FORGET books in print and electronic formats, the star of Liverpool’s new look Central Library will be the roof.
As part of a £50m makeover, a stunning rooftop terrace has been created, giving visitors a spectacular bird’s eye view across the city.
More than 70ft above William Brown Street, the terrace could become one of the city’s favourite gathering places when the library reopens next spring.
The terrace will even be wi-fi enabled, to allow library users to work on laptops up on the roof.
Mayor Joe Anderson, Mayor Sharon Sullivan and Culture Cabinet Member Cllr Wendy Simon were among the first to be given a sneak preview of the roof terrace when a traditional topping out ceremony was held. The ceremony marks the completion of the highest point of the building. Liverpool Confidential was also present.
New on the roof is a 1,880sq ft glass dome, 26 metres above ground level.
Inside, the new look library is rapidly taking shape. The 1950s Brown Library, built in 1950s after the original was wrecked by Hitler’s bombers, has been demolished along with a 1978 extension.
Nearing completion is a new building behind the original listed historic façade. Final fittings and fixtures are being installed in the Picton and Hornby libraries, the Oak Room and the Clayton Stack.
In the Picton Reading Room, the intricate, domed ceiling has been painstakingly restored and all the timber bookcases repaired. Thousands of hours of work have also gone in to matching plaster and paint as close to the originals used when the dome was built in 1875.
Finishing touches are also being made to the main library room, ramps in the children’s library are being installed and landscaping outside the building is also taking place.
A new literary wall is in place and can be seen at the back, and the ground is currently being prepared at the front of the venue for the installation of the literary pavement – a 22 metre long, 4.5 meter wide walkway which will have engraved on it titles from world books, cinema and music, selected by local people.
Mayor Anderson said: "This is a massive project taking place in one of the most significant and prominent libraries in the country.
"Central Library is one of the city’s jewels and it’s wonderful to be able to see changes taking shape and start to get a sense of how wonderful the final result is going to be.
"This redevelopment is also a major landmark for William Brown Street as a whole as Central Library is the final building to be restored and rebuilt in the area – making it one of the finest historic cultural quarters in the UK."
Main contractor Shepherd Construction is responsible for the building work including the full restoration of the Grade II listed parts of the building, which date back to 1860, and the famous Hornby Library and Oak Reading Rooms which will be fully open to the public for the first time.
Throwing in the trowelThe revamped Central Library will also include a new home for the Liverpool Record Office which will house 14km of archives and some of the city’s most historic treasures from the last 800 years - such as the original 1207 charter signed by King John - in purpose built, secure, climate-controlled storage.
The work is being carried out by the Inspire Partnership, which is a joint venture between Amber Infrastructure and Shepherd Construction, with architects at Austin-Smith:Lord and Cofely as providers of facilities management services.
Mike Leto, from the Inspire Partnership, commented: "Today marks an important landmark in the reconstruction and restoration of this fantastic facility. The successful renovation reflects many years of endeavour and an exemplary example of how public private partnerships can provide solutions to create, restore and enhance facilities for the community of Liverpool and beyond."
For the city’s libraries supremo, Joyce Little, the new Central Library will create a world class facility for Liverpool.
Starting as a librarian in Old Swan Library to become head of libraries, she has seen a number of new facilities built across Liverpool.
Asked for her opinion of the views from the roof terrace Joyce Little said: "Stunning. This is going to be a popular venue when it opens."
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