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Manchester Central Library

Manchester Central Library: Hilary Hartigan

For detailed travel advice please go to our 'Find Us' page.

Manchester’s iconic and recently refurbished Central Library in St Peter’s Square is the home of the MLFHS – the place to visit to explore your Manchester Ancestry. The Library is within walking distance of Oxford Road and Deansgate railway stations and, as can be seen in this photograph, the Metrolink trams stop right in front of the library main entrance. There are bus stops close by and bus links from Piccadilly and Victoria railway stations. The library is fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Manchester Central Library Display Area

Most meetings are held in room PS1 (short for performance space 1) which is to the left as you enter the central part of the library from the main entrance. Occasionally meetings are moved to other meeting rooms, all of which are accessible by using the lifts, which are to the right of the main entrance. We tend to congregate outside the main entrance if we have arranged a visit to another venue within walking distance (or just inside the foyer if it’s a particularly damp or blustery day).

The main society helpdesk is also on the ground floor of the library, almost directly opposite the main entrance (the library café and picnic area are to the right as you walk through), just head towards the tall windows that you can see on the right of the picture above.

Public conveniences are on the lower ground floor, either side of the two staircases, access is via the stairs or by using the lifts. 

Performance Space

Arrive early and explore

Our venue, the Manchester City Library, has a lot to offer. Whether you enter through the grand main entrance or through the sliding glass doors that connect the library with the town hall extension across Library Walk, the first thing that hits your senses is the café – coffee, sandwiches, snacks and a picnic area where you can relax and unwind. If you entered through the glass doors, did you notice the floor? Eighteen of the cotton flowers have red centres, each engraved with the name of a person who died as a result of the Peterloo Massacre.

Library Walk Entrance: Hilary Hartigan

On the opposite side of the ground floor displays is the library’s collection of local history books. This is a real treasure trove and contains books old and new, including parish records transcriptions, histories of businesses, biographies, council minutes, cemetery transcriptions – enjoy wandering through them, and if you’re lucky, you might find a comfortable armchair in which to sit and leaf through some pages. All within sight of the Performance Space meeting rooms, so you can see when the room opens and it’s time to move. 

 “It’s the city’s study, but it’s also the city’s livingroom”*

If you have more time to spare, take the lift or the stairs to the main reading room on the first floor – after the modernity of the ground floor and the glass lifts, the reading room is a surprise because its original character has been faithfully retained and restored. It feels a bit like a hallowed hall, silent and industrious. You are free to enter, to walk across, to look down through the glass floor in the centre – and to exit into the music library where you might be surrounded by the (slightly cacophonous) sounds of students practising piano or other instruments. This is a building of contrasts.

MCL Reading Room Glass Floor: Hilary Hartigan

We know you will want to come to the library again, the MLFHS holds quarterly meetings and beginners talks throughout the year, and often participate in other events held at the library – some of which include a tour of the library archives and spaces are always filled early.

At the time of writing, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the closure of the library but limited access is being restored. Full access will be resumed in some incremental way and we will be able to resume our quarterly meetings at the library. We look forward to meeting you then.

 For detailed advice on travelling to the library, please go to our Find Us page.

Our Surroundings

Albert Square, Chinese New Year: Hilary Hartigan

Manchester Central Library is at the heart of the cultural centre of Manchester, next to the Town Hall which fronts onto Albert Square. This is a multicultural city that embraces the diversity and vibrancy of modern city living and these decorations in Albert square, celebrating Chinese New Year, are just one example of the city's pride in its diversity. The bright lanterns also brought a smile to a cold Manchester day and framed beautifully the city's mix of old and new architecture, all facets of the modern city.

*Neil MacInnes, OBE, Head of Libraries, Galleries and Culture, as reported by