Archives+ Project
Click for Archives+ Project Diary
 Click for Archives+ Blog

Manchester Central Library by ilgiovaneWalter (Sobchak).

What is Archives+?
Manchester Central Library closed in July for a refurbishment which is expected to be completed in 2013. When it re-opens it will accommodate a partnership consisting of:

  • Manchester Archives and Local Studies
  • Greater Manchester County Record Office
  • Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society
  • Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre
  • North West Film Archive
  • British Film Institute Mediatheque

Archives+ will provide a one-stop-shop for family and local historians and in addition to the partner organisations there will be arrangements with:

  • Manchester Register Office for the supply of BMD certificates
  • Genealogical Society of Utah for access to their vast library of genealogical resources
  • The National Archives for access to their expanding online resources

How does the partnership affect MLFHS?
MLFHS will be a partner in Archives+ and will relocate from Clayton House into the refurbished building. This does not mean that the Society will lose its identity. It will continue as a charity run and funded by its members and continuing its activities much as at present. The major difference is that we will not operate a separate family history library and we will provide an enhanced Help Desk service for non-members.

Why does MLFHS wish to join the partnership?
The Trustees (Executive Committee) believe that the proposal to join the partnership offers the most secure future option for the Society. Our lease on Clayton House expires at the end of 2011 and this requires us to make an important decision.

The financial position of the Society is becoming increasingly uncertain. Declining income and escalating overheads mean that the present accommodation cannot be retained by simply renewing the lease when it expires. Even reducing the size of the Resource Centre is likely only to put off the day when this can no longer be supported.

The opening of Archives+ in 2013 will, if we do not join the partnership, present a threat. It is reasonable to assume that Archives+ would be active in promoting its services to family historians. It will be difficult to convince potential members of the benefit of membership in the face of a new, one-stop-shop for family history.

Membership of the partnership is seen as a positive move. Ongoing negotiations suggest that we will obtain accommodation at a substantial reduction in cost from present levels. There will be considerably improved opportunities for transcription and indexing projects and the several partners are committed to working on joint projects and activities. Finally, we will be based in a centre which is planning to increase its present 1.2 million annual visitors to over 2 million. This will provide excellent opportunities to get our message to a wider audience, particularly younger people.

What happens between 2011 and 2013?
The lease on Clayton House ends on 31 December 2011 and we do not expect the refurbished Central Library Building to open until late in 2013. In the interim period:
  • Greater Manchester County Record Office have offered us office accommodation for our administration and mail order functions.
  • Manchester Archives and Local Studies have relocated to temporary accommodation in Elliot House on Deansgate. There is a large local studies library and our Help Desk has already re-opened there each Thursday. There is the option, if we were to leave Clayton House, for Resource Centre volunteers to transfer to Elliot House to enable the Help Desk service to be expanded to other days.
  • Our library of books, fiche and CDs could be put into appropriate storage for the duration of the temporary arrangement.
  • However, there are logistical benefits to remaining in Clayton House until the new centre is open. The landlord has indicated a willingness to discuss a short and flexible lease on the 3rd floor rooms to cover this period. This is being explored as the Executive Committee's preferred option and negotiations have been commenced towards obtaining an appropriate lease.

What will happen to services to members?
Irrespective of the interim arrangements adopted, there will be no hiatus in membership. Members will continue to receive their quarterly copy of The Manchester Genealogist and the e-mail list will remain in operation. Members will continue to enjoy look-up services and our programme of meetings will continue. If we were to vacate Clayton House we would have to have to find new venues for meetings. The Resource Centre at Clayton House would close, but we would hope that members would continue to meet together and with our volunteers at Elliot House.

Is there a 'Plan B'?
The Trustees are proceeding with the view to making a success of negotiations and joining the Archives+ partnership. If insurmountable difficulties arise, this will clearly have to be reconsidered. Continued occupation of Clayton House will become increasingly difficult if the long-term trend of increasing cost and decreasing income continues and it is ultimately likely that there will have to be a further decision on retrenchment or closure. Furthermore, the opening of Archives+ in the refurbished Central Library will make it more difficult for the Society to attract and retain members and continue as a separate body in its own premises. Clearly if negotiations fail to achieve a satisfactory outcome, we will have to salvage what we can, but 'business as usual' is unlikely to be anything other than a short term solution.

Have other funding sources been explored?
We have considered the possibility of seeking grants from charitable funding bodies but these are generally either only made against specific limited projects or tend to operate on a year-to-year basis with no guarantee of continuity. This does not provide a satisfactory basis on which to commit to long-term commitments such as a building lease.

It should be reiterated, however, that the reasons for recommending that MLFHS joins the Archives+ partnership are not purely financial. The Trustees would still view the proposal as a positive move for MLFHS if financial considerations were not an issue.

Is MLFHS committed to the partnership?
As indicated above, the Executive Committee feels that the Archives+ proposal will provide the most secure future for the Society and offers some exciting possibilities. There is, however, no formal commitment to participate.

As a first stage of commitment, the Society has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This sets out basic principles from which future negotiations towards a binding agreement will develop. The key points of the MOU are:

  • That all parties, including MLFHS, will retain their individual identities and parent bodies.
  • That MLFHS will be guaranteed a seat on the Archives+ Board which will manage strategic issues.
  • That MLFHS will be guaranteed two seats on the Steering Group which will manage operational issues.
  • That future binding contractual agreements will be subject to agreement of the building design, and to partnership and financial arrangements.

The MOU can be terminated by written notice if the Society decides it it is not in its interests to proceed.

Click the link to read the full text of the Memorandum of Understanding.

How can I keep abreast of developments?
We will be publishing reports in each issue of The Manchester Genealogist, but recognise that this is only quarterly and that information will lag events. To provide a more immediate picture, we have established a project diary and this will be updated with the results of meetings and other developments as they take place. To access the project diary CLICK HERE.

Work in Progress
CLICK HERE for an outline of how Central Library is to be transformed.
CLICK HERE for some still photos of the work in progress.
CLICK HERE to see a short time-lapse video of the erection of the scaffolding inside the building.
CLICK HERE to see a short video about the removal of the interior floors and stacks.

Updated 9 February 2012 - John Marsden