The site chosen for the Jesmond Branch Library is on the corner of St. George’s Terrace and within Jesmond’s shopping area. It was to have an informal appearance; a supermarket for books, renouncing the familiar gravitas reserved for civic buildings.
The library is drum-shaped, which not only suited the restrictions of the small corner site, but allowed the advantage of all-around supervision in the main part of the library. The distinctive saw-tooth facade was derived as a solution to accommodating all of the 18,000 books-for-loan to be shelved within the main readers’ area. The architects, Williamson, Faulkner Brown & Partners, found that the traditional solution of wrapping bookshelves around the external walls and arranging bookshelves radially still fell short of the required storage. The solution was found by setting the book shelves at right angles to the building’s facetted edge, with the narrow serrations allowing daylight daylight to wash across the surface of the book spines.
The design for the library proved influential on future libraries designed by the firm, including Heaton and Wallsend branch libraries, and the subsequent appointment for a number of university libraries including Newcastle, Teesside and Sunderland.
Jesmond Library was opened in 1963 and in 1998 was awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage.
Images 1-4 copyright of Faulkner Brown Architects
Image 5 copyright of authors