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Floor plans

This descriptive plan of the building will help you to find your way around the building.

Please enter the building through the main entrance on Spinningfields. From Deansgate, walk along the side of the Historic Building to the new extension.

On this page:


The modern extension to library is fully accessible, with level access, a power-assisted entrance door, a spacious lift to all floors and an accessible toilet.

There is level access to all public areas of the building except the old entrance hall and the historic toilets, where access is via a flight of stairs. However, the old entrance hall can be viewed from the landing outside the Rylands Gallery.

One of the architectural highlights of the building is the historic staircase; much of this can be viewed from the bottom or the top, both of which are accessible via the lift. The addition of a handrail has improved access on the staircase itself.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss any particular access requirements.

[Elsevier Reading Room]

Level 4 - Reader reception and Elsevier Reading Room

Register as a reader.

Book in for your study visit.

[Historic Reading Room]

Level 3 - Historic Reading Room

The magnificent centrepiece of the building.

The Historic Reading Room is one of the finest reading rooms of any library in the world. It remains a place for study and research. We are grateful to our visitors for maintaining its quiet ambience.

Statues of Mr and Mrs Rylands grace either end of the huge cathedral-like space. The stained-glass windows celebrate the achievements of individuals from the worlds of theology, literature, the arts and science.

Some events are held in the Seminar Room.

Follow the signs leading you back to the atrium in the new entrance wing.


Level 2 - Atrium

Atrium staircase only.

Level 1 - Exhibitions

Visit the Introductory Gallery to discover the story of the library, the Activities Gallery for interactive family fun, the Rylands Gallery to see treasures from the library's collections and the Christie Gallery for touring exhibitions and changing displays.

Also on this floor are the Spencer Room, the Crawford Room, the Historic Entrance Hall and Main Staircase and also the Historic Toilets (staircase access only).

Introductory Gallery

Discover the history of the library including how and when it was built. Learn about the lives of John and Enriqueta Rylands and the textile business on which their wealth was founded.

[The Spencer Room]

Spencer and Crawford Rooms

These rooms house books from the Spencer Collection, purchased by Mrs Rylands from Earl Spencer in 1892.


Christie Gallery

This gallery is used for our programme of temporary exhibitions – see our page for details.

Rylands Gallery

In this gallery you can see items from the library's fascinating and diverse collections – including magnificent medieval manuscripts and examples of the earliest books ever printed.

The gallery is organized around seven themes: Faiths, History of the Bible, Beautiful Books, Science, World Literatures, Everyday Life and Manchester.

[Main staircase]

Historic Entrance Hall and Historic Staircase

The Historic Entrance Hall is dominated by the statue group on the wall facing the library's original entrance doors. The statues are by John Cassidy and represent Theology directing the Labours of Science and the Arts.

From the Entrance Hall, stairs lead down to the original Victorian toilets. They are unchanged since 1900 and still in use, but access is via the stairs only.

The Histotic Staircase leads up to the Historic Reading Room and provides stunning views of the Gothic architecture of the Entrance Hall and the Lantern Gallery above.


Ground Floor

Main entrance (wheelchair accessible), main reception, visitor information, café and shop.

[Cafe at the Rylands]

Cafe at the Rylands

The café offers light lunches, a wide selection of hot and cold drinks and a tempting range of freshly-baked cakes and pastries. Where possible, ingredients are sourced locally or are Fair Trade.

[Library shop]

Library Shop

The shop offers a range of cards, gifts and souvenirs of the library and its collections.



Visitor toilets including an accessible toilet and baby changing facilities are located in the basement of the entrance wing.

Either take the lift or walk down the stairs. Coin-operated lockers are available on this level for storing bags and coats.