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Credit - The Leeds Library
Credit - The Leeds Library

Expanding the horizons of The Leeds Library

10 March 2022

The Leeds Library is the oldest surviving private subscription library in the UK. Founded in 1768, it has occupied the Grade II*-listed building on Commercial Street, in the centre of Leeds, since 1808. It holds an impressive collection of over 140,000 books, including many rare and unique editions, and offers members access to this historic archive, as well as a contemporary collection of books, audio books, DVDs and CDs, online courses, and journals. Alongside this, the Library also delivers a popular annual programme of public events.

With the opportunity arising to acquire the neighbouring property of 15 Commercial Street, The Leeds Library has received loan investment of £220,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund to expand its premises for the first time in 143 years - our Heritage Impact Fund loan forms part of a total investment of £1.2m into this development.

The acquisition of the four-storey, 19th-century former shop building will allow the expansion of the Library, consequently enabling its entire collection to be brought back into one space and creating room for a newly accessible hub for culture, arts, and educational activities.

The additional building will open in 2023, with a leased retail unit on the ground floor, additional study and social space, new welfare facilities, and a lift. Event space will also be made available on the upper floors connected to the current Library building, while new collection storage will be developed in the basement.

Martin Staniforth, Chair of Trustees of the Leeds Library, said:

The purchase of 15 Commercial Street opens a new chapter in the Library's 250-year story and secures its future for generations to come. The additional space the new building provides will make the Library more accessible, will allow us to broaden the range of activities and events we support, and will enable us to bring our collections together in one place. By doing so it will reinforce the Library's position as a cultural hub for the city. I am grateful to all those who have helped bring this about, and particularly the Ecology Building Society and the Architectural Heritage Fund for their commitment to the project.’

Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said:

‘We are very pleased to be awarding The Leeds Library a Heritage Impact Fund loan towards the acquisition of 15 Commercial Street. Not only will this new space expand the Library’s premises, but it will also help to repurpose a 19th-century building in the heart of the city and enhance public engagement through a range of cultural and literary events and educational activities.’

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