On this day … 30 December 1893

The Preston Guardian reported that the Harris Lending Library and Reading Room would open on 1 January, 1894, fifteen years to the day after the council opened the Free Library in the Town Hall, which would now close with all its books transferred across the road to the new library.

The Reading Room, Harris Public Library, Preston c.1895
The Harris Reference Library shortly after it opened. Source: Barney Smith’s Preston Digital Archive.

What is especially surprising is that in its early days the reference library was segregated, with separate sections for men and for women, as the photograph taken around 1895 shows.

When James Hibbert, the architect of the Harris, was setting out his plans for the library, he was determined that no unruly elements should disturb the studious calm of the reference library, as Hewitson recorded in his History of Preston, quoting from Hibbert’s report:

… to secure quietude and freedom from interruption for the more studious class of readers, the lending department, together with the reading-room and news rooms contiguous thereto, should not be on the same floor as the reference libraries. That the delivery of books from the lending library, for home reading, should not be in the room where reading is going on. … That the reference libraries, as a distinct department of the foundation, should occupy the whole of the principal floor.

The Harris Lending Library, Preston 1935
The Harris Lending Library in 1935. Source: Barney Smith’s Preston Digital Archive.

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