Whether you are in in your first or last year of your life at university – it is a fact as old as time that you are almost guaranteed to be spending days and nights working hard in a library at some point. Whether a study session into the early hours of the morning, or a coffee with friends, libraries are a pivotal part of your life as a student, and as such it is crucial you know which space works best for you.
Here at The University of Manchester there are a whole host of libraries dotted around campus, and choosing the perfect one can be a difficult decision and may end up becoming a research project in itself.
Luckily for you, we’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and have compiled it all here into the definitive guide to libraries at the University of Manchester.
The Main Library
Probably the most obvious starting point is the main library. This is the largest library on campus and lies at the heart of university on Burlington Street (just off Oxford Road).
Collection: Being the biggest building, this library plays host to the largest variety of books. Literature for education, law, humanities, medicine, and the sciences can be found in this library, and it also contains many of the special collections.
Study Spaces: This library boasts an eclectic mix of spaces in which to study. With single, row, and group desks, the library also has bookable study spaces, and many networked computers on offer.
Facilities: There are copying and printing facilities, as well as the Lounge café (perfect for a much-needed coffee break), and vending machines for any after-hours food and drink – this library has all you need for prolonged study sessions in the heat of exam season.
Verdict: The Reliable
While the labyrinth style corridors and patchwork of styles can present itself as a fever dream to the uninitiated, you are guaranteed a seat at the main library, and it serves as a safe and reliable space to get some reading and writing done.
The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons
Heading just next door we arrive at the Ally G. This is newest addition to the repertoire of libraries at Manchester and is a sleek and modern change of pace compared to some of the more dated buildings.
Collection: Unlike most other libraries, this library is of the kind that does not have any books. Does this mean it isn’t technically a library? Who knows?
Study Spaces: With an emphasis on the social, this library isn’t one for those looking for a silent reading space. The large desks and large study rooms mean this building is ideal for group projects or communal study sessions.
Facilities: This library has a Café, and more than enough computers to go around. As well as the basic amenities it also boasts sleep pods on the second floor – great for when you need to grab a power nap!
Verdict: The Modernist
Thanks to its huge windows and a large atrium, the Alan Gilbert is truly the study space of the 21st century. Super-fast WIFI, and a wide variety of spaces to sit and chat, or finish that online assignment, there is a reason that that the Ally G ranks top of many people’s study spaces on campus.
The Joule Library
One of the lesser-known libraries, the Joule is tucked away on floor E of the Sackville Street Building
Collection: Just a stone’s throw from the engineering and Innovation centre, it should be a surprise to nobody that the Joule is the go-to for all things science, engineering, and technology.
Study Spaces: While not a dedicated building unlike the previous two libraries, the Joule still offers an array of desks and computers for use.
Facilities:Along with the 55 PC’s there are print, scan, and photocopying facilities, along with a microfiche/microfilm reader and printer (should you ever need it).
Verdict: The secret corner
Tucked up in upper floors of the Sackville building, this library is typically much quieter than other popular spaces. If you are looking for somewhere you can study without worry of too much foot traffic, then look you should look no further than the Joule.
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre
Located in the Central Library, the RACE Centre is one of a few specialist spaces, reserved for readers studying their collection.
Collection: RACE (Race Archives and Community Engagement) collections centre around the themes of race, migration, and ethnic diversity. These come in the form of historical archives, oral histories, local studies material, and other literature.
Study Spaces: While not a space that you can go to on a whim, this section of the Central library is great for those looking to find some peace in the heart of the city.
Facilities: Being attached to the Central library, the Ahmed Iqbal centre is right next door to the library café and is a stone’s throw from all the basic amenities and transport links you could need.
Verdict: The Heart of the City
While it is a specifically oriented space, and you are required to be studying relevant material from the collection to use the space, the collection and archive held at the RACE centre is vast, providing you with a huge breadth of historical and present day information on race and diversity both in Manchester and further afield.
The Art and Archaeology Library
On the fourth floor of the Mansfield Cooper building is the Arts and Archaeology Library, a quaint little space for a smaller cohort of academics to utilise.
Collection: This library supplements the main libraries’ stock of recommended reading and core texts for archaeology and art. It also has a DVD collection and a number of postgraduate theses and dissertations to get your research going.
Study Spaces:The space is small and functional, with 6 shelves of books it is fair to say you are never going to get lost in this library even if you try.
Facilities: There are a few computers available in this space, and a printer, scanner, and copier are a welcome addition. Along with this, they do have a loanable iPad should you desire to switch things up a little.
Verdict: The Nook
Buried away in the backrooms of the Mansfield Cooper building, this room (and collection) is nothing fancy, but it is cosy and functional – and sometimes that is enough.
The Lenagan Library
In the basement of the Martin Harris Centre lies the Lenagan Library, a left of field pick as far as study spaces go, it offers up with one of the most varied collections when it comes to formats.
Collection: Being home to much of the music and drama literature, the Lenagan offers books, playbooks, scores, CD’s, LP’s, Cassettes, DVD’s, and other various formats. Running the whole gambit of audiovisual material.
Study Spaces: The space is somewhat small and with little natural light thanks to the fact that it is below ground level – with only one main room and a large group desk surrounded by small wall rows of seating.
Facilities: This space offers no computer access; however, the audiovisual room does make up for this, allowing students the opportunity to view material from the collection in a variety of mediums, using a whole range of obscure technologies.
Verdict: The Maestro
If song and dance is your thing, or you have a flare for the dramatic, then you might find this underground library to be right up your street!
John Rylands Library
Based in Deansgate, the John Rylands is off the beaten track, but should you make the journey you will find it well worth your time.
Collection: Some of the oldest and rarest texts covering all corners of the humanities helps the John Rylands collection stands out from the crowd. Such a long and continued effort of conservation makes this library is an old book lover’s dream come true.
Study Spaces: The neo-gothic architecture makes the historic reading room one of the most beautiful and unique spaces to study in. It’s huge cathedral-esque stone walls and stained glass create an ambience unlike that of any other space on the list.
Facilities: The Ryland’s reputation precedes it, and although there are no computers, this library has its own gift shop. This alone merits a visit (along, of course, with the other great sights too numerous to list here).
Verdict: The Victorian Wonder
Many people visit this library just for its unique looks – however the collection is also unparalleled. If you are after specific artefacts, you can register online as a researcher, and gain access to the special collection reading room on the top floor of the facility.
The Braddick Library
On the first floor of the Schuster building is the Braddick library – a sea of auburn chairs and pine wood tabletops.
Collection: This library holds a large part of the collection of physics and astronomy literature on offer at the university.
Study Spaces: The space is simple and straight forward – tables and chairs. This space is ideal for if you are looking to hunker down with a laptop or are going analogue with a book. Nothing fancy, just hard work and research.
Facilities: As mentioned previously, the facilities here are stripped back to the bare essentials. Sure, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other libraries on this list, but what does that matter when you are deep in the zone?
Verdict: The Stargazer
This library has no need for technology, when you are contemplating the nature of the universe, or are observing space, the Braddick will be right behind you supporting your endeavours.
The Eddie Davies Library
You may know the Eddie Davies most commonly as the monolith that overhangs the Oxford Road Co-op and often provides a much-needed respite from the rain.
Collection: When it isn’t a multimillion-pound umbrella – this library offers software such as Finance Zone, Bloomberg, and SDC Platinum as well as access to many more platforms essential for business degrees.
Study Spaces: Unfortunately, chances are that if you aren’t part of the business school, you won’t ever see the inside of this library. It is restricted access and as such very few outsiders get the privilege to make use of this space.
Facilities: The building is the hub for the business school and offers the core readings and software required to research all things finance. With huge glass windows and a seat at the heart of Oxford Road, we can only imagine the views from inside.
Verdict: The VIP
With no actual on-site research to substantiate these claims, this review is purely based on speculation. As such the Eddie Davies may very well be one of the most alluring spaces you never get to study in.
The Stopford Library
Due to its proximity to the infirmary, it would make sense that this library – situated on the 3rd floor of the Stopford building – is dedicated to all thing’s health.
Collection: Literature centres around biology, medicine, and health, and this library holds the core texts for the schools of dentistry, pharmacy, and medicine.
Study Spaces: Sofas, desktop computers, and boardroom-esque bookable spaces, are on offer at the Stopford, and while it may not be as big as other libraries on this list, it is certainly one of the most modern spaces to study in.
Facilities: Although small, this library is as clean and efficient as they come. With only 12 PC’s however, you may find it a struggle to find one free, however they do offer 2 loanable iPads – if that is more your speed.
Verdict: The Health Nut
Built with medical students in mind, you may pass this the Stopford building hundreds of times never knowing there is a hidden in its depths.
The Kantorowich Library
Last but not least is the Kantorowich. This library is located on the ground floor of the Humanities Bridgeford St Building.
Collection: Home to publications on education, environment, and development, this library has a small but honed array of works to browse.
Study Spaces: The space has a number of long row desks which don’t provide up as much privacy as other picks on this list but are a blessing for bigger group studies.
Facilities: This library lays on the lighter side when it comes to technology. Only 8 PCs are on available in this facility, but the sheer number of dissertations are what primarily attracts budding researchers to this space.
Verdict: The Small but Mighty
Despite a small serving of both size and collection, the Kantorowich is a nice change of pace from larger libraries and tends to see much less traffic throughout the day, leaving you to get on with your hard work in peace.
This has been the definitive guide to the University of Manchester libraries. Only you can decide which suits you best – but by reading this list you should be well on your way to knowing just what exactly you can expect from each space on campus, and so if you feel like mixing it up this exam period, or find your usual space has just got extra busy because others are taking exams – you know where to try and you might just discover a new favourite!
Speaking of favourites, my fellow content producer, Aidan has been out and about asking you about your favourite library, take a look at his video here ,