May 20, 2022

Report: In the UK, “Private Libraries are Making a Quiet Comeback”

From the Financial Times:

The origins of “independent” libraries, as they are now known, date back to the mid-18th century when even the upper middle classes found books and newspapers expensive and decided to pool resources. One of the grandest, The Portico in Manchester, was opened in 1806. It was funded by 400 of the city’s wealthiest men, who each gave around 30 guineas for a share (the equivalent of 18 months’ wages for a framework knitter) followed by a smaller annual subscription.

The Portico Library (Source: Independent Library Association)


The jewel in the crown of Independent Libraries is the London Library in St James’s Square (membership costs about £500 a year). It is breathtaking in its scope — 17 miles of shelving and around 1m books. But around the country there are dozens of other gems — whether it is Newcastle’s stunning Lit & Phil, the Devon & Exeter Institution or the country’s oldest surviving subscription library, The Leeds Library, which celebrated its 250th anniversary last year. Check out your nearest by visiting the Independent Libraries Association website, but if you do unearth a local treasure, don’t tell too many people — they’ll all want to join.

The London Library (Source: Independent Library Association)

Read the Complete Article (approx. 840 words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.