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

Sheffield Libraries often run reminiscence groups, and in April 2015 we held a library-themed reminiscence session at Crystal Peaks. Nine people joined in, including one former and two current library workers, and the discussion moved from childhood libraries to Kindles to Terry Pratchett. Below are snippets from the conversation.

Margaret: I've just come back about 8 weeks ago to live in Sheffield. Last week I went to Surrey Street on the tram to see the library and it's all exactly as it used to be, but the walls are white whereas it was all dark brown before and really intimidating. I've got a memory of walking down the library and hearing a piano tinkling and people singing, and I rather had the idea that they used to do music lessons there. I was fascinated to see it again, I just sat there for quite a while.

Beryl: Can you remember music recitals? Before everyone had their own music, they used to put on recitals. And we used to have film shows for the children. You can't imagine it now – a hundred children in a queue outside waiting to come to see old films.

Judith: My library was Broomhill, I went there from when I was quite young. I still go, or I go to Surrey Street… I did used to have the library bus come. I didn't really need it; I only joined to help out the old ladies nearby who couldn't get out to the library.

Muriel: I go to Greenhill. I used to buy my books, I spent a lot – a lot – of money. I've got a library at home, upstairs, downstairs, in cupboards. All sorts. No love stories. No Mills and Boons. I like thrillers, sci-fi, adventure, stuff like that. I've got four or five library books out now.

Tracy: Obviously you all love libraries lots!

Margaret: Well that was the first question I asked my son, when he said "I've found a house for you in Waterthorpe" – I've only been here 8 weeks – the first thing I said was "is there a library nearby?" Because that's so important.

(What’s your favourite thing about the library?)

Joan: It's free.

Beryl: It's open to everybody.

Enid: Meetings like this. A chat.

Muriel: The books.

Margaret: The friendly staff. I don't feel like I shouldn't be there, or people are looking at me, I can just finish my book.

Judith: It used to be that I'd read a lot of books, three or four a week, but I lately I've not been able to because I've not been very well. At the moment, it's coming to these groups. I'm trying to get back into reading again but my memory's not very good... It's going out to meet people, to start getting into things so I can get better at remembering things.

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.