Sally and Edith in Europe

LIANZA Travelling Scholarship


It is difficult to find words to describe

It is difficult to find words to describe the visual impact of the new Birmingham Central library. It looks so much like the architect’s drawing which is amazing and a bit weird.  I absolutely loved it.  The really sad thing for you who have not seen it yet is that I promised not to publish any interior shots until after opening day (3 September 2013).  Fay Davies and the team want to save the Wow for the big day and I can’t fault them for that.  It is going to be amazing.

The gold layer of the building is the archive layer. The gold depicts the treasured nature of the collections

The gold layer of the building is the archive layer. The gold depicts the treasured nature of the collections

Even without people, books or computers and the other tech treats this building oozes charm and gorgeousness around every corner.  It is a very large building of about 30,000 sqm and comes at a cost of £188.88M. It is funded entirely but the Birmingham council, an undeniable commitment to the role libraries play in modern viable cities.  The other partner in the project is the Shakespeare Theatre.  Included in the building is a 300 seat ‘studio theatre’ which fills a gap in the market for venues.


As with all of the libraries I have visited Local History and Archives are a big part of the service.  Bring the treasures to the people and increasing access has been achieved in various ways.  Like most of us and exactly what I am doing, all the people I have met have been to the libraries I have been to to get ideas and learn lessons from each other and I can see the development of the ideas and how things have moved on even in the four years since the Newcastle library has opened.

Exterior detail

Without giving anything else away, I can say a few things that won’t spoil any surprises….electronic rolling stacks in the public spaces to get more collection on the floor without using extra space…lots of interesting spaces created in what is a very large footprint, levels of connection, computers throughout the library.  The foyer is huge and leads you up into the higher floors as well as the basement floors.  The foyer has also been designed to be used as an event space for receptions and parties.  It has enough special features to make it viable.


Not so many secrets here

Not so many secrets here

Brian Gambles and Fay Davies and their colleagues should be very very proud of their achievement.  Fay,  I know has been working on this project for 10 years and I can only imagine how complex the journey has been and how amazing it is going to be watching the city flood in on opening day.  Birmingham library will be the new ‘go to’ library so keep your eye open for the opening day photos.