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Share your stories and memories of Ipswich County Library!

Ipswich County Library is celebrating its centenary this year with a series of events leading up to the anniversary of the library opening on 3 September.

Local people are being encouraged to share their memories and stories for an exhibition which will honour the library’s past, present, and future. With support from Suffolk Archives, Suffolk Libraries staff are curating a display in the library exhibiting historic books, objects, and memorabilia relating to the library building. The exhibition will commemorate the library’s spirit and its place in the town’s history, providing a safe space for transient communities for 100 years and beyond.

As well as showing objects and items for people to view, the library building will become an exhibition in and of itself, highlighting features such as the beautiful stone carvings above the arched entrance on Northgate Street and the grand ceilings and windows in the Northgate Reading Room. The exhibition will include other supporting elements such as an audio tour and a children’s treasure trail.

To help document the project and build a picture of the library’s enduring impact, Suffolk Libraries are calling out for stories from the community in relation to Ipswich County Library and also the historic role of libraries in the town.

Charmain Osborne, Executive Library Manager for Ipswich County Library, said:

“Ipswich County Library is one of the town’s best loved community spaces. It’s a listed building with a fascinating history and has seen many different events and changes over the years. We’d love to hear from anyone who’d like to share their stories and experiences of our library to help us celebrate the contribution of the library over the past hundred years.”

The ‘Ipswich 100’ exhibition is due to launch on 30 April, coinciding with an author talk with journalist and novelist Mike Gayle on the same day. The library will host a series of author talks and workshops between spring and autumn 2024 culminating with a live celebration event in the library on Tuesday 3 September.

This project is part of Suffolk Libraries’ Community Arts Offer which is funded by Arts Council England.

How to submit your story

Suffolk Libraries would love to hear from anyone with an anecdote or memory of Ipswich County Library. You can submit your memory via this online form, and you can do so anonymously if you prefer.

Stories can be shared in various formats and submissions can include uploads of appropriate documents, images, and audio/video files too.

A brief history of Ipswich Library

Ipswich County Library was officially opened on 3 September 1924. When it opened it was described by the local press as a ‘mixture of Tudor and Gothic architectural influences.’ The architect was Henry Munro Cautley, well known in Ipswich and Suffolk at the time.

The library is a grade 2 listed building. One of the most interesting historical features is the 100ft long Northgate Room which is the library’s reference and study room, with several coloured glass windows depicting famous historic literary figures, scientists, politicians, artists, soldiers and sailors.