Cardiff Central Library

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Cardiff Central Library
Llyfrgell Ganolog Caerdydd
Cardiff Library, The Hayes, Cardiff.jpg
The Alliance sculpture in front of
Cardiff Central Library.
General information
Architectural style Sustainable architecture
Address Mill Lane, Cardiff, CF10 1FL
Coordinates 51°28′40″N 3°10′32″W / 51.477860°N 3.175470°W / 51.477860; -3.175470Coordinates: 51°28′40″N 3°10′32″W / 51.477860°N 3.175470°W / 51.477860; -3.175470
Construction started May 2007
Completed 30 January 2009
Inaugurated 14 March 2009
Cost £13.5 million
Owner Cardiff County Council
Technical details
Floor count 6
Floor area 55,000 square feet (5,100 m2)
Design and construction
Architecture firm BDP Architects
Services engineer Crown House Technology
Main contractor Laing O'Rourke

Cardiff Central Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Ganolog Caerdydd), is the main library in the city centre of Cardiff, Wales. Four buildings have been named as such, with the newest building opening on 14 March 2009 and officially being opened a few months later on 18 June 2009 by the Manic Street Preachers.[1] The first Cardiff library was opened in 1861 as the Cardiff Free Library, later expanded and known as the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art.


Cardiff Free Library (1861 to 1882)[edit]

In 1861, a free library was set up by voluntary subscription above the St Mary Street entrance to the Royal Arcade in Cardiff.[2] By 1862, the Public Libraries Act of 1855 allowed local councils with 5,000 inhabitants or more to raise a rate of one penny in the pound to provide a public library. Cardiff was the first town in Wales to establish a public library.[3]

Two years later in 1864, the library had moved to bigger premises in the now demolished YMCA building in St Mary Street. A School of Science and Art and a small museum was also added,[4] and so it became known as the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art.[5]

Old Library (1882 to 1988)[edit]

The Old Library is located at the northern end of The Hayes. A public holiday was declared[6] when it was opened on 31 May 1882 by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alfred Thomas as the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art, which included an art gallery.[7][8] A competition was held to choose a design for the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art. The winning design was by architects James, Seward and Thomas, erected for just over £9,000.[5] The Schools of Science and Art were housed in the building until 1890 when it moved to buildings that were part of the University College.[9]

The building was further extended to the south fourteen years later, with a new south frontage designed by James, Seward & Thomas,[10] and was officially re-opened as the Central Library by the Prince of Wales on 27 July 1896.[11]

The entrance to the building featured a corridor lined with ornamental wall tiles, designed to depict the four seasons and night and morning. These tiles were impressed with coloured clay to give the impression of a mosaic.[7] This together with the stained glass installed throughout the building saw it become a Grade II* listed building.[12] The Old Library (as it is now known) still exists and is in used by the Cardiff Story and a tourist information centre.[13]

St David's Link (1988 to 2006)[edit]

The Central Library was moved to a new building located on St David’s Link (Frederick Street), opposite what was then the multi-storey car park. The building was officially opened on 3 December 1988,[14] and occupied the upper storeys of the commercial complex, which were accessed via a polygonal vestibule at street level.[15]

The first floor contained the fiction and children's sections and reading library. The second floor contained the non-fiction section and the third floor housed the local history section.

The building was demolished in late 2006 together with the surrounding retail units to make way for the extension to St. David's Centre.[16]

Temporary building (2006 to 2009)[edit]

During the construction of the new building, library services were moved to temporary facilities on John Street which were officially opened on 1 September 2006.[16] Consisting of two separate buildings adjoining the Welsh National Opera, the front overlooking Bute Street, featured 6-metre (20 ft) tall hoardings illustrating the spines of a number of books identified as those most commonly borrowed from the library.[16]

A chronology of images of Cardiff Central Library from 1861 to the present day[edit]

Cardiff Central Library (2009– )[edit]

The rear elevation of the building

The present day Central Library building is located on The Hayes, cornered in between Mill Lane and Canal Street, opposite the St. David's 2 development. It occupies part of the car park previously used by the adjacent Marriott Hotel, and it was this site which gave rise to the building's triangular footprint.

Cardiff Council commissioned architects BDP to create a landmark buildings which symbolised the values of knowledge, learning and culture. Construction started in 2007.[17] The building cost £13.5 million to build and construction took 98 weeks involving nearly 1,200 workers. 2000m² of glass form part of the exterior walls. The length of shelving for the books totals 3 kilometres.[18] The project included 16000m² of restaurant units on the ground floor facing onto Mill Lane.[17]

It was opened on 14 March 2009[19] and on 18 June the Manic Street Preachers unveiled a plaque with the words "libraries gave us power", from their 1996 single A Design for Life.[20]

The library contained 55,000 ft (17,000 m) of space, 90,000 books, 10,000 of which are written in Welsh, and an additional 10,000 CDs and DVDs.[21]

Building features[edit]

The interior of Cardiff Central Library

The building was specifically designed to be energy-efficient, and includes a sedum grass roof to improve insulation and reduce rainwater run-off, coloured glass panels and solar shading to prevent excessive heat gains, and a full Building Management System to provide climate control to individual floors. As a result of these measures the building was awarded a BREEAM rating of 'excellent'.[22] Panels of brass cladding covered the side and rear facade of the library, intended to give the impression of leather-bound bookends.[17]


There are a total of six floors with part of the ground floor housing three retail outlets, initially occupied by branches of Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen,[23] and Carluccio's.[24]

Each floor has public computers. Additionally, all floors except the ground floor have toilets and Wi-Fi. Lifts link all floors. Stairs also connect each floor, with an escalator running straight from the ground floor entrance foyer to the second floor.

Arts and Media on the third floor
Business Studies on the fourth floor
Ground floor
The ground floor contains a reception, drop-off point for book returns and customer service centre for Cardiff Council, known as Connect to Cardiff.[25] This floor also has a Quick Pick section, containing popularly requested titles, and a pick up point for reserved books.
First floor
The first floor contains the children's library.[25]
Second floor
The second floor contains fiction, biographies, newspapers, large print and audio publications, and community language publications. A meeting room and display area are also located here.
Third floor
The third floor contains non-fiction, art, history, language, literature and music books. This floor also contains a grand piano which members of the public may play.
Fourth floor
The fourth floor houses non-fiction, humanities & sciences, law, transport, travel and food books, as well as a reference section. Local leaflets and information, including transport and tourist attractions are available on this floor. In addition to the second floor, the fourth floor also contains a meeting room.
Fifth floor
The fifth floor is used for the Cardiff Capital Collection with books on the history of Cardiff, the Wales Collection with books on the history of Wales, and Welsh-language publications. Also on this floor are an ICT suite and display suite.

Rare books sale controversy[edit]

To help fund the new Library, Cardiff Council planned to sell off the library's heritage book collection, dating from the 15th century. This provoked outrage amongst academics worldwide.[26] On 10 March 2010, a joint initiative of the council, Cardiff University, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) secured the books’ future at Cardiff University.[27]


  1. ^ "Manic Street Preachers open Cardiff Central Library". Western Mail (Wales). 18 June 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Cardiff Story (1861)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  3. ^ "The Cardiff Story (1862)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  4. ^ "The Cardiff Story (1864)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  5. ^ a b "The Cardiff Story (1880–82)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  6. ^ "The Cardiff Story (1882)". Cardiff Council. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  7. ^ a b "The Old Library, Cardiff". HEVAC Heritage Group. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  8. ^ Williams, Stewart (1980). Cardiff Yesterday: No. 1. Barry: Stewart Williams Publishers. ISBN 0-900807-40-7. 
  9. ^ "The Cardiff Story (1890)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  10. ^ Williams, Stewart (1981). Cardiff Yesterday: No. 3. Barry: Stewart Williams Publishers. ISBN 0-900807-46-6. 
  11. ^ Williams, Stewart (1984). Cardiff Yesterday: No. 9. Barry: Stewart Williams Publishers. ISBN 0-900807-62-8. 
  12. ^ "Former Central Library, Castle". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  13. ^ "Cardiff Museum". Cardiff County Council. 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  14. ^ "Image of Cardiff". Retrieved 2009-03-14. [permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Newman, James; Stephen Hughes; Anthony Ward (1995). The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-071056-6. 
  16. ^ a b c "Cardiff's favourite books unveiled at temporary library". Cardiff County Council. 29 August 2006. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c "Cardiff Central Library". AJ Buildings Library. Retrieved 2015-01-09. 
  18. ^ Leaflet: Cardiff Central Library – the most sustainable new building in the capital – published by Cardiff County Council
  19. ^ "Cardiff's new library unveiled". BBC News. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  20. ^ "Manics' 'humble' library opening". BBC News. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 2015-01-09. 
  21. ^ Leaflet: Cardiff Central Library Floor Plan published by Cardiff County Council (2009)
  22. ^ "How the 'One Team' approach will help shape tomorrow". Infoworks. Q1. Laing O'Rourke. 2008 (23): 22. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  23. ^ Blake, Aled (2007-05-10). "Wagamama heads for Cardiff". Western Mail (Wales). Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  24. ^ "Eat & Drink > Carluccio's". Cardiff Tourist Information. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  25. ^ a b Alford, Abby (2009-03-07). "Preview day at Cardiff’s new library". South Wales Echo. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  26. ^ "Academics ‘outraged’ by council’s book sale". Western Mail (Wales). Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  27. ^ Press Release: Rare and antiquarian books to remain in Wales Archived 4 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine. at website of Cardiff Heritage Friends

External links[edit]

Media related to Cardiff Central Library at Wikimedia Commons