OFF THE BEATEN PATH
THE MITCHELL LIBRARY IN GLASGOW
The Mitchell Library is an imposing structure located on North Street and Berkeley Street in Glasgow.
The library was founded, thanks to a bequest made by tobacco merchant Steven Mitchell, who died in 1874. His bequest was to form a library that would allow all books except those that were “immoral”, and said “no book shall be regarded as immoral which simply controverts present opinions on political or religious questions.”
About three years later the library opened its door son Ingram Street, and within ten years had outgrown its new location and moved. The building at the current location was erected in 1907 with Andrew Carnegie laying the cornerstone. The new library building opened on October 16, 1911.
As any book collector knows, there is never enough space for all the books, and so space remains a problem for many libraries. So by 1939 the problem was again apparent and an addition was to be built, although World War II put an end to that – at least for a time. The extension and magazine room finally were begin and opened in 1963.
The year before, however, a fire had destroyed the adjacent St. Andrew’s Halls and ultimately the site was used to expand the library as well. This expansion allowed for the shelves to go to “open” stacks, where people could peruse the materials rather than a “closed” stacks where specific items have to be requested.
Work has continued on expanding the facilities, and accommodating new technological advancements.
The library contains well in excess of a million volumes, much of which is reference material although the library also has many books in its circulation department, which it opened in 2005. About a half a million people a year visit the Mitchell Library.
The building is easily recognized by its huge copper dome, topped with Thomas Clapperton’s statue of a female figure called “Literature”, although it is often referred to as “Minerva”, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
The Glasgow City archives are housed here as are a number of special collections which are considered one of the best research sites for family histories.
The Mitchell Theater, a part of the library, contains seats for more than 400 people and is used for a variety of performance events. There are even “music pods” where one can practice the piano.
A “Virtual Mitchell” website is available here.
Other web sites that might be of interest are The Gen Guide’s page for the Mitchell: Mitchell Library/Family History Centre