Library Stories

The Library Stories project aimed to explore the origins of the free library network in Sheffield and to consider the use and value of these public spaces both at their inception and today. Dr. Anna Barton (PI, School of English), Dr. Briony Birdi (Co-I), worked with Our Favourite Places and Sheffield Libraries and Archives (supported by Faculty of Arts & Humanities Arts Enterprise Funding, 2014-15).

The project team gave out postcards on which there was the question “What does your library mean to you?”. They also met with book and social groups, interviewed former and current members of library staff, and held public reminiscence events. Over 200 library users shared their memories and stories of the city’s libraries.

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The Library Stories website, the major outcome of the project, has sections on the past and present of Sheffield’s libraries.


Working with Sheffield Archives, Library Stories delved into the history of the public library system in Sheffield. It traced the decisions involved in setting up the libraries, and gained a sense of what it was like to use the libraries at the turn of the 20th century. The website includes photos of library life over the decades.


A selection of thoughts and memories of the city’s libraries, as shared on the postcards, are presented and can be presented by theme e.g. Family, Pleasure.

The project received press coverage, for example on the Library Campaign website and in the Yorkshire Post.