BRADFORD Libraries Service has come a long way since the city’s first public library opened 150 years ago.

When it first opened in June 1872, Bradford Public Library enabled people from all walks of life and of all ages to access information and education freely for the first time.

Since then the library service has developed to incorporate new technology alongside the offer of books, information and events.

Today’s library-users can borrow e-books and e-audiobooks; practice driving theory tests online, using a library card; trace family trees at the touch of a button; access the world’s biggest online database of pop music writing; or download the BorrowBox app.

The district’s library services are available 24 hours online, and the library buildings are ‘people places’, at the heart of communities they serve, a free safe space and a place to meet.

Before the Public Library Act was passed in 1850, people had to pay a subscription to use a library. The Mechanics Institute had been established in this pioneering city in 1832 to provide education in technical subjects to working men, but in general, library services were only available to those wealthy enough to pay for them.

So the adoption of the Free Libraries Act by Bradford was quite an occasion. Bradford became the fifth place in Yorkshire to adopt the Libraries Act, at a public meeting convened by the Mayor in 1871.

The ‘Bradford Free Library’ was opened in rented premises in Tyrrel Street . It was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Matthew Thompson with great pomp and ceremony on June 15, 1872. The lending department opened a year later, in February 1873.

Quickly expanding in size and greatly used, the library moved to Darley Street in 1878.

Chief Librarian Butler Wood, who was the main figure in expanding and establishing the library in the 1880s, told local newspapers: “With our beautiful, well stocked library, and the Technical College, Bradford is a centre of learning and culture as well as commercialism.”

The district has several Carnegie Libraries - built between 1883 and 1929 with money donated by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie - Keighley Library celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004, Ilkley in 2007 and Manningham in 2010.

There are now 29 Libraries across the Bradford district, including City Library in Bradford’s City Park, and Local Studies in separate premises alongside West Yorkshire Archives.

The story of Bradford Libraries Service, how it has evolved, and the enduring role of libraries throughout the changes of the last 150 years, will be told in an exhibition, opening at City Library in June before touring libraries across the district. Library webpages will feature a timeline of key events.

Youngsters are being given the chance to design a new library card in a competition open to children aged four to 11-years-old.

Entry forms are available in libraries or can be downloaded one from The closing date is March 1.

A key part of the celebrations will involve collecting memories, photographs and memorabilia from people to share in print and on social media.

Bradford Libraries Service is asking people to share their memories of libraries in the district, and their stories of the people and places that have shaped their local library.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, said: “This is such an important celebration and is a great achievement and shows how valued they are in our communities.

“We know that libraries have the potential to make a major contribution to communities, education, life-long learning, employment, business support and health outcomes.

“Things have obviously changed over the years and the way we read books and research has changed but throughout this time our libraries have adapted what they offer and have proven how important they are for our residents and how they have helped them through some really challenging times.

“I hope people take the opportunity to share their stories with us and also celebrate this year with us at events that are set to take place over the year.”

* To share your memories of using libraries in the Bradford district email