Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Leeds Library

Well, last weekend was our last Bank Holiday weekend until August.  That is such a shame.  I love the luxury of Bank Holiday weekends.  Just having that extra day tagged on to the weekend seems to make all the difference.  Did I make good use of that extra day?  No!  The weekend mainly consisted of housework, gardening, cooking and I managed to fit in some reading.  My daughter unexpectedly came round for dinner on the Sunday and stayed the night, which was lovely.  The high point actually came on Saturday afternoon when I went to a book sale at The Leeds Library and then went on a tour of the Library.


The Leeds Library is fascinating.  It is the oldest proprietary subscription library in Britain.  Founded in 1768, it counts Joseph Priestley (the chap who discovered oxygen) as one of its former members.  The Library now occupies a first floor property above shops in a busy street in the centre of the City.  What I did not know before going on the tour was that the Library owns the shops beneath it.  The rent from the buildings provides the library with an income that has helped it to survive where other similar libraries have been forced to close.  The Library adopts a policy of members being able to look at and touch every single book in the library, however old and however rare.  Just the thought of it sends a tingle down my spine!  When you go around the library, it is like stepping back in time.  I could just imagine sitting in one of the comfortable chairs for hours occasionally plucking a book off the shelves to browse through.  They even have a card index system; something I had not seen in a library for a few years, although we were assured there was an on-line catalogue!   Nevertheless, however lovely, it is a subscription library and although the membership fee includes all reservations, loans, participation at book clubs, talks, and a film club, the cost is £120 per adult.  Unlike the public libraries in Leeds, this library is only open 9.00 – 17.00 Monday to Friday and from 9.00 – 13.00 on Saturdays.  As someone who works full time, those opening hours are too restricted for me to get value out of the subscription fee.  Perhaps when I reach retirement it may seem a more attractive option…


Fortunately, we are lucky in Leeds to have a high quality, thriving public library service that provides a truly excellent service.  A free library service is a wonderful thing and we should all do everything we can to support it.