Books of all sorts for public use: Bishop Cosin’s Library in the 21st century

Back in September, we celebrated the 350th anniversary of the establishment of Cosin’s Library. And now, thanks to a generous award from the Arts Council England’s Designated Development Fund, we have another reason to celebrate!

We have received over £85,000 for a project to unlock and develop the potential of Cosin’s Library as a research facility, and to create a deeper and richer experience for local audiences, visitors to the World Heritage Site, and beyond. Starting in January 2020, the project will develop an online gateway to enable people across the world to explore the collection and building in different ways, but will also aim to engage local communities and visitors through a series of events, workshops and specialist talks. One of the aims of the project is to explore the concept of public libraries in the 21st century, but also to find imaginative ways of interpreting a historic library for present-day audiences.

The inside of Bishop’s Cosin’s Library, completed in 1669. The gallery was added in the early 19th century when the space was used for university events and to house growing numbers of books.

Cosin’s Library has been a Designated collection since 2005, which means it is recognised by the Arts Council as having national and international significance. The application process was opened up to Designated library collections for the first time earlier this year and we are very grateful to the Arts Council for giving us the opportunity to develop resources and activities for sharing our beautiful historic library and its contents with the wider world.

The building is currently undergoing major repairs to the roof and external stone work and is due to reopen to the public towards the end of 2020.

We’ll share progress via the library blog and hope to see you at one of our future events!

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. For more information, see

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