The passage of the Public Libraries Act (1850) did not spark an immediate boom in new public library building construction. Initially, of course, only substantial towns with populations of 10,000 people or more had powers to raise and spend revenue under the Act. Books, moreover, were expected to be collected by private donations. Contributions began to flow in quickly in Salford, Warrington, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and other (mainly northern and midlands) cities allowing reading rooms to be opened; but in most places the libraries opened in rented rooms and converted buildings. Former museums, literary societies and Mechanics’ Institutes – sometimes with their entire collections made over to the new public library – provided much of the early accommodation. Buildings designed specifically for the new institution reached completion in 1857 at Norwich and Warrington, and in 1859 at Walsall. The year 1860 saw the completion of the first major new building in one of the country’s largest cities, when the William Brown library and museum opened in Liverpool. However, the early limitations imposed by legislation and the time needed to launch major capital projects are only partial explanations for the slow start. The public library was an entirely new civic institution with a programme that shared many objectives with those of established cultural bodies, but presented a number of distinctly different questions. Would the public collection be for reference only, or for borrowing? How would novels and newspapers be handled? Would young people be admitted? Would men and women be admitted on equal terms, or was a degree of segregation required? Answers to such questions would shape the new buildings, but there were few directly applicable design precedents and no established body of library management theory on which to draw.