Buildings of Hope: The Design of Public Libraries in Britain in the Long 1960s

Total Funding to Date



  • Alistair Black

Against the backdrop of a powerful desire for national modernization, the Long 1960s (c. 1955-1975) witnessed attempts to build, literally, a better post-war Britain. The unprecedented burst of building activity that marked the post-war years included the planning and construction of hundreds of public library buildings, clothed in a variety of modernist styles symbolic of the period's spirit of renewal. Described at the time as a "national health service for reading," public libraries assumed a prominent position in the post-war welfare state. Through analysis of extant buildings and primary source documents, the research will examine what modernist library design meant to librarians, architects, local politicians and planners, and the public. The research will contribute to recent revisions of the thesis that the 1960s in Britain was in effect a "failed" decade. A book arising from the project is planned for publication in 2016.

Photo Credit / Bradford Public Libraries, UK

Funding Agencies

  • University of Illinois Research Board, 2012 – $16,250.00