Library of Birmingham June 2013 Update

In just over twenty days time, on 29 June 2013, the current Central Library will close, excepting the information desk and REP ticket sales in the foyer, as the new Library of Birmingham counts down to it's opening on 3 September 2013.

The move to the new library is an incredible job with the following facts highlighting the challenge of moving sites.

• 33 kilometres of shelves of books
• 24 kilometres of shelves of archives
• around 2 million individual photographs
• 152,000 individual items of music 

If the scale of those figures wasn't enough to wow, the 66,000 crates it will take to move the millions of items at a rate of 1,100 crates every day for three months is mind boggling.  The first book has however been placed, by Council Leader Sir Albert Bore, with Tolkien's The Hobbit an appropriate choice with Tolkien's Birmingham inspiration for his stories and the Centenary Square amphitheatre hole reminiscent of the opening to the Hobbit about a hole not nasty, dirty or dry or bare but a hobbit-hole meaning comfort. 

Meanwhile, ahead of it's opening, the new Library of Birmingham is looking for green fingered volunteers to help maintain the terrace gardens,  No experience is necessary and indeed office workers are encouraged to do a little gardening as stress relief with participants receiving training through the University of Birmingham's Urban Veg scheme.  The gardens include fruit trees, herbs, vegetables, together with meadow and terrace knot garden.

The Library of Birmingham will also have two elevated outdoor garden terraces, which will offer an environment for visitors to unwind, socialize and learn, as well as bringing environmental benefits through offsetting carbon emissions and attracting wildlife and local ecology. Planting on the 3rd floor Discovery Terrace will include fruit, vegetable and herbs, and will provide an opportunity to help local people to learn about where food comes from and about healthy eating. It also aims to inspire people in the community to get involved with the Library through gardening and to grow their own.

Planting on both garden terraces will provide welcome green space high above the busy streets in the heart of the city centre, with the 7th floor terrace, to be called The Secret Garden, in particular being a quieter space with denser planting. The Library is aiming to achieve a BREEAM Excellent status, and the Brown Roof and landscaping on the terraces will contribute to this, forming a natural City Centre habitat for local wildlife and birds.

If your keen to get a taste of the library's collections, which will be in the new building, ahead of it's opening there is a new smartphone and tablet app Dozens & Trails which shows groups of twelve connected items representing different aspects of the new Library of Birmingham while also revealing hidden items behind the scenes and in the library's archives.  The app is also a taster of the link that the new library will have to technology with the twitter announcement that the library will have 2888 data connections with 10 gigabit ethernet.

An update from contractors Carillion, reproduced from, shows the inside of the library now matching the completed exterior and providing a tantalising glimpse of the new light and airy cathedral to learning.  

While the building is stocked with books and prepares for it's opening, controversial plans to privatise the running of the library,, have been postponed until March 2014 with the focus on ensuring the new library opens and delivers its services to users.

“The priority at this point is that the iconic building is completed, opened and starts to deliver an excellent range of services for residents and visitors to Birmingham.

“Once this enormous task has been completed successfully, and we start to get a greater understanding of the requirements of the service, we will be in a better position to put together detailed specifications for the running of the new library.

"We have commissioned a world class library and we will not be rushed in the process to ensure it delivers an excellent service that is value for money and sustainable.”

The plans are sure to provoke fierce opposition when they come back to the council with the new library being the focal library of the city and in many eyes, particularly in light of this new library, a public building that should be owned and operated by the council.  While the council faces tough decisions financially this plan may be one step too far from the civic virtues that made Birmingham great and 'best governed city in the world'.  Musings on linking it's running to the Birmingham Museums Trust would seem a more logical and fitting way to safeguard it's role for the citizens of Birmingham and it's international status with it's collections.

The following pictures show the new Library and REP with teasing glimpses into the interior.

6 June 2013

4 June

20-29 May

13 May

13-30 April

5-7 April


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