The iconic Manchester landmark set for a major transformation as £7.5m project is approved by council

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The Grade-I listed building on Deansgate opened way back in 1900.

One of Manchester’s most iconic buildings is set to undergo a multi-million-pound ‘transformation’, University bosses have announced.

The John Rylands Library will see £7.6 million spent on it to ‘enhance its contribution to research, student experience and public engagement’. Located on Deansgate, it is grade-I listed and owned by the University of Manchester.

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The proposed entrance of the new-look John Rylands Library. Picture: Donald Insall AssociatesThe proposed entrance of the new-look John Rylands Library. Picture: Donald Insall Associates
The proposed entrance of the new-look John Rylands Library. Picture: Donald Insall Associates | Donald Insall Associates

The ‘Next Chapter’ work will include creating ‘an updated exhibition space, an advanced imaging laboratory, a flexible event space, and a refreshed main entrance’. Architects, Donald Insall Associates, say the new upgrades ‘speak to the building’s evolution through the 1890s, 1920s, 1960s and 2000s’.

“The Rylands is one of the great libraries of the world,” said Professor Christopher Pressler, John Rylands University Librarian, on announcing the news that Manchester City Council has approved a planning application for the refurbishment. 

How the cross corridor might look at the John Rylands Library. Picture: Nissen Richards Studio.How the cross corridor might look at the John Rylands Library. Picture: Nissen Richards Studio.
How the cross corridor might look at the John Rylands Library. Picture: Nissen Richards Studio. | Nissen Richards Studio

“I am tremendously proud to lead this remarkable institution as we approach our 125th anniversary in 2025. The Next Chapter project will deliver world-class facilities for research and engagement, of a quality to match our extraordinary collections and building. 

“It will equip the Rylands to address the many challenges and opportunities of the mid-21st century, and it will reinforce the Rylands’ importance to the University, the city of Manchester, and world heritage.”

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How bookshelves might look at the John Rylands. Picture: Nissen Richards StudioHow bookshelves might look at the John Rylands. Picture: Nissen Richards Studio
How bookshelves might look at the John Rylands. Picture: Nissen Richards Studio | Nissen Richards Studio

The John Rylands was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands, who died in 1888. Two years later, she used money from his estate to begin the construction of the library on Deansgate, in what was known to be a salacious area of the city.

Construction took 10 years, meaning visitors were welcomed in on New Year’s Day, 1900. The library became a part of the University in 1972, and now houses the majority of Special Collections of The University of Manchester Library, the third largest academic library in the country.

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