The John Rylands Library is on Deansgate and contains some very special and impressive collections. It was built and opened in 1900 by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands as a tribute to her dead husband, who was a textile manufactured and somewhat of a philanthropist The building itself is stunning; you enter through a modern extension, go past the gift shop and cafe, up some stairs and suddenly you enter another world, a cathedral of books in an intricate gothic style, which looks like a large church from the outside. Carved red sandstone, wood panelling wood carvings, statues and stained glass - you get the picture. Even before you get to the books and exhibits, you're marvelling at the splendid surroundings and trying to take it all in.
There are also regular changing exhibitions. At the moment there's a Clockwork Orange exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the Anthony Burgess novel and a display of very impressive entries in the 36th annual Designer Bookbinders Competition. Free tours of the library are also run on a regular basis where you can look around the parts of the building that aren't usually open to the public - definitely something I'm going to plan my next trip to Manchester around.
If you're ever in Manchester for a night or two I recommend having a look around and seeing it for yourself. You can find out more about it, including it's collections, forthcoming exhibitions and directions here.