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Moving the library

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Memories of the move of Mansfield Library from Leeming Street to Westgate

by David Crute.

The background to the move was the local government re-organisation of 1974, which transferred responsibility for the public library service from the old Borough of Mansfield to Nottinghamshire County Council. In the years before this happened, however, the Borough had planned a new shopping centre which incorporated a new library. This was to be the Four Seasons Shopping Centre, and the library, four times the size of the library on Leeming Street, was built on the first floor of the Centre. As things turned out while the old Borough planned the library, it was the new County which had to pay for it! Nevertheless, the County bit the bullet and determined to make the new library as much of a showcase as possible. About £1 million pounds was spent on it, the only saving being in a late decision not to install air conditioning. This was unfortunate as the building had been built with this in mind, and there were no openable windows on the main floor.
It was the first library in the county to have a computerised catalogue and issue system, and to prepare for this all the library stock had to added to a computer catalogue and be given barcode labels. Most of 1976 was spent in accomplishing this task, while preparations for the furniture and equipment for the new library went on in tandem.
And all this while continuing with the normal functioning of a public library. Finally things came together at the end of the year, and preparations were made for the great move. From memory I think we closed for the last week in February 1977 while transferring the stock of over 100,000 books from Leeming Street to Westgate. Most of the books were packed into tea chests by the staff, labelled, and moved to predetermined positions in the new library by removal men in furniture vans and even mobile libraries. Everything had to go, apart from the furniture. New furniture had been ordered for the new library, so all the old oak tables, bookcases and chairs had to be left behind.
The heaviest and most awkward items to move were the safes. These strained the backs of the removal men like nothing else, and in their new positions in the new library will unlikely ever be shifted again. When packing the books into the tea chests, the staff had endeavoured to place them so that they would be able to be unpacked in order and placed in order on the shelves. This worked surprisingly well, with only a few hiccups to spoil the arrrangements. Finally, all was done. We all had a last look around the old library, looking rather forlorn with the rows of empty bookcases, then it was locked up. It remained locked up for the next two years, until the Triple Action Theatre Group leased the building.
We opened for business in the first week of March 1977, and were amazed, though perhaps we should not have been, at the increase in issues in the first few months. The crowning glory for the new library came on the 28th July 1977 with the official opening of the library by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, during her Silver Jubilee visit to the town. It was also the first day of a test match at Trent Bridge, England v. Australia, but I wasn’t allowed the day off!



©1999 David Crute