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

When I worked at Hackenthorpe, that was in the early '80s, and libraries still hadn't changed an awful lot. Well, they'd changed; like, we had animals coming into the library. We used to have a farm that came in regular, we had some wild animals came in, snakes and things – which I weren't thrilled with in library! We used to have big events. We did a Yorkshire evening. It was a one-off at that time, but they so enjoyed it. They were singing, reminiscing, they were talking about their childhood, because at that time they were old to us (myself and Chris, who works at Manor Library now). It was just a fantastic atmosphere what they did, you know, but it was a time when you could have drinks in the library and food – meat and potato pies – it was the start of a community, I think, they really liked it.

It's a shame people will not see that part of it again. There's a lot of different groups now – there's a lot of social groups, craft groups, there's a painting group – and they're all well attended. I think with a lot of closures in the area, through budgets and things, a lot of people see the groups as a lifeline. I mean there's a group, Stitches, on Thursday afternoon here. It's not a very big group because, unfortunately, the numbers are dwindling through age. You know, things have happened, but it's really nice and they love to come to it. That and the Knit and Natter's mostly women; the painting one's got the gentlemen in, but the majority of groups are for ladies really. But there's also a bereavement group that we have down here on Fridays, that's very well attended. And then they have Heeley Development come on a Wednesday, because there's more and more people needing to learn how to do the computers now.

A lot of the older generation miss the desk when the librarian served you, not the machine – they've still not gotten over that. It's funny because at one time you knew everybody's name, because names were on the cards that they'd give in. So in some ways you know the people coming in but the names have gone, because you're not getting it all the time, which is sad. I think it's just that a lot of people see them as a community, especially the ladies that come out – your lifelines like the Knit and Natter – because there's a lot of those ladies only come out once a week to see people, talk about old times. They've all of the times been library users anyway. I mean there is odd people that come to these groups and they've never been in the library, but the majority have all come to the libraries.

I think it's sad with the opening times, because there's a lot of people now, if they're working, it's difficult to get in. We used to be opening until 8 o'clock at night, and that's not happening now. Obviously things are easier now, there's a lot of ebooks out there and people's lifestyles change. But I still think it's good that people's coming in, be it for whatever. A lot, because of the baby groups in the area, they were cut, and there's nowhere to go. With the young mums, they don't see anybody and nursery places, they're hard to come by. It's finances for a lot of them as well. We have a midwife group that come – libraries have certainly changed! We're doing all sorts. We do different groups as well in our art space downstairs, so the building's really well used.

Name: Dot (library worker)
Library: Crystal Peaks

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.