In 2015 Library Stories started a citywide conversation, to discover how libraries are used and valued in Sheffield today

In May 2015, Library Stories held a reminiscence event at Sheffield Central Library as part of its Multi-Story Festival. Below is a snippet of a conversation between three library users and one library worker on the day.

Dan (library worker): I grew up in Nottinghamshire. I never used the libraries. I first went to the library when I was 21. I used the university library, returned home after university and was looking for work. We didn’t have a computer at home so I went to the library. That’s how I got my first library job. To be honest I didn’t know a great deal about libraries, but it’s worked out quite well.

A: Well if you’re someone who didn’t use libraries then presumably its put you in a good position to reach people who weren’t using them.

Dan: It’d be nice to think so. I think I was instantly passionate about them when I realised that there’s actually so much work goes on in them. It was a tremendous eye opener.

B: You’re exactly like me. I didn’t even bother going to the library at all. I kept walking past, meaning to go in there, but it was so daunting. One day I plucked up the courage to go inside, just out the blue. Since then I’ve ordered loads of books, read them, fell in love with it to be honest.

Dan: There’s something about crossing the threshold isn’t there, with a building like this.

B: I was very scared at first… I use my local one which is Upperthorpe, and I prefer that. It’s very friendly. In here there’s so many little rooms, I get lost. It’s like a maze.

Dan: One of the reasons we put so many different events on in here is to bring people through the door, show them what the library can be used for.

A: The nice thing about a local library is that you can walk there. I have to catch the bus here, but it’s a barrier isn’t it… The whole culture that these buildings were built in has changed. I don’t think anyone at Sheffield Council’s going to pin their future career on making these buildings wonderful again, so where’s the impetus going to come from?

Dan: But it would be a statement wouldn’t it, about the aspirations of the city.

A: Yes, because they spent a lot of money on the theatre didn’t they. I came to Sheffield in 1990, and the theatre has changed enormously. It’s brilliant.

C: In a way these pressures on community services are driving people into their homes again. We will all be sitting there with our little electronic devices not seeing anybody.

A: Talking all the time but never face to face.

B: I’m constantly on my iPad. I’m on Facebook, I’m playing games, I go on FaceTime to see my kids. I’m constantly using it for so many different reasons. And I think actually tablets will overtake the library.

Library Stories

What’s your library story? Perhaps the library's where you discovered your favourite book, made new friends at a club, or sent your first email.

In 2015, Library Stories started a citywide conversation, to discover how public libraries are used and valued in Sheffield today.

Over 200 library users got involved, sharing memories, illustrations and photos. Together, they create a striking record of love, appreciation and support for Sheffield’s public libraries. This website is just a sample of those stories.

This website is a celebration of our city’s libraries, past and present, and an invitation for you to share your library story.

Working with Sheffield Archives, Library Stories delved into the history of the public library system in Sheffield. It traced the decisions involved in setting up the libraries, and gained a sense of what it was like to use the libraries at the turn of the 20th century. Here, you’ll find a selection of these discoveries, alongside photos of library life over the decades.

Libraries haven’t had it easy in recent years and, over the course of this project, many were in varying states of adjustment to community, associate and co-delivered services. Whatever form they take it’s clear that, to many, local libraries are a lifeline, an invaluable free resource, a source of joy. Read a selection of thoughts on and memories of the city’s libraries, shared with Library Stories on comment cards, at book clubs and reminiscence events, and in one-on-one interviews.

Leave a comment, sharing your thoughts on Sheffield’s libraries.

Library Stories is a joint project by the University of Sheffield and Our Favourite Places, funded by Arts Enterprise.

Thanks to all staff at Sheffield Libraries and Archives for their support with Library Stories, especially Dan Marshall and Dot Morritt for helping spread the word about the project and host interviews. Archival photos courtesy of Picture Sheffield. 'Present' photos by Gemma Thorpe, from a Library Stories reminiscence event at Multi-Story Festival in May 2015.


For further information about the project, contact us.