The British Library joins our Leeds forum this May


Image above courtesy The British Library: Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning


The potential for expanding The British Library physically into the City of Leeds, will be discussed by Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning from The British Library, when he joins Future Cities Forum which is holding a discussion event in May in Leeds at the offices of the international law firm, DLA Piper.


In Leeds, a new district is being created to the South of the city (Leeds South Bank) with the help of a potential move by the British Library to one of the largest industrial revolution-era factory spaces known as Temple Works. There has already been a lengthy engagement with the city council, the developer and local stakeholders to ensure that the project is a success.


Jamie commented at our recent hybrid forum at The Bodleian Libraries' Weston Library in Oxford:


' We are not new to Leeds, as since 1961 the National Library of Science and Technology had space in Boston Spa, close to the city, which stores two thirds of our collection but is not as accessible for the public as we would like. The opportunity now for the British Library is to be in the middle of Leeds. Temple Works is a former flax mill, built in1836 in a historically deprived area. The strongest feature of the area is Temple Works, a massive room of two acres with a roof held up by cast iron columns. The world's first hydraulic lift got sheep up to the roof to graze the grass to keep humidity up, a 'green roof' in effect. Architect and Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi based the front elevation on the Temple of Horus .


'What attracted us was the environment - the perfect conditions for flax production in the 1830s are perfect for knowledge production in 2020s. A huge top lit single room is crying out for use by the library. Another attraction is the location in a deprived area where there no public libraries and few cultural assets. We think we can make a difference. In the way Marshall's Mill / Temple Works had a profound effect on the area in the first industrial revolution, we believe that in the current industrial and knowledge revolution we can have a similar and galvanising effect.'


Meanwhile nearby Wakefield Council will be meeting this week to discuss moving the city's library into a disused BHS department store on Kirkgate, opposite Wakefield Cathedral according to the BBC, which reports that the multi-million pound project will be funded by the council and a £12 million government levelling-up grant.


It states that several chain stores based in the area have closed over the past five years and the city library and museum's current home - the Wakefield One building half a mile away - is now considered by the council to be too inaccessible to encourage visitors to return post pandemic. Other libraries according to a recent council report in nearby towns like Pontefract and Castleford have seen 'faster returns' of people.


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