Z-arts Children’s Library: A Co-Creation Journey

In the heart of Hulme sits a small but amazing space, the Z-arts Children’s Library. Designed by local children, this small bur perfectly formed library is not just a repository of books but a vibrant reflection of the diversity of Manchester’s communities.

Co-Creation with Children: Empowering Voices

At Z-arts, we believe in the power of co-creation, especially when it comes to designing spaces for children. In spring 2022, we embarked on a journey with local children to reimagine what a children’s library could be. Through workshops and brainstorming sessions, the children shared their ideas, dreams, and preferences, shaping every aspect of the library’s design. They worked with artists, skilled craftswomen and each other to realise their ambitions.

See our library storyboard here – Bright colours and shapes were important to our children and of course disco lights!

Manchester’s Diversity: Reflecting Community

The result is a library bursting with colour, creativity, and inclusivity. From handmade shelves filled with thousands of carefully curated books to rainbow-shaped bookshelves and ‘disco cloud lights,’ every element embodies the spirit of our diverse community and the children’s ideas. Books featuring global majority writers, bilingual editions, and Braille versions ensure that every child feels seen and represented.

Child-Centric Approach: From Design to Programming

Departing from traditional library categorsations, the children’s preferences guided the organization of books, leading to sections like dinosaurs, feelings, family and nature. The library’s layout, resembling a child’s fantasy bedroom, fosters a warm and inviting atmosphere, inviting children to explore, learn, dream, and most importantly READ!


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Impact and Reach: Beyond Boundaries

Since its opening, the Z-arts Children’s Library has become a hub of fun, reading, learning, and enjoyment for families in Hulme and beyond. Free activities for pre-schoolers, designed to ignite imagination and curiosity, run regularly, ensuring that the library serves as not just a space for reading but also for community engagement and enrichment. We are home to a free book swap, a book club for 8-11-year-olds, a creative writing group and the children programme our Library Lab events!

CEO’s Vision: Celebrating Diversity and Access

Liz O’Neill, CEO & Artistic Director of Z-arts, emphasizes, the library is not just about books; it’s about celebrating diversity, fostering inclusion, and providing access to knowledge and creativity. In a city where libraries are precious resources, the Z-arts Children’s Library stands as a testament to the power of co-creation and community collaboration.

Conclusion: A Journey of Inclusion and Empowerment

In the story of the Z-arts Children’s Library, every page is filled with the voices and visions of children. Through co-creation, we’ve built more than just a library; we’ve created a space where every child feels valued, heard, and inspired—a space where imagination knows no bounds. As we continue this journey, we invite everyone to join us in celebrating diversity, fostering inclusion, empowering the voices of our youngest community members, and inspiring the next generation of writers, illustrators, and publishers!