Derby Libraries celebrates 150 years

Published: 13 May 2021

Woman inside Normanton Library 1968

A woman puts books back on the shelves of Normanton Library in 1968.

Derby Libraries are marking 150 years in the city.

Staff have been digging through the archives, and a full history of the service, including a timeline of key moments, will be available to view online. The Derby Libraries Facebook page will also highlight various aspects of their history.

Derby’s first free public library was officially opened on Wardwick on 12 October 1871, some 19 years after the country’s first public library opened in Manchester. Within 5 years, the increasing popularity of the service meant that a new building would be needed to house the growing collection.

A generous donation from Michael Thomas Bass MP allowed a larger, purpose-built library, museum, and art gallery to be built on the existing site, which was officially opened in 1879. Following the end of the First World War the first branch libraries also arrived in Alvaston and Peartree with ‘open access’, allowing Derby readers to browse the shelves themselves.

The service has continued to build its legacy into the 20th and 21st Centuries, embracing eBooks and the internet to further encourage literacy and a love of reading. This has been vital to many during lockdown, as residents could continue to access digital collections and free IT access.

Cllr Robin Wood, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, said:

The fact that our libraries have been serving the city for 150 years is a remarkable achievement and is evidence of how valued they are. Throughout that time, they’ve helped people through some of the most challenging periods of history, and have been there for the celebrations as well.

The ways that we research things of interest and enjoy stories have changed since the library was opened, but they’re still very important places in our city. I would like to thank all our current and past staff for their work serving our city for 150 years. Here’s to 150 more.

A full timeline of the history of Derby Libraries will be available to view on the InDerby website. The Derby Libraries Facebook page will also be highlighting aspects of their history throughout the year.

Later in the year there will be a writing competition, where you can get creative and weave together a short story or poem inspired by our shared history.

There will also be the chance for you to share your own library memories. How long have you been a member? Which library did you join at? What was the first book you loaned? You can send your stories to

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