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

While I was at school, my dad was a caretaker so I'd go in after school every night and help. That's how I got into libraries. I started as a library helper, then I got a job in libraries… It's not just about books anymore. Everybody wants something different – a computer or to read a newspaper. People have to apply for benefits online now, so they have to come in and sit at a computer and do all that... Schools are being told they have to work with libraries, raising literacy levels and so on. They're going to keep using libraries – obviously they'll be very different when they grow up, but if you grab them young, get them interested in books, they'll keep coming… Doing your stock in the morning was how we used to know exactly what we'd got. It was always far more satisfying saying "ooh, I've seen that book this morning, it's still in – I'll take you to it" you know... That goes, because you've got so much other things to do you don't touch the books so much anymore… We're having to justify everything we do to prove to politicians that we are needed... And we're still busy. People are still coming in. Though they've cut the opening hours, to half days, and people don't know where they are... They wanted to know why our computer sessions had dropped. Because it was loads of people using them and then all of a sudden a big drop. Well at one of my libraries, we close at 2 o'clock. We used to, from 2 o'clock when the kids came out of school – we were full. So we lose all those issues [issues include computer sessions, ebooks and emagazines, as well as books, films and DVDs] – the kids can't even use them because they're shut when they come out of school. So that’s why things look like they aren't doing good, because things have been put in place making it difficult for people to access them…

I had to reapply for my job a while ago. I was lucky, but I don’t know what else I would do – I’ve worked in libraries since I left school.

Name: Andrew (library worker)

Story shared in a conversation at a Library Stories reminiscence session at Crystal Peaks Library in April 2015.

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.