Hereford is set to receive a new public library and resource center by spring 2024 after the planning application for its construction was approved.

The development will be located at Maylord Orchards, re-using existing units and public spaces to create an attractive, accessible learning center. The center will offer reading spaces, information resources, business support, quiet study space, digital literacy programs, access to PCs, and a vibrant cultural and creative activities program. It will also include a café designed to make customers feel at home.

In addition, the project includes enhancements to the Maylord Orchards shopping precinct atrium and adjacent Trinity Square to create a social space for people to meet and hold events. The redevelopment project is part of the planned transformation of the library and museum building in Broad Street, which will become a new state-of-the-art museum and art gallery.

The total cost of the library redevelopment project is £3,500,000, with £3,000,000 from Stronger Hereford and £500,000 from Herefordshire Council. While the construction work is going on in Broad Street, library services will be run temporarily from the Museum Resource and Learning Centre in Friars Street.

According to Amy Pitt, Herefordshire Council Service Director of Community Wellbeing, the project is running to schedule, and people are already excited about it. The new library and resource center will offer an attractive place for people to meet, learn, and enjoy activities. It’s important that those who want help can get face-to-face assistance with council services, and the library team will offer opportunities for people to provide their views on what they think the new center should offer.

The progress on the museum and library projects can be tracked on the dedicated webpage, which links to separate articles on the library and museum. With the construction work well underway, Hereford residents can look forward to enjoying the new library and resource center in a year’s time.

Hereford’s rich literary history can be traced back to the 19th century, when weekly papers were read out loud in public houses such as The Grapes in Castle Street. However, not everyone could afford to read, with the cost of subscriptions often prohibitive for the average person.

Benjamin Fallowes set up the Hereford Permanent Library in St John Street in 1815, but this was only accessible to those who could afford the annual fee of £1 10s.

It wasn’t until 1836 that a library was established for working-class people at St Peter’s Literary Institution in Commercial Street, but Hereford was still without a public library that could be used by all without charge.

It wasn’t until the Public Libraries Act of 1850 that towns like Hereford were authorised to use revenue from a half-penny rate to provide public libraries, with the rate increasing to one penny in 1855; Hereford’s city fathers were more focused on issues such as sanitation and living standards, and the city was without a public library for many years.

Despite this, public interest in literature continued to grow, with hundreds of people attending penny readings to hear lectures given by the intellectuals of the county.

The foundation stone of the current library and museum was laid in 1873, and the library first opened for business in October 1874. The museum was on the second floor, with the third floor used for librarian’s accommodation. Today, the library still stands as a testament to Hereford’s rich literary history and is an important cultural hub for the city.