Birmingham – Birmingham Library

Birmingham Library replaced the former Central Library which was on a nearby site and which closed in 2013. I actually quite liked the old library and it’s a shame that it was only in use between 1974 and 2013, but the brutalist architecture never really appealed to many. Inside the library I remember that it was quiet, calm and peaceful, so at the time I had hoped that the new library wouldn’t be built when there were campaigns to save the old one.

The escalators in the new building sweep visitors through the book stacks and it is an impressive sight. However, this library cost nearly £200 million and that seems a huge investment given that the previous building was still functional. I recall the fiasco that Birmingham City Council got into when they realised they didn’t have enough money to open their lovely flagship building, with proposed opening hours slashed nearly in half, although the situation seems to have improved a little since then.

Books neatly shelved, although some of them are deliberately decorative and can’t be reached by visitors or staff.

Another view of the escalator.

The tower area of the building. I’ve visited this library before shortly after it opened and I visited again because I wanted to go on the terraces to get a view over the city centre. Unfortunately I decided that I’d come to the library at a time of inclement weather and so they had closed them off. I’m not actually sure what the inclement weather was since it was neither raining nor windy though….

I’m not sure that I’ve seen so many Haynes manuals in one place before.

Moveable book stacks. Secretly, I’d install these in my flat if I could.

Long and wide aisles which makes browsing books easy, with the whole building feeling spacious and peaceful. The element that I most like though is the quantity of seating and there were numerous quiet areas. Norwich Central Library, which seems to find itself inconvenienced by having to have books (although it keeps flogging them off), has no such quiet areas without veering into the Heritage Centre.

The library design is innovative and functional, something I’ve given up hope for in Norwich. Incidentally, it’s 25 years this month since the old Norwich library burned down, and I still think we’re in a worse place now than we were with that building. But there we go, I’m often displeased by something. But not by this library in Birmingham, it’s rather lovely.