Because this building was so much a part of my everyday experience, taken completely for granted, I was well into adulthood before it occurred to me that the design of the doorway is a bit odd. In fact it looks like an Egyptian tomb. You can see on the picture of the upper part of the building that the theme is continued all the way up in the 'pylons' feature.
In the second half of the 20th century we were finally blessed with universal provision of free public libraries and the need for private libraries and newspaper reading rooms disappeared. Or has it?
My views on this have recently diverged from popular orthodoxy. Many British public libraries are no longer doing what they were originally supposed to. They are full of mass market fiction, DVDs of Hollywood films and CDs of popular bands. Serious non-fiction is squashed into a small corner. Encyclopedias have entirely disappeared. In one way this is, of course, fair enough, since the internet is now a much more efficient way of distributing knowledge to the masses. But that means that the priority now has to be ensuring equal access to the web, and public libraries are not even managing to do that. The computer system of Northumberland public libraries is disgracefully inadequate. It is very slow and the versions of all the software are several release numbers out of date. It refuses to show any adverts at all, even ones that might be useful, or any user-generated photos, just in case they're 'inappropriate'. It has a very crude content filter which regularly blocks book reviews and history blogs because they have used a trigger word. And sometimes the whole system just falls over and dies for no apparent reason.
I would no longer take to the streets to protest the closure of public libraries. Frankly I wouldn't miss them. I am a loyal supporter of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, a triumphant survivor of the age of private library provision. I feel that a second age of the necessity for it is dawning. And I would love to see the return of a (suitably re-named) Mechanics Institute, diffusing serious knowledge to the workers.