord Mayor Cllr Carole McCulloch cuts the ribbon

Cllr David Mellen (Lab), leader of the Nottingham City Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have been waiting a long time for this. I’ve nagged officers to say how much longer.

“We have got children here from three schools, from Victoria Primary School in the Meadows, St. Stephen’s School in Sneinton and Mellers School in Radford, where I used to be the headteacher some 20-odd years ago.

“We have got other people here, older people who have waited for this facility to be open again, and I think all of them are sharing a delight in being in this building.”

Anayah, A’zaylah and Poppy, all eight years old, said they enjoyed Cllr Mellen’s reading of Bears Don’t Read by Emma Chichester Clark to a group of children and described the new facility as “cool”.

A’zaylah said she most enjoyed the immersive storytelling room and added: “I like all the books and how it has been opened. And I liked the book Bears Don’t Read.”

The opening of the new library is a belated positive moment during turbulent times for the Labour-run authority and local government as a whole.

The council is facing an in-year budget gap of £23m and the possibility of effective bankruptcy in the form of a Section 114 notice, which will be issued if the council cannot set a balanced budget.

And in January three city libraries, including those in Radford-Lenton, Aspley and Basford, were narrowly saved from a previous round of cuts following a successful campaign from the Save Nottingham Libraries group.

Speaking of the future of the libraries service, Cllr Mellen added: “We have got some grants to help pay for it. We had to borrow some money and the money people are paying for the car park is helping us to pay back that borrowing.

“It is right that a city centre has a central library and we have missed the one at Angel Row for a couple of years.

“Obviously it is an investment and it is one that costs money in terms of staff, but I think it is a good investment for our city.

“The city council’s funds are under pressure. We have lost £100m a year from Government every year. So therefore we have to look at the things that are not statutory.

“We’ve got not just a small number of libraries, but we have got far more than that, 15 across our city and a new one that’s just being built in Sherwood and is opening in the new year.

“It would be wrong to say that we are not under pressure to look at how we can make our money go further.”

Council leader Cllr David Mellen reads children a story in Central Library
Council leader Cllr David Mellen reads children a story in Central Library

Des Conway, a campaigner for the Save Nottingham Libraries group, attended the opening event at the library.

He said: “It’s great the city council is opening this marvellous facility today, with state of the art services, but unless they are willing to make a stand in defence of these services – museums, galleries, leisure centres and libraries – many could be under threat going forward due to ongoing cutbacks to councils from central government.

“The Autumn Statement last week doesn’t augur well for local authorities.”
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