Libraries in Cardiff

Cardiff Central Library, opened in 2009

Public libraries in Cardiff are owned and operated by Cardiff Council. There are 20 public libraries in the capital of Wales, the largest of which is Cardiff Central Library. A mobile library service is also provided. In 2009/10, there were nearly 80,000 Cardiff residents, around 25% of the city's population, who borrowed an item from a municipal library.[1]

There are 280 computers in libraries in Cardiff and £70,000 of capital funding has been set aside to replace and upgrade these facilities.[1] Internet access is offered free of charge at most branches. Cultural events are regularly held at city library branches.

The first city library opened in central Cardiff in 1861, followed by the city's first branch library in Splott in 1894. The latest building to serve as Central Library opened in 2009 as part of a major reconstruction of the eastern city centre, including the St. David's 2 project.

Cathays and Canton Libraries are both Carnegie Libraries, built with money donated by Scottish businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.[2]


Cardiff Free Library (1861 to 1882)

In 1861, a free library was set up by voluntary subscription above the St Mary Street entrance to the Royal Arcade in Cardiff.[3] By 1862, the Public Libraries Act of 1855 allowed local councils with 5,000 inhabitants or more to raise a rate of one penny in the pound to provide a public library. Cardiff was the first town in Wales to establish a public library.[4]

Two years later in 1864, the library had moved to bigger premises in the now demolished YMCA building, in St Mary Street. A School of Science and Art and a small museum was also added,[5] and so it became known as the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art.[6]

Old Library (1882 to 1988)

The Old Library 1882 to 1988
Main article: Old Library, Cardiff

The Old Library is located at the northern end of The Hayes. Declared a public holiday ,[7] it was opened on 31 May 1882 by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alfred Thomas as the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art, which included an art gallery.[8][9] A competition was held to choose a design for the Cardiff Free Library, Museum and Schools for Science and Art. The winning design was by architects James, Seward and Thomas, erected for just over £9,000.[6] The Schools of Science and Art were housed in the building until 1890 when it moved to buildings that were part of the University College.[10]

The Central Library was moved to a new building located on St David's Link (Frederick Street). The building was officially opened on 3 December 1988,[11] and occupied the upper storeys of the commercial complex, which were accessed via a polygonal vestibule at street level.[12]

The building was demolished in late 2006 together with the surrounding retail units to make way for the extension to St. David's Centre.[13]

Temporary building (2006 to 2009)

During the construction of the new building, library services were moved to temporary facilities on John Street which were officially opened on 1 September 2006.[13] Consisting of two separate buildings adjoining the Welsh National Opera, the front overlooking Bute Street, featured 6 metres (20 ft) tall hoardings illustrating the spines of a number of books identified as those most commonly borrowed from the library.[13]


Library Items borrowed 2009-10[14] PCs
Canton 118,642 12
Cathays 26,736 14
Central 575,205 65
Ely 75,684 8
Fairwater 83,439 5
Grangetown 58,004 7
Llandaff North 68,471 6
Llanedeyrn 54,621 7
Llanishen 27,521 2
Llanrumney 49,937 7
Penylan 127,070 13
Radyr 56,030 5
Rhiwbina 171,820 4
Rhydypennau 138,426 5
Roath 52,946 11
Rumney 48,377 5
Splott 42,686
St Mellons 89,422 8
Whitchurch 104,076 10


Cardiff Central is the most used library in Cardiff. Rhiwbina is the most used branch library in the city, whereas Llanishen is the least used, according to 2008-10 usage statistics.[14]

The city's 20 branch libraries and mobile library were visited more than 1.8 million times in 2009/10 and more than 1.9 million items were borrowed. In 2008/09 Cardiff had 8,600 visits to the library per 1,000 of the population, the third highest number out of all 22 local authorities in Wales, and more than double the number of the previous year[15]

Cardiff Central Library received 351,680 visits in 2008/2009, when it was based in a temporary structure. More recent figures for 2009/2010 show it had 439,857 visits and 575,205 loans, in the first year of the new central library. However the opening of the new Central Library has affected local branches, which have seen a decline in usage and a 15% cut in spending on new facilities in 2009/10.[1]


Across Cardiff libraries, crime and romance are the most popular books, with James Patterson, Danielle Steel and Alexander McCall Smith among the most borrowed. More than half of the most borrowed books are aimed at youngsters. Cardiff-born Roald Dahl, Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson, Terry Deary, creator of the Horrid History series, and Enid Blyton are among those most likely to be borrowed by children and young teenagers.[16]

The city's libraries bought 69,015 new items in 2009/10, including 25,539 adult fiction books, 14,241 children's fiction books and 2,270 DVDs and videos. This was down from 101,276 in 2008/09.[17]


Improvements to the library network have been announced, including the modernisation of Radyr Library, the upgrade of Cathays Library and exploring the avenues of hiring more staff per library, some of which currently only have two members of staff on any given day, to allow more flexible opening hours which benefit the public.[1]


Internet access on public computers is offered free of charge at all branches except Tongwynlais, whilst WiFi is available free at the Central, Cathays, Llandaff North, Llanrumney and Penylan branches. Cultural events are regularly held at city library branches.[18] Community rooms or meeting rooms are provided for hire for a fee at branches in Canton, Central, Grangetown, Llandaff North, Llanrumney, Penylan, Rhiwbina, Roath, and St. Mellons.[19]

Central Library

Cardiff Central Library interior

Cardiff Central Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Ganolog Caerdydd) is situated in The Hayes area of the city centre of Cardiff. It opened on 14 March 2009 and officially being opened a few months later on 18 June 2009 by the Manic Street Preachers.[20]

The building cost £13.5 million to build and construction took 98 weeks involving nearly 1,200 workers. 2000m² of glass form part of the exterior walls. The length of shelving for the books totals 3 kilometres.[21] The library contains 55,000 ft of space, 90,000 books, 10,000 of which are written in Welsh, and an additional 10,000 CDs and DVDs.[22]

The building was specifically designed to be energy-efficient, and includes a sedum grass roof to improve insulation and reduce rainwater run-off, coloured glass panels and solar shading to prevent excessive heat gains, and a full Building Management System to provide climate control to individual floors. As a result of these measures the building was awarded a BREEAM rating of 'excellent'.[23]

There are a total of six floors. The library's facilities include a customer service centre for Cardiff County Council, known as Connect to Cardiff,[24] meeting rooms, ITC and display suites, public computers and free Wi-Fi access.[22] The fifth floor is used for the Cardiff Capital Collection with books on the history of Cardiff, the Wales Collection with books on the history of Wales, and Welsh-language publications.

Branch libraries


Canton Library

Canton Library (Welsh: Llyfgell Treganna) is situated on the busy Cowbridge Road East, near the Chapter Arts Centre in Canton, in the west of the city.

The branch is a Carnergie Library, and one of the busiest libraries in the city. Local councillors argue that the library needs a complete refurbishment.[2]

Storytimes, craft activities and an adult reading group are available at the branch.[25]


Cathays Library

Cathays Library (Welsh: Llyfgell Cathays) is a Carnegie building opened in 1907 and is prominently situated on a busy junction in Cathays, in the north of the city, next to Cathays Cemetery. The library is a Grade 2 Listed building and contains notable architectural features.[26] The library serves a largely student and young family population.[27]

The library reopened on 26 July 2010 after a £1 million refurbishment, of which £300,000 was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. The work saw the western wing by Whitchurch Road brought back into use, the roof replaced and improvements to the outside area. Local Liberal Democrat councillors aim to see a community room included as part of the plans for the building.[27][28]

A language and play storytime sessions, as well as local councillors' surgeries are held in the library. There are 15 public PCs and a WiFi network with free Internet access available.[27][26]


Old Ely Library building (demolished in 2015)

Ely and Caerau Community Hub (Welsh: Hyb Cymunedol Trelái a Chaerau) was situated at the junction of Cowbridge Road West and Grand Avenue, in Ely, serving a large area in the south west of Cardiff. Until 2015 the library was housed in a building designed by staff and students of the Welsh School of Architecture in 1986.[29]

The library's range includes a range of fiction, non-fiction, books on CD and cassette and DVDs. The children's area has a selection of board, picture and story books, children's DVDs and talking books. Newspapers for adults and children are available to read in the library. Free Internet access is available on 16 computers, two of which are child-only computers. An adult reading group which meets at Ely Library. Language and play sessions, and holiday time activities are available for children.

Ely Library underwent development in 2014, moving into the Jasmine Centre on Cowbridge Road. The library, like others in the Cardiff area became a 'Hub' joining with other council services in one building. In May 2015 the pre-existing 1986 library building was demolished. [29]

Surgeries with Cardiff West's Mark Drakeford AM and Kevin Brennan MP are held at Ely Library.[30]


Fairwater Library

Fairwater Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell y Tyllgoed) stands on an elevated position opposite Fairwater Green in the heart of Fairwater in the western part of the city.

The library was built in 1960, and has been promised a £150,000 upgrade by the deputy leader of Cardiff Council, but the funding has not yet been secured according to the 2010-11 council budget. Librarians at Fairwater Library have known various submissions for refurbishments, but they have not been successful. Many libraries across the capital have been refurbished since the mid first decade of the 21st century.[31]

There are six computers with free access to the Internet. Language and play sessions for pre-school children are held at the library, and a children's area is available. Local councillors hold regular surgeries at the library[32]


Grangetown Library Hub (Welsh: Llyfrgell a Hyb Grangetown ) is located in the southern district of Grangetown.

The library opened in 2006 on a former car park at a cost of £750,000, incorporating a bright open area.[33] The original Victorian library serving Grangetown dates from the 20th century and has since been renovated into 13 apartments after being bought by renovators after its closure in 2006, saving the building from demolition.[34]

Grangetown Library has been praised by the Welsh Assembly Heritage Minister for its wide variety of materials in the languages of the different ethnic groups living in the area.[35]

PCs are available with free internet access in the library. There is a Citizens Advice Bureau service as well as a housing and benefit service. There is a Community Room where various groups can meet,[36] such as Grangetown Community Concern, Grangetown Historical Society and Age Concern.

Llandaff North

Llandaff North Library

Llandaff North Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Ystum Taf) is situated in Gabalfa, in the north of Cardiff. It is part of the same building as Llandaff North Day Centre on Gabalfa Avenue.

The library opened in the 1970s, and had been closed from November 2007 until March 2008 for a £170,000 refurbishment which included upgrading the entrance lobby, fitting new flooring and replacing furniture and shelving.[37]

The library offers fiction, non-fiction, talking books for adults, and a separate section for children and teenagers. The latest addition is a selection of DVDs for children and teenagers. Community information, a reference section for adults, a magazine exchange, and a photocopier are all available. There are 10 PCs with full Internet access, including 2 adult only PCs and 2 child only PCs, as well as use of self-help Internet guides such as the BBC's Webwise CDRom - and books on how to access the net. Storytimes, the Book Start project and a reading group are amongst the services offered at the library.[38]


Llanedeyrn Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Llanedern) is situated in the Maelfa shopping centre in Llanedeyrn, in eastern Cardiff.

The library has 7 PCs for public use, one of which is reserved for children and all have free Internet access. Sources of information include noticeboards, leaflets, local and national newspapers and the Internet. During term time the library holds a storytime with craft and rhymes for pre-school children. There are storytimes for older children during the school holidays.[39]


Llanishen Library

Llanishen Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Llanisien) is a part-time branch in the heart of Llanishen in northern Cardiff.

The library offers most of the services of a full-time branch - fiction, non-fiction, large print and talking books for all ages. Also available are DVDs, an inter-library loan service, a community directory containing local information, two PCs with free public Internet access, and the Bookstart Scheme offering a free book for library members under 4 years old.[40]


Llanrumney Library

Llanrumney Library and Learning Centre (Welsh: Llyfrgell Llanrhymni a Chanolfan Ddysgu) opened on 17 March 2008, replacing an older building on the same site, in Llanrumney, east Cardiff.

The learning and information centre consists of a two storey steelwork wind frame designed to remove the need for bracing bays due to the extensive glazing to the elevations. It was built at a cost of £1.3 million and has been awarded a BREEAM Rating of Good.[41]

The library offers a range of fiction, non fiction, DVDs and talking books for adults. There is a separate section of children's and teenagers' books. There are 15 new public access PCs in the ICT suite which have full internet access. Free WiFi access is also available. The new facility includes a crèche, 4 community rooms available for hire and a Bar/Servery area. Storytime for the under 5s and councillors' surgeries are held at the library frequently.[42]


Penylan Library

Penylan Library and Community Centre (Welsh: Llyfrgell a Chanolfan Gymunedol Pen-y-lan) is situated in Penylan, in eastern Cardiff

Penylan Library opened as Roath Park Library on 18 July 1956.[43] It reopened on 25 April 2009 after being closed for several months in order to refurbish and renovate the building, which cost £2 million to complete and saw additions of Extreme Interactive bikes and touch sensitive dance mats.[44]

The library offers a range of fiction, non fiction, talking books, large print items, local newspapers and a reference section, community language books, DVDs, and free internet access on 2 children's PCs, 2 drop in PCs, and a dedicated IT suite with a further 11 PCs. Printing and photocopying facilities are also available. The community centre offers a gym with a range of interactive cardio vascular and resistance equipment, 2 Badminton courts, a playground, a Life Trail outdoor gym and rooms available for private hire/group bookings.[45]

The interactive room links a desire to play computer games with physical fitness. Screens that are attached to bikes and set up in front of dance mats allow up to 15 people to participate in limitless activities together. The new bikes allow enthusiasts to experience cycles through New York City, or engage in races with fellow cyclists. The interactive studio is the first of its kind in Cardiff, enabling exercise and learning in an active environment.[44]


Radyr Library

Radyr Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Radur) is a part-time library in Radyr, north west Cardiff.

There are 5 PCs providing free public Internet access. The library has a reference collection of books, maps and papers relating to the local area, most of which have been donated by the Radyr and Morganstown Local History Society. A complete set of the local newsletter, the Radyr Chain, has been bound into volumes and can be viewed at the library. The library also holds the events diary for Radyr and Morganstown and has information on local organisations and activities.

Children's activities include storytime for under 5s, rhymetimes for babies, stories and crafts sessions for older children, language and play sessions for babies and toddlers, and a readers group for children aged 8–12. The library holds events for adults including coffee mornings, readers' evenings and "Noson Goffi" for Welsh learners and speakers.[46]


Rhiwbina Library

Rhiwbina Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Rhiwbeina) is situated in Rhiwbina, north Cardiff.

There are 4 PCs with free public Internet access, and a catalogue search PC. For children, the library organises baby and toddler sessions and pre-school storytime. The Library has two informal readers groups for adults. The Jevons Room is available for hire by community groups.[47]


Rhydypennau Library

Rhydypennau Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Rhydypennau) is situated near Cardiff High School in Cyncoed, north Cardiff.

The library was refurbished in 2006-2007. Modifications to the entrance included the installation of automatic doors and the replacement of existing ramps. New windows were also fitted to the library and old facia boards were replaced. Accessible facilities for disabled people were put in place.[48]

There are 4 PCs with free public Internet access and 1 PC in the children's section. Storytime for pre-school children followed by craft activities, and rhymetime for babies and toddlers are organised by the library.[49]


Roath Library

Roath Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Y Rhath) served the communities of Roath, Adamsdown and Splott, in south eastern Cardiff. It is a Grade II listed red brick building, ten minutes from the city centre by foot.

The library closed in November 2014, and subsequently did not re-open, with high repair bills cited as the reason, though Cardiff Council had been threatening to close it for a number of years.[50]


Rumney Library

Rumney Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Tredelerch) is located in Rumney, east Cardiff.

The library has a range of fiction, non-fiction, talking books videos, DVDs and music CDs for adults and juniors, as well as a separate section for children with books, talking books, videos and DVDs. There is also a reference and information section which includes local and national newspapers, planning applications, and local council information. Along with a selection from the Archive of Rumney and District History Society, there is a photographic history of Rumney from the late 19th century to 2000, which members of the public can access.

There are seven computer terminals with free access to the Internet and there is also one terminal in the children's area. A computer for members of the public to search the library catalogue is also available. In addition to this, the Rumney Family History Society has provided a computer that can be used specifically for genealogical research. Computer classes for the over 50s are held at the library covering topics such as Word Processing and Internet Use.

Rumney Library organises a weekly reading group, author visits, storytime for pre-school children and baby rhymetime sessions. The local Age Concern "Good Neighbours Scheme" is also run from the community room in the library. There is a small display area available to local community groups.[51]


Splott Library (Welsh: Llyfgell Sblot) is situated in the STAR Centre in Splott which serves south eastern parts of the city.

In 1894 Splott became the first area of Cardiff to receive a local branch library.[52] The old library closed in the 2000s but refurbishment began in 2015 to return it to community use.[53] Splott Library became incorporated into the refurbished STAR Centre.

The library contains a children's area and an extended IT facility with full on-line services and access. The library organises a weekly reading group that is linked to a reading group in Argentina, as well as pre-school activities, half term events for school children, storytime and craft sessions, and rhymetime sessions.[54]

St Mellons

St Mellons Library and Community Hub

St Mellons Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Llaneirwg) is situated next to the Police Station and other community buildings of St Mellons in the east of Cardiff.

The library has 16 public PC terminals offering free access to the Internet. The library holds information on local events, clubs and societies, tourist information and local transport. Daily national and local newspapers are available to read, and a photocopying service is available.[55]

The library holds pre-school story and craft sessions, baby rhymetime sessions, and free computer sessions.[56]


Tongwynlais Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell Tongwynlais) is situated in the heart of the village of Tongwynlais in rural north west Cardiff. The library is situated near Castell Coch, a pictorial history of which is on permanent display in the building.

The building was originally opened as a tannery in the 1840s and was used as such until the late 1920s when it was taken over by the local community council and turned into a centre from where the library has been based for since the late 1980s.

Unlike most other Cardiff library, Tongwylais Library is only open one day a week. There are weekly storytime sessions for the under 5s, and visits from the local primary school. The library offers a range of fiction, large print and talking books for adults, and a special section ranging from books for babies to teenage stock. There is also a small reference and homework section.[57]


Whitchurch Library

Whitchurch Library (Welsh: Llyfrgell yr Eglwys Newydd) is situated in a busy community and shopping area of Whitchurch, north Cardiff, in the grounds of the local park.

There is an adult area away from the children's section which can be used to study any of the 20,000 stock items, reference books, newspapers or magazines. Storytime sessions, baby rhyme sessions and a book group meeting are held at the library.[58]

A memorial plaque at the library is dedicated to John Tripp, a poet who lived in the area.[59]

Mobile library

The mobile library visits areas of Cardiff without easy access to a local branch, new housing estates where a branch has yet to be built, and areas with a concentration of elderly or infirm people, who might struggle to reach a branch. The library visits over thirty nursing homes and sheltered homes, sometimes providing a trolley service. Two vehicles are operated with limited stock by Rhydypennau Library, but specific books can be ordered through the mobile library.[60]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 GuardianCardiff | Cardiff libraries suffer as new city centre library opens
  2. 1 2 Guardian Cardiff | Call to set branch library as priority
  3. "The Cardiff Story (1861)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  4. "The Cardiff Story (1862)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  5. "The Cardiff Story (1864)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  6. 1 2 "The Cardiff Story (1880-82)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  7. "The Cardiff Story (1882)". Cardiff Council. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  8. "The Old Library, Cardiff". HEVAC Heritage Group. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  9. Williams, Stewart (1980). Cardiff Yesterday: No. 1. Barry: Stewart Williams Publishers. ISBN 0-900807-40-7.
  10. "The Cardiff Story (1890)". Cardiff Council. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  11. "Image of Cardiff". Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  12. Newman, James; Stephen Hughes; Anthony Ward (1995). The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-071056-6.
  13. 1 2 3 "Cardiff's favourite books unveiled at temporary library". Cardiff County Council. 2006-08-29. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  14. 1 2 Google Maps | Library use in Cardiff
  15. Welsh Assembly Government | Local Area Summary Statistics p43 Archived 8 August 2010 at WebCite
  16. WalesOnline | Library visits show we are a nation of book lovers
  17. WalesOnline | Scandal of Cardiff libraries’ missing items
  18. Cardiff Council - What's on in our libraries
  19. Cardiff Council | Other Library services Archived 9 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. "Manic Street Preachers open Cardiff Central Library". Western Mail (Wales). 18 June 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  21. Leaflet: Cardiff Central Library - the most sustainable new building in the capital - published by Cardiff County Council
  22. 1 2 Leaflet: Cardiff Central Library Floor Plan published by Cardiff County Council
  23. "How the 'One Team' approach will help shape tomorrow". Infoworks. Laing O'Rourke. Q1 2008 (23): 22. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  24. Alford, Abby (2009-03-07). "Preview day at Cardiff's new library". South Wales Echo. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  25. Cardiff Council - Canton Library
  26. 1 2 Cardiff Council - Cathays Library
  27. 1 2 3 Wales Online | Cathays Library reopens after £1m update
  28. Cardiff Liberal Democrats - Cathays Library set for boost
  29. 1 2 Day, Liz (13 May 2015). "Cardiff's Ely Library is demolished as bulldozers tear down 'lovely' building designed by city architecture students". Wales Online. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  30. Cardiff Council - Ely Library
  31. Capture Cardiff - Funding not secured for deputy leader’s £150k library upgrade pledge
  32. Cardiff Council - Fairwater Library
  33. Oriel Architects
  34. "New lease of life for old Grangetown library". Wales Online. 25 March 2010.
  35. "Libraries get £10.5m to transform services". Wales Online. 16 May 2008.
  36. Cardiff Council - Grangetown Hub
  37. Cardiff Liberal Democrats - Lib Dems secure £170,000 makeover for Llandaff North Library
  38. Cardiff Council - Llandaff North Library
  39. Cardiff Council - Llanedeyrn Library
  40. Cardiff Council - Llanishen Library
  41. Shear Design
  42. Cardiff Council - Llanrumney Library
  43. Cardiff Council - Golden Jubilee for Penylan Library
  44. 1 2 Cardiff Council - Penylan Library and Community Centre opening
  45. Cardiff Council - Penylan Library
  46. Cardiff Council - Radyr Library
  47. Cardiff Council - Rhiwbina Library
  48. Cardiff Liberal Democrats - Lib Dems welcome Rhydypennau Library improvements
  49. Cardiff Council - Rhydypennau Library
  50. "Grade II listed Roath Library set to be closed, just weeks after being saved by Cardiff councillors". Wales Online. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  51. Cardiff Council - Rumney Library
  52. Cardiffians Timeline
  53. "Landmark building in the Splott area of Cardiff set to be renovated thanks to new investment". Wales Online. 27 December 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  54. Cardiff Council - Splott Library
  55. Cardiff Council - St Mellons Library
  56. My Local Community - St Mellons Library
  57. Cardiff Council - Tongwynlais Library
  58. Cardiff Council - Whitchurch Library
  59. Cardiff Council - Cardiff poet to be remembered
  60. Cardiff Council - Mobile Library
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