Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Library File Goes to the West Midlands

Part One - Birmingham

I have just returned from three, library-themed days in the West Midlands. I spent a day in Birmingham visiting the Central Library and I saw the outside of the new Library of Birmingham. As you can see from the pictures, the weather was very bad and during the odd occasion when it wasn't raining, it was really foggy.

The Central Library opened in 1974 and certainly looks of the era! I would describe it as modernist, but I'm sure others might refer to it as 'industrial' or 'depressing'. Despite the somewhat severe exterior, the inside used to be a warm and inviting place to visit. I once spent a memorable afternoon in the children's section reading Michael Morpugo's Private Peaceful and hoping that no one would notice the tears rolling down my cheeks. 

The remains of the lending library: half empty shelves, self-service machines and  not much else.

The services at the Central Library are currently being wound down in preparation for the opening of the new Library of Birmingham in September. The children's section, or Centre for the Child, as it used to be known, is now closed and the lending library is a paltry affair on the first floor. The other four floors of the library (arts, social sciences, sciences, archives, black history) are all closed; however, the IT services remain open and there are still plenty of study places available. The Central Library will close forever at 5pm on 29th June 2013.

The new Library of Birmingham
The new Library of Birmingham building looks a little bit like a huge ship moored in between the existing buildings in Centenary Square. It was designed by the Dutch architectural firm, Mecanoo and it is, by no means, their craziest design for a library building. Mecanoo were also commissioned to design the library at Delft Institute of Technology in the Netherlands, which looks like a cross between a grassy knoll and a strange, new age temple.

The new website for the library is now up and running and provides plenty of information about the building and the services it will offer. It seems that the golden rotunda (I think I'll refer to it as the funnel of the 'ship') is designed to hold the city's Shakespeare collection of 43,000 books and the original Shakespeare Memorial Room (designed 1882) has been moved in its entirety and rebuilt in the rotunda. I hope I get a chance to visit Birmingham again, some time after September, as the Shakespeare Memorial Room sounds marvellous.

No comments:

Post a Comment