Library of Birmingham cuts through

The Guardian has reported on the new Library of Birmingham Super library arrives as hundreds of others face closure in the fight for the NHS of the mind, The Big Issue in Scotland - Features - Libraries: The NHS of the mind.

While I noted in my post arguing about Pricing the cultural change from museums, regarding the threat of public service cuts affecting culture, Birmingham has in contrast to the current threat to public libraries sought to invest in a new central library. The new Library of Birmingham should be a key hub for learning and literacy in Birmingham and should seek to place learning at the heart of the city and reflect in it's metal fretwork facade the industrial development that paved the way for the enlightenment of it's citizens in the educational establishments of public libraries and the great city universities.

The price of this new hub of learning though is that it obscures the threat to the 40 neighbourhood libraries around the city which are under threat alongside the threat to close 481 libraries nationally. It is heartening that alongside the outcry over the sell off of Forestry Commission forests, Midlands Chase to retain forest, communities have risen up to defend libraries as another cultural and civic necessity to society.

The Guardian's article reflects on the flythrough released showing what the interior of the new Library of Birmingham will look like, Library of Birmingham February Update. The flythrough shows the new face of Birmingham's libraries but as the article notes it comes amid challenges to all Birmingham libraries.

As part of budget tightening major cuts are expected in staffing and the book budgets and the decision on funding will be taken on a council meeting on Valentines Day. Perhaps a day for campaigners to think about "loving a book" as Council leader Mike Whitby states "We cannot expect to hold on to everything we have."

Sybil Ruth, poet, author and ardent campaigner for libraries, said: "Despite all the hype and spin about the new building, Birmingham city council is currently keeping very, very quiet indeed about its plans for the 'ordinary' library users of Birmingham.

Her own branch in Kings Heath closed in December for repairs, and locals fear it may never reopen.

"The publicity for the new library is very much about showcasing cutting-edge technology. There is very little talk about readers, about promoting literacy in the city. So at the moment we have a central library that is looking increasingly decayed because no money is being spent maintaining it, and some very rundown community libraries."

Gambles is braced for a cut in his book-buying budget, and says weeding out the present stock for the move probably means there will be 10% fewer books on the new shelves. But, he argued: "We ought to be judged as having failed if we deliver a fantastic central library, and there's nothing to show for it out there in the communities."

Meanwhile work still continues on the new Library as can be seen in the pictures below from Monday 7th February 2011.


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