This area used to be Manchester’s High street, I’ve been told. On the campus of Chetham’s Music school is the oldest surviving library in the English speaking world.
It’s an amazing set of buildings which were built in 1421 as a college for priests. You have to cross the courtyard and enter into a dark hallway where there is a short door with a button with the word push. When you do ring the bell someone will come and let you in. The library is up some stairs, it’s all dark wood and most of the books are locked away, it’s more than a bit like something out of Harry Potter.
The guy who the library is named for was dead by the time it was finished, however he paid for the books and for a blue coat school to be established in the grounds. This was to avoid the Death parliament from taking his money but I don’t think that makes it any less laudable.
His will instructed the librarian ‘to require nothing of any man that cometh into the library’ and it has be free to use all that time. It was also the meeting place of Engels and Marx whilst working on The communist manifesto. So the ethos lives on.