National Libraries Day at the Sheffield Central Library

Today is National Libraries Day, a day of celebration and support for libraries across the country, which also marks a year of protests against library closures.

Sheffield Central Library hosted events throughout the day, aimed at all types of library users. There was singing and playing for children, a creative writing workshop, and a tour for those interested in how the library works and what services they offer.

A newspaper from 1820, including stories about a mysterious power outage in the gas lamps, and vice in central Sheffield.

I went on the tour, which was a great insight into what the library can offer, but also the parts that you wouldn’t see as a regular user. We saw the main reading rooms, such as the Children & Young People’s Library and the Local Studies Library, where we were able to look at some old photographs, newspapers and maps of Sheffield.

The tour guide informed us about some of the services they offer, including Picture Sheffield, a database of digitised images, and Help Yourself, which provides information on all sorts of groups and organisations. The library also has the largest Climbing collection outside of the National Mountaineering Library, which must be very popular in this part of the country. We also saw the stacks, of which there are two levels under the library, and the ‘Strong Room’ where all the valuable and precious material is kept. It looked like a prison cell, with bars and a huge metal door! Here the tour guide showed us some rare material, including a hand-illustrated prayer-book from 1490, and a metallagraphica from the 1670s, in which the author explains metals are living things that grow back when you dig them up!

I also went along to ‘Quiz a Red Hat’. The Red Hats (named after the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph) are a group of retired librarians who meet up regularly, connected by their experiences working in libraries. It was wonderful to chat to these ladies, who somehow knew we were all librarianship students as soon as we said hello. We must give off a librarian aura! Hearing about Sheffield libraries in the past, and their experiences working in different types of libraries around the country, was a lovely experience.

Throughout the day there were musicians and singers performing in the foyer, which was a lovely background to the events and set the tone as a celebration of the library.

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