Sunday, 20 March 2016

St Peter's Seminary at Cardross. "A Future Reclaimed"

Hinterland at Cardross. March 2016

Above the town of Cardross on the lower Clyde, hidden among trees, lies the crumbling ruins of one of Scotland's most original and dramatic buildings. Fifty years ago this year, on the Victorian estate of Kilmahew, the foundation stone of St Peter's Seminary was laid. 

Designed by Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein of the Glasgow based architectural practice Gillespie, Kidd and Coia the building was modern, experimental and brutalist, after the style of Le Corbusier. It is one of the most important examples of modern Scottish architecture. 

Designed to hold 100 students, it was completed at a time when applicants to the priesthood were falling. Living conditions for those at the seminary were not always easy. There were maintenance problems with the building and difficulty heating it and preventing leaks. Having spent 10 years living in a multi-storey flat where I had ice on the inside of my bedroom window in winter and a draught blowing through a crack in one of our walls from the rubbish chute, this I can empathise with. Despite this, on a warm sunny day, with shadows falling on the concrete walls and light coming through the roof windows onto the alter of the main chapel, it was always a dramatic place to live. 
St Peter's Seminary at Cardross
 It closed in 1980, after only 13 years use as a seminary and was briefly used as a drug rehabilitation centre, which closed in the late 1980s. Most of the recovering drug addicts stayed in the old Kilmahew House, part of the Victorian estate, which was easier to maintain than the seminary building. This building abutted against the new buildings, making a dramatic contrast, but in 1995 it was badly damaged in a fire and had to be demolished.

Since then the building has remained a ruin. Most of the glass and woodwork within has long gone, leaving a crumbling concrete skeleton.

St Peter's Seminary in Cardross, in ruin.
Various plans to re-use the building have came to nothing, the design proving an expensive challenge to work with. However, arts organisation NVA have been working on the site for two years now, clearing debris, decontaminating  it and removing asbestos. Making it safe. Now they are ready for the next phase of their grand plan. This involves consolidating the building, preventing further, irreversible decay and partially restoring the chapel area and landscape to build a 600 capacity "creative space". The estate will also be refashioned, with the walled garden reinstated. The building will still tell the story of its decay and abandonment. Angus Farquhar, creative director of NVA, was a former member of industrial band Test Dept. With the band and with NVA he has experience of putting on innovative and imaginative, site specific public events. To demonstrate the potential of the building they have therefore produced Hinterland for the 2016 Festival of Architecture, an architectural "son et lumière".

It is an ongoing plan, with funds still to be raised, but look at their website for updates and links for donations.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for my family and me for Hinterland and below are some photographs which I took on our walk around the site. This quick review doesn't really convey the visual and physical spectacle which is the building itself. We had the good fortune to arrive in Helensburgh on a glorious, clear frosty evening. As darkness fell we made our way at our allotted time to the coach on the pier which was to take us to the site. There was the excited buzz of travelling to a wedding party on the coach as we made the 15 minute trip. On arrival we were given an illuminated walking stick (which was one of the highlights of the whole event for my daughter) and directed to follow the path through the forest, lights and sounds coming from either sides of us. 

The walk allowed you to tour all around the outside of the building and to snake about inside. The music by Rory Boyle adds to the atmosphere, as an impressive and ever changing light display flutters over the walls of the building. Inside the stars and bright moon are occaisionally seen through roofless gaps in the concrete and a swinging, wrecking ball sized incense ball sways over a pool of rainwater in one hall. Flashes of different layers of graffiti and architectural details catch your eye as you come full circle and return to the coaches. 

It is a building I have been trying to see for a while, and part of the challenge with preserving the building is that its inaccessible site means it is out of sight and slowing disappearing. The work can now begin in earnest to save a modernist masterpiece, which has now been made visible again.  

(Click on pictures below to expand)

Helensburgh at dusk

Clear skies in Helensburgh at dusk

Darkness falls on Helensburgh

Helensburgh Pier and Greenock on the other bank of the Clyde

Entering the building at Hinterland, St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

 Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Moon over Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Illuminated trees 

Occasionally other visitors are glimpsed through the dark,
 here a group stand together in the chapel holding their illuminated sticks

Graffiti inside the building

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

"Expensive shit" grafffiti by an unknown critic of the building

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Hinterland at St Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Friday, 11 March 2016

Glasgow Libraries, Then and Now

Glasgow Libraries, Past and Present. 

Don't Overlook Your Local Library

March sees the arrival of the annual Aye Write! book festival in Glasgow, based at the Mitchell Library at Charing Cross. Glasgow City Council manages 32 libraries across the city in addition to the Mitchell Library. At times of falling council budgets across Scotland the libraries often seem to be a soft option for cuts with shortened opening hours, library closures (such as sixteen recently announced library closures in Fife) and job losses. Freedom of information requests have also revealed less obvious cuts taking place with councils across the country cutting their expenditure on new books in recent years. If the books are not kept fresh and replaced the appeal of the library falls. However libraries have for many years now been about more than just lending books. For many people the local library can be their only way to access the internet. Libraries offer DVD and music loans, ebook downloads, local history information, newspapers and magazines, book groups, toddler activities and other social functions. Each of the Glasgow libraries also offers MacMillan cancer support and information services now. All of these activities are important in combating social exclusion for many people. Even just having somewhere warm and dry to sit for a bit out of the house, without having to pay money to anyone, is as good a reason as any to maintain public libraries in communities across the city.

Possilpark Library, Glasgow
I was thinking about this recently when I went walking about in Possil. When I worked in the area a few years ago I used to sit in the library there quite often, browsing the shelves or flicking through a magazine at lunchtime. As a child I was never away from the library, wherever we were staying in Glasgow. For me Whiteinch and Maryhill libraries were the ones that I knew my way around as a child and still have a clear mental image of their layout. When I was a bit older I used to go to Knightswood Library every week with my brother after going swimming. We would go and see my auntie Isobel on the way to the library, pick up her books and swap them for some new ones we chose for her (she had a soft spot for Tintin and Lucky Luke).

When studying for my Highers I took it upon myself to get the bus into town after school once a week and I would sit in one of the big reading rooms in the Mitchell Library to catch up on my homework with some peace and quiet. Whilst there I would get distracted, wandering off into the Glasgow Room. I would pore over old directories and maps or look up famous events in the microfiche of the Glasgow Herald and Daily Record (this was in the days before things like this could be found on the internet). Getting to know my way around their archives I have subsequently been back there many times doing family history research.

Since my own children have come along again I have spent many days entertaining them in Partick and Hillhead libraries, introducing them to new books and new authors, and as they got older seeing what else takes their fancy in the adult section.

I have used all these libraries for years without really paying them much attention, but I know that I would notice if they were no longer there. So I thought I would try to have a look around some of them (though not all thirty-three). A brief history of Glasgow's public libraries.

  • Early Glasgow Libraries

In 1898 Glasgow Corporation wanted to expand the centralised library resources it held. A year later an addendum to the 1899 Corporation Tramways and General Purposes Act gave them the power to move forward with their plan. It allowed the corporation to levy ratepayers one penny (1d) in the pound to establish free public libraries, to buy books and maps, and to maintain the libraries. In doing this they created most of the libraries familiar to us in the city today.

At this time Glasgow Corporation operated the Stirling Library and the Mitchell Library (which in 1898 was located in Miller Street). Stirling's Library was funded by a bequest from Glasgow merchant Walter Humphrey Stirling (known as "Humphy Watty" because of a deformity of his spine). When he died unmarried in 1791 he left his 804 books, his house in Miller Street and £1000 to establish a free library. Initially located in his former home on Miller Street, it soon moved to another building on the same street. Initially the books were for reference only and available only to subscribers. By 1885 the collection had been added to by further donations and amounted to 50,000 volumes. At that time an annual subscription to the library cost 10s. 6d. As the book collection grew it moved to different locations in the city, including sites at St Enoch Square and in Hutchesons Hospital.

There were other subscription libraries within Glasgow, and in the surrounding burghs which were not yet part of the city. These included a library in Maryhill established by the owner of Dawsholm Paper Mill, one in Pollokshaws set up in 1844 by the then Provost and a reading room in the Pearce Institute in Govan. In the 1880s there were also notable subscription reading rooms in Trongate at the Glasgow Central Working Men's Club and Institute, and the Bridgeton Working Men's Club and Reading Room which had a 5s. annual subscription. For this you had access to 2000 volumes, newspapers, periodicals and other distractions such as chess and draughts. The stated aim of these facilities was the "promotion of the social, moral and intellectual welfare and recreation of the industrial classes".

Stirling's Library in the 1950s in the Royal Exchange building
The "Glasgow Public Library" was another subscription library on the go in the city, established in 1804. In 1871 Stirling's Library merged with this to form "Stirling's and Glasgow Public Library". This was three years before the death of tobacco manufacturer Stephen Mitchell, who bequeathed money to establish a new public reference library, which took his name (see below). In 1954 Stirling Library took up the main hall at the Royal Exchange building on Queen Street, with "The Commercial Library", formed in 1916, occupying the basement. The Commercial Library met the information needs of local industry and commerce. The Stirling Library stayed here for 40 years, before being moved back to Miller Street whilst this building was converted into the Gallery of Modern Art. The basement here was initially used as gallery space when GoMA opened in 1996, but in 2002 Stirling Library was moved back into this space in the Royal Exchange building, becoming the clumsily named "Library at GoMA".

In a flurry of municipal socialism, the intention of Glasgow Corporation at the end of the 19th century was to build eight new libraries. Their plans were at a preliminary stage when an offer of funding came from Andrew Carnegie, who was staying in Knockderry Castle in Dumbartonshire at the time. With a gift of £100,000 he wrote to the city
"Let Glasgow flourish, so say we all of us Scotsmen throughout the world."
Sixteen libraries were eventually built, which varied in size and content depending on the area in which they were located. The complete scheme, including buying the sites, construction of the buildings and purchase of the books and periodicals cost £337,480. Although they are generally called the Carnegie libraries, with further smaller donations Carnegie's contribution was a third of this money.

  • Glasgow's Carnegie Libraries

By the late 19th century Andrew Carnegie had made his fortune in the American steel industry. His was the archetypal story of the American dream, a poor immigrant arriving with nothing and rising to make his millions. Born in Dunfermline, he emigrated to the USA as a child with his parents in 1848. The family set sail for America from the Broomielaw in Glasgow. In his later years he became renowned as a philanthropist, reportedly giving away 90% of his fortune. Some of his earliest gifts went to create splendid swimming baths and a free library in his old home town of Dunfermline. He established university departments, medical facilities and educational scholarships. At this time there were few free public libraries and as a strong believer in their merits he funded over 2000 free public libraries around the world.

In Glasgow his 1901 donation is associated with the construction of seven of the most impressive of the city's new libraries. These were designed by Inverness architect James R Rhind. Rhind had been working in Montreal for several years and many of his designs included elaborate baroque arches, columns and sculpture which are thought to derive from the French influenced buildings he saw there. Some of these libraries are still among the city's most handsome buildings. Rhind designed the libraries at Bridgeton, Dennistoun, Govanhill (Govan and Crosshill) , Hutchesontown, Maryhill, Woodside and Parkhead.

Townhead Library, Glasgow. Now demolished.
Of the original libraries Anderston Library on MacIntyre Street was the first to be demolished, making way for the M8 motorway in 1968. Townhead Library on Castle Street (pictured above) was demolished more recently, in 1998. The statues from this building were sold to an American businessman, Addison Kimball of Illinois, for £12,500.

Dennistoun Library, Glasgow
Dennistoun Library in the city's east end was built in 1905 in yellow sandstone. A bronze figure stands on top of its dome, with an open book resting on her arms. This sculpture and the female figures carved into the arch above a window are attributed to William Kelloch Brown. Brown is responsible for much of the sculpture on the Rhind designed libraries. He trained at the Glasgow School of Art, before winning a scholarship to London. Whilst there he constructed the balconies of the Savoy Hotel. He returned to Glasgow and taught at the Glasgow School of Art. From its opening Dennistoun offered newspapers as well as books to its readers, laid out on a wall at one end of the reading room. Their inclusion was controversial with some feeling that they were trivial, took up too much space and would attract "unsavoury loafers" to the library and deter others from coming. Other people spoke of the potential advantages of newspapers in libraries. They believed that newspapers would draw people to the library who would then progress to reading books, that they would deter people from going to nearby public houses instead and would allow them to keep informed and find job adverts.

Sculpture on top of the dome at Dennistoun Library
Parkhead Library opened in 1906, on Tollcross Road next door to the public baths and washhouse. The same bronze figure can be seen atop the dome here as at Dennistoun Library, still reading her book. More elaborate sculptures by William Kelloch Brown stand above the entrance, looking like a family group.

Parkhead Library, Glasgow
Govanhill Library, Glasgow
Govanhill Library was opened as Govan and Crosshill District Library in 1906 at the junction of Langside Road and Calder Street. A single storey building, again richly decorated with sculptures of figures holding books and laurel branches on the Calder Street side similar to the sculptures above the doors at Woodside and Maryhill Libraries. A bronze, winged angel balances on one leg on top of the dome here. In 1995 she was stolen by four men who pretended to be workmen taking it away for renovation. It was recovered by the police and returned to its rightful place.
Angel on the dome of Govanhill Library. The brass ribbon that used to
 trail backwards from her hand is long gone
The Glasgow psychiatrist RD Laing grew up in Govanhill in the 1930s and wrote about this sculpture in his autobiography.
"My life saving consolations were moonlight and gaslight, the angel on the dome of the library..."
He later recalls that he was
"...very imbued with books. Right outside my bedroom window was the dome of a public library on top of which was an angel, poised on one foot as though to take off to the moon and the stars."

Ladies Reading Room, Maryhill District Library 1907
Before becoming part of Glasgow, Maryhill had a free public library since 1823. It was financed from fees for lectures and contributions from the owners of the Dawsholm Paper Mill and local gentry. Maryhill Library where it stands today on Maryhill Road (formerly Wyndford Street) was opened in 1905.
Maryhill Library, Glasgow
Built in yellow sandstone on a narrow site it has two stories and a basement. It had separate adult and children's entrances and separate reading rooms for men and ladies. This library I can remember visiting often in the 1970s, when the newspapers were laid out along one wall, with a large wooden pole holding the newspaper together, and presumably preventing anyone taking it home with them. As at Parkhead it was near the washhouse or "steamie", which used to lie across the other side of Maryhill Road from here. At the time of writing this the library is temporarily closed for repairs to its roof.
Woodside Library is not a million miles away from here, on St Georges Road.  Also opened in 1905 it is a handsome, single storey building with round-headed windows, Ionic columns and more sculpture attributed to William Kelloch Brown.
Woodside Library, Glasgow
Sculptures at Woodside Library, Glasgow
At the top of the building stands a sculpture of a woman holding a book with a couple of youths at her feet. Dressed as she is in teacherly robes, she is obviously imparting knowledge from its pages to this pair. Three naked females are depicted below this sculpture, reclining on piles of books, infants at their feet.

  • Bridgeton Library 

The building which currently houses Bridgeton Library, right at Bridgeton Cross, was previously the Olympia cinema and music hall. With this in mind the library is home to what is described as "Scotland's first BFI mediatheque". As well as all the usual library services it has an archive of British Film Institute material which can be watched in various booths in the building. This includes old films and television programmes, documentaries, public health films and old adverts. An imaginative use of an old building.

Bridgeton Library, Glasgow
However just around the corner from here lies the former Bridgeton Library building. This was the first of the James R. Rhind designed libraries to open in Glasgow in 1903. The one time Bridgeton District Library on Landressy Street, has recently found a new use as home to the Glasgow Women's Library. This recent newspaper article describes the 25 year history of this venture, which now has a beautifully renovated building to house its archive and events. At risk of falling into dereliction the building now has been saved and has a role in celebrating the achievements of women of Scotland.

Former Bridgeton Library building, Glasgow
Opened in May 1906 the building follows the concave curve of the street. A new facade on the southern end features titles from the Women's Library collection. On the original building allegorical figures, attributed to the sculptor William Kelloch Brown, represent learning, industry, art and commerce. As usual, books are prominent in the sculptures.

Glasgow Women's Library now
 Men's reading room, Bridgeton Library, Glasgow, 1908
The building itself has been re-modeled inside, but still houses a lending library, largely of literature by women writers. The Glasgow Women's Library's extensive collection has gained the "recognised collection of national significance status". When Bridgeton Library was opened, like many others of the time it had separate men's and ladies' reading rooms and a distinct boys and girls entrance. As Glasgow set an example in library provision for other cities to emulate, a conference of librarians was held in the city in 1907 to show off their facilities. Not everyone was impressed was the class of people these facilities were attracting, as this contribution to the Library World periodical of 1907 suggests
"The general impression given by the reading rooms visited was that they were all overcrowded with young men of the labouring class during the day, a most surprising circumstance considering the prosperity of the city and the amount of work going on. Bridgeton especially attracts a rough type of Irish reader, and spitting assumes am epidemic form both there and elsewhere." 

  • Hutchesontown Library
Former Hutchesontown District Library, McNeil Street, Glasgow

Hutchesontown District Library was the last Glasgow library designed by James R. Rhind and his grandest and most decorative. It opened in November 1906 on McNeil Street with a stock of 9,600 books, added to by donors over the years. With slum clearance in the area coming on apace it was closed in 1964, but thankfully spared the wrecking ball. It is currently home to an after school club and offices.
St Mungo at Hutchesontown Library
On Hutchesontown Library the bronze winged figure holding a book looks to be cast from the same mould by William Kellock Brown as those on several other of the libraries he was involved with. The other sculpture work above the door is of a square jawed St Mungo flanked by six female figures holding emblems from the Glasgow coat of arms, all very handsome.

Gorbals Library on Main Street opened in 1907, in two upper floors of the Gorbals baths building. It was replaced by a new Gorbals Library on Norfolk Street in 1933 which closed in 1986. As attempts are made to re-generate the Gorbals area a new library was opened on Crown Street in 2004, a rather functional building by comparison with what went before.

  • Other Southside Libraries

Langside Library
Battle of Langside, 1568, commemorated on the wall outside the library

Langside Library was designed by George Simpson, who also designed Possilpark Library. It opened in 1915. It is noteworthy as the first Glasgow library to let you chose your own books from the shelves instead of requesting them at a counter. As you can see from this 1907 picture below, readers chose a book from the catalogues laid out for them to look through and requested it at the counter. They could then take it home or to the reading rooms. This lies at the site of the Battle of Langside, where Mary, Queen of Scots fought Moray. 300 men died in a battle which lasted less than an hour. This is commemorated on a wall outside of the  library and with a large painting on one wall inside the library within the children's section, a section which has recently suffered water damage after some lead was stolen from its roof. The painting was designed by Maurice Greiffenhagen and painted with the assistance of students from the Glasgow School of Art.

Order your books at the counter. Interior of the now demolished Anderston Library
Pollokshields Library stands on Leslie Street and because of the needs of its local community also stocks books and magazines in Urdu. It opened in 1907. If it seems a bit more bland than some of the other libraries, that may be a result of it being one of only two of the libraries built at this time being designed in-house by the City Corporation's Office of Public Works. Carved plaques at the front commend "History" and "The Arts" to us, whilst a modern sign advises us that this is no place to hang about.

"No Loitering" sign at Pollokshields Library
The other Carnegie library designed in-house by the corporation was Kingston Library. Situated on Paisley Road near Springfield Quay, the building also included a hall, Kingston Halls and the local police station. Built in 1903 it was the first of the new libraries to open, with Lord Provost John Ure Primrose opening it with the words
"We are citizens of no mean city"
Although the term "no mean city" is now associated with the Gorbals set novel of 1935, the Lord Provost was not the source of it. The phrase itself is actually from the new testament, how Paul the Apostle describes the city of  Tarsus. No longer a library the building still stands despite a serious fire destroying the tenement that abutted it in 2010, used at present by a charity for the homeless. The name of this Clydeside area, Kingston, of course harks back to the trade Glasgow used to do with the Caribbean colonies.
Former Kingston Library and Kingston Halls
The library in Cathcart is based in a hall of The Couper Institute on Clarkston Road. Robert Couper's family ran the Millholm Paper Mills on the banks of the White Cart Water. The halls were built in 1887 from a bequest he left and built by architect James Sellars. He was born in the Gorbals in 1843 and also designed the Stewart Memorial Fountain in Kelvingrove Park and the Victoria Infirmary building. Originally there was a library hall to the left of the Couper Institute, but it was re-modelled and built as an extension on the opposite side of the building in 1923.
Couper Institute and Library, Glasgow
Elder Park Library in Govan is one of the most distinctive in the city. It's location, standing alone just inside Elder Park helps too. Both the park and the library take their name from Isabella Elder, widow of John Elder, who took over and grew the Govan shipyard that took his name in the 19th century. When he died in 1869, as his heir she successfully took over the running of the business for nine months before transferring ownership to a partnership led by her brother. With no children herself, over the next 35 years of her life she donated much of her money to causes close to her heart. She bought North Park House on Queen Margaret Drive (which later became the BBC building) and, at a time when women were not admitted to any Scottish universities, gave it to the Association for the Higher Education of Women to establish Queen Margaret College. Also on this site she funded a medical school. In 1883 she bought land near to Elder's Fairfield Shipyard and established Elder Park to commemorate her husband. In 1901 she provided £10,000 to build a free library in the park and a further £17,000 to buy books and to maintain the library. One condition that she laid down was that the library must open on Sundays. In 1903 she attended the opening ceremony, alongside Andrew Carnegie.

Elder Park Library, Govan, Glasgow
Designed by J.J. Burnet, whereas many of the libraries have scrolls withe "arts", "history" or sculptures representing "geography" on them, this building has the rare site of "science" carved into its wall with pride. Above the entrance there is a sculpture of the Govan coat of arms, a shield with a ship on the stocks, a carpenter and an engineer standing on either side of it. Govan and this library was clearly a place for the working man. The Govan motto is at it's base "Nihil sine labore" ("Nothing without work").

Nihil sine labore

  • More recent additions 

Shettleston Library alongside the facade of the former Wellshot/Shettleston Halls
As Glasgow grew and expanded the demand for new libraries continued to grow. Shettleston Library was opened in 1925. Beside it now stands the facade of Wellshot Halls, the building destroyed in a fire. On the Tuesday following the opening 1672 books were loaned out, showing that if you build it they will come, in their droves. A local newspaper reported that
"Shortly after four o'clock hundreds of children were on the scene and the commissioner who was in attendance had great difficulty keeping the children in order. They swarmed round the door like bees round a hive"
Partick Burgh Council, not yet part of Glasgow until 1912, turned down Carnegie''s 1901 offer of £10,000 to build their own library as they did not wish to impose the one penny in the pound tax on their ratepayers to fund the books and maintenance. In 1925 Partick Library was opened, designed, like Whiteinch Library, by Thomas Somers of the city engineer's department. To make Partick know whose town they lived in now, the Glasgow coat of arms is prominent by the entrance.

Partick Library, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow
Whiteinch Library opened in 1926, lies across the road from the grand, and increasingly derelict Whiteinch Burgh Hall.
Whiteinch Library, Glasgow
The housing estates built in Glasgow after the First World War had to wait a while to get their own libraries. This was not helped by the economic depression of the inter-war years. Riddrie housing estate, like Mosspark and Knightswood, was built between 1920 and 1927 and it was the first of the outlying estates to get its own purpose built library. As I had a granny living in Mosspark and as a teenager lived in Knightswood, cycling around Riddrie today is just like being back home, apart from the massive prison overlooking it all.
Riddrie Library, near to Barlinnie Prison
Other areas had to make do with temporary accommodation in schools and other buildings. Riddrie Library, on Cumbernauld Road, is a handsome brick building. Mosspark and Knightswood housing estates were built at the same time. This 1937 photograph of Knightswood from the air (from the fabulous and addictive Britain From Above website) has Alderman Road sweeping up the picture from the bottom left corner. The empty rectangle of grass in the middle was due to be developed into an ambitious community centre in 1939 but the plans were put on ice because of the war.
Knightswood Housing Estate from the air, 1937
It was not until 1950 that a small part of the planned community centre was completed, facing Dykebar Road, and this is where Knightswood Library was established that year. It was 1971 before the rest of the community centre including a swimming pool and new, enlarged library building was completed. 
1950 building of Knightswood Community Centre
Current Knightswood Library building, completed 1971, with Kirkton Flats behind it
The building may not quite have the same aesthetic appeal as earlier libraries but it was/ is well used. In 1973-74 it had the third highest amount of books issued after Cardonald and Partick libraries. This was about to be overtaken in popularity by a new library serving the population in the Byres Road area. In 1907 Carnegie had put up the money to build a library in Hillhead but plans were shelved for lack of an appropriate site. When Hillhead Burgh Halls were demolished in 1970 a site became available. After decades of campaigning Hillhead Library opened in 1975 and it immediately became the most popular library in the city, in terms of books issued. It has maintained this position ever since.
Hillhead Library, Byres Road, Glasgow
Inside Hillhead Library
Although some of the newer buildings have not stood the test of time, such as the one which Drumchapel Library is lumbered with, honorable mentions must go to some of the more recent additions to Glasgow's library portfolio such as at The Bridge in Easterhouse and the new libraries in Pollok and Milton.

Okay. We are in the home straight now. Two more and then I will shut up.

  • University of Glasgow Library

So I am cheating now by including this academic library, as it is open to University of Glasgow students and not a public library, but I spent so many days here as a student that I felt that I had to include it. Visitors can get a one day pass if they wish to browse through the 2.5 million books and journals the university library holds. It also has special collections including 10,000 books printed before 1601. The university library is first mentioned in 1475 and after the university moved to its current Gilmorehill site, the library occupied the attractive part of the main Gilbert Scott building, where the Hunterian Museum currently sits, for about 100 years.

University of Glasgow Reading Room
By the 1930s the need to expand the library and the university campus led to the construction of the GUU building and a new library. In 1939 the circular Reading Room opened to house the old Department Class libraries as they were moved out of departments. Briefly in the early 1990s it housed the short loan collection. I used to spend a lot of time in here studying, just because it was such a bright, airy building, with light all around you and the old fashioned balcony looking down into the main hall from above.
University of Glasgow Library, overshadowing the Reading Room building
As the need for more library space grew, the current 12 storey library was constructed in 1968 and the main university library collection moved over from the Gilbert Scott building. Its brutalist, concrete design has been softened a bit in recent years by its new cladding but I always liked the idea that it was meant to evoke a medieval castle keep or the town of San Gimignano as pictured by MC Escher.
University of Glasgow Library as woodblock print by MC Escher

  • Mitchell Library

As I said at the beginning, my love for the Mitchell Library goes back to my days in fifth year at school when I came here to do my homework. A few years before that my dad used to work here as a librarian for a bit just after leaving school. The current building on North Street, overlooking the M8 at Charing Cross opened in 1911. Never one to miss a photo opportunity with a library, Andrew Carnegie was on hand to lay the foundation stone with a commemorative trowel, despite not being responsible for funding it. 
Trowel used by Andrew Carnegie at ceremony to lay foundation stone of Mitchell Library
However the Mitchell Library existed before this building was constructed. In 1874 tobacco manufacturer Stephen Mitchell left £70,000 to the city of Glasgow to create a free reference library. Consisting then of 17,000 books it opened three years later in a building at the corner of Ingram Street and Albion Street. With further donations and purchases, the stock had quadrupled seven years later. An 1880s gazetteer of Glasgow describes the Mitchell Library in terms that make you desperate to go and visit it
"The admission is free, and no introduction or guarantee is required. The scene presented by the library is somewhat striking; sitting reading side by side may be seen well-dressed gentlemen, plainly-attired working men, and squalid ragged-looking urchins from the East End, all on the same level and with equal rights and privileges in the stores of knowledge. The only request that is made is for clean hands - not a high price for the value of the commodity supplied"
In 1891 it moved to larger premises on Miller Street and again was soon outgrowing its accommodation. In 1911 the current building was opened to the public. It was extended in 1953 and when fire destroyed the famous St Andrew's Halls behind it in 1962 the library was able to further extend backwards into that space, alongside the newly constructed Mitchell Theatre. 

Mitchell library, Glasgow
Sculptures above the old main entrance
One of Europe's largest public reference libraries it also houses the city archives, rare books, manuscripts, newspaper archives, legal archives, some of Robert Burns's manuscripts and photographic archives. If you can't find an interesting way to waste an afternoon in here you really aren't trying hard enough. Just go and browse through a collection of over a hundred years worth of the National Geographic magazine, which sits on the shelves along the wall of one of the reading rooms.

The sculpture above the old main entrance is meant to represent "Wisdom" sat on a throne, laurel wreath in her hair and opened scroll on her lap. Above the copper clad dome "Literature" strides forwards towards the future, another scroll in her right hand.

Close Up of Sculpture of "Literature"
from the top of the dome
It is hard to imagine what this area looked like when the library faced the other side of North Street instead of a sunken motorway. It feels a bit cut off here, amongst the noise of the traffic. However 50 years after the motorway cut a hole through many close-knit Glasgow communities there are plans being floated to cover over the motorway with a garden park, to reconnect the Mitchell Library with the city.

Returning to Glasgow along the M8 after dark, the floodlit library building is a distinctive reminder that you are home. Like all the libraries above, they can easily be taken for granted, so make sure that we use them and make sure the city continues to look after them.

Tiled Corridor in the Mitchell Library
Note:- Section on University Reading Room amended with information supplied below