Gorton Library has moved into its new home, the lovely brand spanking new Gorton Hub. Although there is always sadness in leaving the comfort of our old surroundings and all the memories attached, there has been a very definite excitement about having such a lovely new building with all its furnishings and resources for our local community.
Local History has been at the forefront of developing the new building. The interior of the light, airy and spacious atrium has old maps of Gorton blown up that decorate the wall.
The library houses a new Local History Kiosk which holds childhood memories of visiting the Belle Vue Zoo and the Speedway collected by the Manchester Histories Festival in 2014. You can listen to stallholders talk about what it was like to visit the old open air Gorton Market in the 1970s and what a typical day involves at the new site, recorded in 2019 by One Manchester’s Marketplace project. You can even get some tips from Stromboli, Belle Vue’s famous sword-swallower!
It brings history to life through recorded conversations on a purpose-built tablet for everyone to access. The memories can be listened to individually with headphones or in a group through a speaker. The space is cozy, welcoming and encourages people to take a seat and chat about their own memories and shared history sparked by these recordings.
All the interviews are available in full in the Archives+ search room at Central Library.
The library also houses the original plaque gifted to the first Gorton Library, The John Buckley Free Library in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
Underneath the plaque in a viewing case is Thomas Henry Adams the then Lord Mayor’s Diary from 1946 – 7.
Manchester Library Service are incredibly lucky to still have staff who worked in the original library on Cambert Lane in Gorton.
Lesley Gover started working at the old Gorton Library on 6th August 1973 . It was the first library she worked at , she liked the old building , although it was 73 years old it was well kept and even though it was quite small it was jam packed with regular borrowers who would take out 8 books at a time. The small community library was very busy. Mr and Mrs Dalgleish were part of the staff team . Dug was the library porter who collected books from people’s houses when they hadn’t been returned. Edith his wife was the library cleaner. It was a tight staff team, Sylvia Rawcliffe, Jean Riley , Hazel Bentley, Rose Hepburn and the librarian Elizabeth Wilson .
Lesley told us that “Children in those days had to show the palms of their hands to make sure they were clean before they could take out library books.” Lesley Gover, Neighbourhood Delivery Assistant
Can you imagine, being made to show proof of clean hands and someone knocking on your door for overdue books?
We have a wonderful stock team in Manchester Libraries and the new library has benefitted from a ton of new books adorning the new shelves, which are on wheels by the way so that we can more easily configure the space for events and activities in the future. Jo Kettlety heads up the Stock team and she remembers starting out part of her library life at Gorton’s first library.
“I began working at Gorton Library in September 1977 and what a joy it was to work there. It felt special because my Mum had been brought up in Gorton and used the library in Cambert Lane, as a child.
All of the staff were wonderful, and it was like having a second family. Doug and Edith Dalgleish kept the library pristine with the smell of furniture polish and Brasso. Doug kept us all going, in the evenings, with cups of tea and endless stories and jokes. The library closed for two hours at lunchtime and was so busy that we needed this time to shelve all the books and file the library cards. We used a system called Browne Issue, that was developed by Nina Browne in 1895. When a book was borrowed the librarian took one of the reader’s borrowing cards and removed the book’s own card. The two cards were filed together, into trays, by date of issue, and within date by Author, Title and the book’s accession number. No computers in those days!
Looking back, the system was long winded, but you certainly got to know your readers well. When they returned their books, you chatted whilst looking for their tickets. Woe betides anyone who had filed incorrectly.
As the youngest staff recruit, my weekly task was to clean the two terrapins that we owned. I still remember how much their water smelled!” – Jo Kettlety, Service Development Specialist: Stock
Lastly, Sue Moores who currently oversees the five libraries that make up the Central Area of Manchester which encompasses the new Gorton Library and formerly the library we moved out of, shares her memories. Sue started working in the original library in 1981; she enjoyed working with the people that came into it. One of her fond memories is of the man who dressed as a cowboy with his hat and took out 8 western books regularly. There was Mrs. Shaw who had 8 books in her truck and was always hungry for new titles which the staff had put to one side.
“The queues for the library were all down Cambert Lane even to the front of the Conservative Club. It was like we were giving stuff away. The buzz and talking while people waited to be served was brilliant.” – Sue Moores, Service Development Specialist – Central Area Libraries
Library staff took the best part of the week to complete the herculean task of packing up the old and assembling the new library. Library manager Sue and colleague Vanessa implemented a zero-waste policy for the move and organized for community organizations to benefit from the furniture and various resources that were not making their way to the new library. Groups that have benefitted from this have included Gorton Children’s Centre, who inherited some beautifully cleaned up toys and other resources for young children, Rethink Rebuild, Rainbow Haven & Thriving Together to name a few.
The library has already experienced many new customers as well as all our lovely regulars. The Lego Club extended its hours the first Saturday open, it was so inundated with children and families. Community groups have re-started activities and new memories are well on the way to being made. There is an overwhelming appreciation and enjoyment of the new facilities. Library Manager Sue Crutchley has put out a Comments Book for customers that is full of lovely words.
“The new library has lovely new chairs and sofas which are great to sit comfortably on giving the opportunity to lose yourself in a book. The books available are really interesting. Thank you for building the new library – we will be regular visitors” Esme & Elias
“What a lovely space & a lovely welcome, as always I appreciate the lovely staff” – Joan
One child upon leaving the library thanked a member of staff, asked what the thanks were for, he threw his arms out and answered, “for this!”
Customers and staff said goodbye to the old library, also on Garratt Way, with a lovely party with a day of celebrations, arts & craft activities with artists Nayna Lad and Mandy Cleveland, memories and plenty of tea and cake! Lots and lots of people popped in, stayed the day, and popped in out through the day. In fact, the library manager had to revisit the local supermarket for more cakes twice during the day! Archives + recorded people’s memories and there was a lot of reminiscing. Gorton Library has been a huge feature in people’s lives, and it will continue to be in this next chapter!