The English Public Library 1945-85

BookThe English Public Library 1945-85

The English Public Library 1945-85

Introductions to Heritage Assets

Historic England Guidance


July 29th, 2016





This guide looks at the development of public libraries in England after the Second World War. It places their architecture – external and also internal – within a period of considerable political, social and economic change.

Post-war aspirations set new challenges for the country’s library services, which had already begun to expand considerably in the 1930s. Outwardly, new library buildings continued – financial constraints permitting - to reflect civic pride and aspirations, while inside new layouts, fixtures and fittings provided for an increasingly middle-class readership. Children’s services were ever-more important, while larger libraries offered facilities such as local studies and record libraries, and later computers.

Author Information

Elain Harwood is a Senior Architectural Investigator with Historic England, specialising in the years after 1945.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Historical background
The background to post-war library building
The earliest post-war libraries, 1955-65
Later developments in library design, 1965-85
Change and the future
Further reading