by Sarah Speight

Library of Birmingham

Project Focus

Library of Birmingham
Library of Birmingham

It has been described as ‘heroic’ and a ‘people’s palace’. It promises to boost economic and social regeneration and provide a much-needed landmark in a city beleaguered by its public image. Crucially, it could offer a blueprint for the future of libraries at a time when they need it most.

 
The Library of Birmingham, due to open in September 2013, is Britain’s largest public sector cultural project and a flagship of Birmingham’s awardwinning Big City Plan for city centre development. Ambitious not just in scale, this project aims to challenge the traditional concept of a library. It will be a place not just for books and reading, but also exhibition and performance spaces, a knowledge hub for the city’s cultural and learning development, and a secure archive for the city’s internationally significant collections of books, archives, music and photographs.

And, to make it a library for the 21st century, it will be a place where everyone can access information digitally – whether in the building via WiFi or the library’s computers, via external online access or through collaboration with community libraries. Brian Gambles, project director at Birmingham City Council, says: “We’re trying to achieve a huge cultural transformation. People in the city were initially a little sceptical (and I don’t blame them) about spending a lot of money on a library at a time when there is a conversation about the continued value of the public library.”

Brian envisages a lasting legacy – a possible blueprint – for the future of libraries. “Building an extremely large and sophisticated library in the middle of a city is not the same as running a small neighbourhood library and you can’t replicate everything. “But the delivery strategy is very much a partnership strategy and one that other libraries could try to emulate. We’re also trying to bring a more commercial mindset to the way we run the library, without compromising the free library service. There is an interesting model of governance for libraries we’re looking to set up.”

Article courtesy of Project magazine - www.apm.org.uk/project

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