Sixty Years on

60th Anniversary

Greenhill Library first opened its doors to the public in February 1963 during one of the worst winters on record. On Sunday 16 April we celebrated with a special day, with five guests of honoure who had worked at the library when it opened, and our Lord Mayor.

Photos coming soon!

From the booklet that accompanied the official opening of the library:


The Greenhill Branch Library

When the Greenhill Corporation, state was first planned, the triangular site formed by the junction of Hemper Lane and Reney Road, the centre of a large residential area, was reserved for a new cinema with a Branch Library occupying the rear portion of the area. It was eventually decided that the cinema was not to be built and plans were made to build two blocks of flats providing 24 dwellings primarily for old people, fronted by the new Branch Library. The use of the temporary shop” branch on the east shopping centre of the Estate at Lowedges Road has shown that the need for a comprehensive library service extends over a very much wider area than could possibly be served from these small premises. The new library, which will replace the temporary branch, is better sited to serve that larger district, being more easily approached by the five roads which radiate from the site.

On entering the building, the public departments, the Adult Lending Library and the Children’s Library, are easily seen through the armour plate glass doors and screen of the Entrance Hall. The staff and book stock rooms stretch under one of the blocks of flats. Adult Lending Library. This spacious room, measuring 48 ft by 28 ft, is shelved to hold some 9,000 books and the main part is well lit by a continuous clerestory window on all four sides which gives adequate light even to the wall bookshelves. This lighting is supple- mented on the north side facing the shopping centre, by windows double glazed to retain the heat, reaching from the floor to the clerestory windows. Artificial lighting is by fluorescent fittings recessed into the acoustic absorbent ceiling. At the end of this room is a 28 ft by 12 ft study alcove provided with a small collection of reference books and periodicals, carpeted and furnished with tables and upholstered chairs. The furnishings and the lower ceiling help to give this alcove an attractive and more secluded atmosphere conducive to quiet reading.

Children’s Library

At the other end, centrally located between the Adult and the Children’s Libraries is the staff enclosure, which serves both sec- tions. Behind are the staff quarters, including a workroom, a staff room, a small kitchen and a large area shelved for book storage. Children’s Library. This unusually shaped room is very light and attractive and is planned to accommodate varied activities. Alcoves, with windows (those on the north double-glazed) looking out on miniature gardens, provide areas where small groups can read in relative seclusion while the central area can easily be cleared of special display book cases to provide space talks or discussions. for a larger group for

The Children’s Library can be isolated from the Adult Library by a roller shutter, and attractive curtains at all windows enable the room to be used for film shows; a cinema screen is recessed into the ceiling. There is shelving for 4,000 books.

Building Details. The structure is of brick with Y-shaped steel beams supporting an asbestos decking roof finished with asphalt. The building is heated by a gas-fired blown-air system, thermostati- cally controlled, using under-floor and high level ducts; unheated air may be circulated in hot weather. The floors are covered with linoleum tiles and oak furniture has been used throughout.

The large frontage is laid out with lawns, shrubs and trees. Space has been provided for parking cars off Hemper Lane and Reney Road and there is a cycle park at the Reney Road end of the building. A service road enables vans to unload under cover close to the staff and stock rooms.

The general building contractors were the City of Sheffield’s Public Works Department (General Manager, Mr. Henry Smith, A.R.I.C.S.) and the contract price was £34,951. The Library was designed by the City Architect, Mr. J. L. Womersley, C.B.E., F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I., and the Architect in charge of the project was Mr. A. R. Boothroyd, A.R.I.B.A.

This extract from “Earning a Living” Volume II (Courtesy of Irene Davy) gives a fascinating insight into the preparations behind the opening o the library

Opening of Greenhill Library

In September 1962, aged 17, I was given the exciting opportunity of joining the staff of the new Greenhill Library, then being built on Hemper Lane. Thousands of new books had been purchased and needed processing from scratch – a very labour-intensive job. Every book needed a plastic jacket cut and fitted to size, and catalogue cards and labels neatly printed with pen and ink. This task took the five permanent staff, supplemented by temporary help from other libraries, nearly three months to complete.

The building was not yet ready for occupation, so we were located in a backroom at Highfield Library, and as the work was rather tedious and repetitive, and we were out of sight and hearing of the public, we brought in a record-player and our favourite discs, discussed every subject under the sun, and generally had a lot of fun. In fact, we bonded together so well that we still meet up over forty years later.

The library was due to open at the end of January, and before Christmas we had accomplished the task of moving all the bookstock in, though it was stored in the stacks at the back rather than the public part of the library, which was still not complete. On Christmas day disaster struck the boiler blew up, and the resulting smoke and water damage put the official opening back another month.

Technically the building was uninhabitable, but being young and enthusiastic, we volunteered to work there without any heat, during what has become the legendary bad winter of 1963. It snowed heavily on Boxing Day and there was still snow on the ground when the library opened at the end of February. Our offer was accepted, on condition that each person only worked there for one or two days per week, and we were given special permission to wear trousers – an immense and unheard-of privilege! The day would begin with me walking half an hour through thick snow to the bus, then another half hour from Meadowhead through the old village to the library. I shall never forget the beauty of the huge icicles which hung from the roofs of every house I passed. In order to keep warm, we dressed in many layers of thick clothing, worked very hard, and constantly used the cooker in the staff kitchen to produce hot drinks, soup, toast and jacket potatoes, the whole supplemented by a substantial lunch from the chippie in the village.

We enjoyed ourselves hugely, and were immensely proud when, at the end of February, the Lord Mayor came and officially opened the library, which was so popular that queues of new customers formed outside the library day after day. The reward for our efforts was a promise not to transfer any of us to another library for the first two years, since we got on so well. This was quite unusual in Sheffield Libraries at that time, and a real privilege. The promise was kept, but precisely at the end of two years, I was moved elsewhere.

To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of it’s opening, Greenhill Library got a makeover, and some of the original staff went back to take a look. The original solid oak Ercol furniture had been replaced by cheerful items from Ikea, but we found that the staff quarters were unchanged, and the current staff were astonished at the mayhem created by we fifty-sixty-something ladies as we re-lived the days when we were young and daft.