Birmingham welcomes public library amidst national cuts

09-06-2013 10:20 BJT


In Europe, the largest public library was unveiled in Birmingham earlier this week. The new design, with a hefty price tag, proves to have something for everyone.

Hundreds of people marked the opening of Europe’s largest public library in Birmingham. Ten years in the making, it is a strange time for the biggest civic library in Europe to be opening, after national cuts saw more than 200 local libraries close their doors last year.

The new library is linked by a generous open foyer to the neighbouring Repertory Theatre, also refurbished as part of the project, and there are plans for performances to spill into the library, with a sunken amphitheatre in the square intended to lure people inside.

Ed Vaizey, Minister of Culture, said, “I think it’s a measure of Birmingham ambition that they wanted to build Europe’s biggest library. Birmingham is Britain’s second city, but it’s also the youngest city in Europe, so I think it’s a very important point again to make that this young and vibrant city wants to put learning centre stage. And I think it’s good thing sometimes when London comes second to another city in the UK.”

With a reported price tag of 186 million pounds, the library occupies 29,000 square meters across 11 floors and is made up of stacked rectangular volumes. Designed to accommodate 10,000 visitors per day, the building comprises reading rooms, archives, research spaces, and an amphitheatre. One place to which many will no doubt flock are the outdoor terraces, created by the set-back form of the building, where readers can escape to sit among winding flowerbeds planted with edible fruit; from apple trees to raspberry bushes; and look out across the city to the rolling hills beyond.

Ed Vaizey, Minister of Culture, said, “You do need books at its heart but you also need to understand that books are just part of a wider picture. You need community space, you need technology, you need all sorts of things, you need a garden if you look at the example of Birmingham.”



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