Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Library File Goes to the West Midlands

Part Two: Solihull

Although only 9 miles from Birmingham, the pleasant town of Solihull feels a world away - it feels middle class, calm and small-townish. The large modern shopping mall, in the bustling centre of the town, had the most interesting interior I've seen in such a building. There were art deco style lamp posts with wrap-around leather benches at the bottom for resting on and curved fretwork ceilings with recessed lighting. The interior embellishments were subtle, but once I started to notice them I could see how nicely designed the mall was.

Although there are plenty of older buildings in the town (Solihull escaped the WWII bombing raids which destroyed parts of Birmingham and Coventry), the library, which shares a building with the arts centre, is housed in a utilitarian seventies block.

Solihull Arts Complex and Central Library, opened 1978.
Despite the slightly depressing exterior (not helped by the grey, drizzling day and bare, winter trees), Solihull Central Library is, what I would call, a 'proper' library. When you enter on the ground floor you come across an enquiry desk, and then the room opens out displaying the circulating collection of: fiction, non-fiction, CDs and DVDs, a large sheet music collection and an extensive collection of language learning resources. The children's library is situated in a large area to the right of the main area. The reference library, local history section, national careers library and special resources for the visually impaired are located on the first floor along with plenty of PCs. 
The ground floor lending library.
For a first time visitor, the library is very easy to use and it is also very well stocked. I was pleased to see such a comprehensive reference section, and I went a bit mad photographing encyclopaedias and dictionaries: they had everything from encyclopaedias of military uniforms to reference works on oriental rugs and English goldsmiths.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


  1. Gorgeous--I'm new to reading your blog but LOVE this series of posts on the libraries you visit. A particular treat for me, an American who wishes very much I could visit the UK and see how your libraries differ from ours in person--but transoceanic travel is just not in the budget right now. Thanks for the great pics, too.

  2. I'm glad you like the posts about libraries. I have one more library to post about from my trip to the West Midlands - I'll try and put that up soon.

    I like reading about other people's library experiences and I've read that some American book bloggers have a huge allowance of items from their public library (I think it varies quite a lot from place to place). I've read that some people can take out 100 items at a time! That sounds amazing to me - I currently have an allowance of 20 items - but I don't know how I'd manage to carry such a load home.