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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s

Culture and Leisure

Museums and Libraries

By Joe Fisher

Riddrie Library As the city expanded from 1912 onwards, every effort was made to extend the public library provisions into the new areas. In due course many new libraries were also built in the vast post-war peripheral housing schemes.

Baillieston Post Office The inter-war period was in some ways the climax of the "pure" public library. As befitted its Victorian origins the service had always seen its aims as a trinity – education, information, literature – and there still lingered something of a prejudice against the last member of the trinity. As Arnold Bennett scornfully pointed out, at one time Glasgow would not admit a work of fiction to its shelves until a year after its publication. It may be that this bias encouraged the re-emergence of the old-fashioned subscription library. From large departments in the Sauchiehall Street, Boots the Chemist and the Argyll Street Lewis's, to a few grubby shelves in back street newsagents, these "libraries" supplied the light fiction, romances and blood and guts adventures lacking in the public libraries. Interestingly, these subscription libraries were largely middle-class preserves, confirming the unspoken belief that the public service was something of a working class resource.

Burrell Collection For Glasgow's museums the inter-war period was mainly one of consolidation and it was not until the sixties onwards that several new and prestigious museums came into existence – the Museum of Transport, St Mungo Museum of Religious Life, Springburn Community Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art. The year 1944, however, saw one important bequest to the city in the form of the internationally famous art collection of Glasgow-born Sir William Burrell, shipowner and collector. Its superb collection of 19th century paintings, European and Oriental art works and Roman and Greek artefacts did not open in its custom-designed building until 1983.

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