"Our first plan should be to establish, at the outset, in every large district of the town, a not very extensive library, but consisting of books calculated to beget a love of reading, and to furnish materials for thinking ... The external machinery of these free libraries and reading rooms should be simple and inexpensive. A lock-up cupboard for the books, a librarian's table, chair and slate; a few benches, and a good fire, or other means of warming the room, are all the requisites. As for the rooms, there should not be any real difficulty in a town having most of its hundreds of Sunday schools standing empty during the great part, if not the whole, of the week-days ... As in the purchase of books, in these times, with a little judicious management on the part of one active, intelligent agent, a great store of really good works could be procured for very little money in the old book-shops and stalls ..."
Extract from an article originally published in The Manchester Guardian, 19 January 1842. Republished as 'Soup kitchens for the mind'. The Guardian, Saturday 19 June 2004.
According to its web-site, "There has been a public library service in Manchester since 1852, when the Manchester Free Library was opened in the Hall of Science in Campfield."