Posted by: paultovell | October 7, 2009

The inside-out Birmingham Central Library

Birmingham Central Library (wikipedia)

Birmingham Central Library (wikipedia)

Monday saw me in Birmingham Central Library for the Career Development Group’s National Council Meeting (enough capital letters for a Winnie-the-Pooh story).  Sadly it was my last as I am stepping down as a national councillor, but it was still an inspiring meeting – especially good to hear that CILIP is getting involved in the general election by creating a manifesto of requirements from politicians.  Really will be fascinating to see how they all (or if any) respond to it!  We’re all only too well aware that some people don’t class libraries as a front-line service – the Panorama programme last week about cuts in the public sector steered well clear of anything remotely related to books.  After all, that seems to be more controversial at the moment than putting up the pension age.

But I can’t help commenting on Birmingham Central Library’s design – especially since I am now technically a freelance design consultant (see previous post and comments).  Is it me or is the library actually inside-out?  There is a massive space right in the middle of it, designed to provide natural light from above (you know, the stuff that normally comes through windows on the outside).  But all you can see is grubby stains on the concrete opposite and the burger bars at the bottom – rather than, I don’t know, sweeping city panoramas and out onto the surrounding countryside.  Let’s hope they get it right with the new one – and hurry up and get it built.  It may just be me, but I found it an ironic metaphor for the danger of a library service being inward-looking.  Or how about: the library at whose centre is a vacuous waste of space?  Poor old Birmingham – surely they can’t make that mistake again?



  1. Looking good so far:

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