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Ipswich Library celebrates 90th birthday!

Written by · Published Aug 13, 2014

Ipswich County Library is marking 90 years since opening this week. It is also 20 years since the library was reopened following the building of a new extension and major refurbishment.

A special event is being held at the library on Thursday 14 August to share memories of the library.

The history of Ipswich Library:

Ipswich County Library was officially opened on 3 September 1924 by Sir Charles Sherrington, president of the Royal Society. 5,000 visitors came to the opening event.

The first Ipswich Library was the second oldest public library in the country and was established in the old Grammar School around 1660. The library was then based in the current museum building from the late 1800s until the current building was opened.

The current building was built at a cost of £32,000 thanks to a generous donation of £22,500 from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trustees.

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

The most interesting room historically is the Northgate Room which is the library’s reference room, where many people including students come to study. The Northgate Room is 100ft long with a vaulted ceiling and old oak bookshelves and tables. It has several coloured glass windows depicting famous historic literary figures, scientists, politicians, artists, soldiers and sailors with links to Suffolk.

There are bronze lion heads around the front of the building, which were originally joined with an elaborate chain through the rings in the lion’s mouths.

There is an Ipswich Library trail which children can follow round the building, drawing attention to interesting features and helping visitors learn more about the building.

Extensive work to extend and redecorate the library was carried out 20 years ago whilst the library was temporarily relocated to Bolton Lane. Before 1994 a pulley operated lift system was used to move books from floor to floor.

The library now has free wifi and provides a range of events for people of all ages and backgrounds including the popular multicultural day and world music weekend events which draw thousands of visitors to the library to celebrate the diverse local population. It also recently gained a Carbon Charter Bronze Award for energy efficiency.