Kettering Library

1904     – Northamptonshire, England. Lat/Long 53.80916667 -1.509722222

Kettering was widely publicised in the architectural press and illustrated by Champneys as an exemplar of library design[i] and it comprehensively draws on contemporary expertise. Building on the double gabled single storey plan of Toxteth it also developed vaulted and ventilated ceilings with more complex geometries. The plan includes a central radiating lending library. The principle of the lending desk with central oversight based on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon ideal prison plan is most recognisable at a grand scale in main reading room of the British Library in London[ii]. The idea was first applied to libraries by Delessert in 1835[iii], it was promoted by Edward Edwards[iv] as a principal for the ideal plan of a small library in 1859 and had been used at a small scale in the first Carnegie Branch library at Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh, USA in 1898. Carnegie’s secretary, James Bertram’s later guidance[v] stated that “Small libraries should be pland (sic) so that one librarian can oversee the entire library from a central position”. In the UK the design was repeated widely in many small public libraries subsequently and was still being promoted in Briscoe’s library planning guidance of 1927.      

The write up in the Builder makes reference to the stack room being “lighted from the North on the usual weaving-shed plan”[vi]. This note on functional design is interesting with respect to the debate on Public Library design “Workshop or Museum” in JW Clark’s Rede Lecture of 1894[vii].

Architects: J. Goddard, A.H. Paget & W.A. Catlow of Leicester.

Heritage designation: LG II, 1976. Purpose built library; Carnegie grant: £8,000 10/06/1902. Open library, council managed.

[i] Champneys, A. L. (1907). Public libraries : A treatise on their design, construction, and fittings  p.141

[ii] Prizeman, O. (2012). Philanthropy and light : Carnegie libraries and the advent of transatlantic standards for public space. Farnham, Surrey, England; Burlington, VT, Ashgate. p.28

[iii] Delessert, B. (1835). Mémoire sur la Bibliothèque royale Avec deux planches. Paris, Paris : Impr. de H. Dupuy, 1835.

[iv] Edwards, E. (1859). Memoirs of libraries : including a handbook of library economy. London, Trübner & Co.

[v] Bertram, J. (1911). Notes on the Erection of Library Bildings. Carnegie Corporation of New York. New York.

[vi] The Builder 25.04.1903 p.456

[vii] Clark, J. W. (1894). Libraries in the Medieval and Renaissance Periods. The Rede Lecture Delivered June 13, 1894.

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