New Library of Birmingham II

The new Library of Birmingham opened on Tuesday, and it really is an amazing building. We went with some friends, meeting at 18h00 outside and exploring in awe for the next two hours. It’s interesting to see how people approached it, we moved floor-by-floor together, but everyone’s priorities were different :

  • Studying for a degree, one friend made a fast-track to the study areas, which do seem well equipped, with a mixture of desks and computers, even soft chairs for comfortable reading sessions. I might find myself popping down one day to try and finish my book.
  • There are very interestingly named areas, the Contemplation Room, the Brain Storm. One girl made a point to have a look in each of these, even looking through windows if they were closed. The Shakespeare Room was the best I think, although a bit empty really but maybe they will put some desks in, or an exhibition. Apparently it will be by appointment only once the library is properly up and running.
  • Then we all made a bee-line for the terraces, the beautiful gardens and views across the city. There’s a Discovery Garden with all sorts of interesting little corners, and a Community Garden with herbs growing. Then a Secret Garden on the 8th floor with beautiful views from the University to the Jewellery Quarter, BT Tower, Cricket Ground, even the building I used to work in. To be fair though, you can see that from any high place in the city.
  • My approach was as always, wandering around having a look, but searching and searching for the Spanish and Latin American Literature and Journals. It just draws me in, a mix of genuine interest and nostalgia. At the moment I’m reading The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, but to be honest it’s a bit tough going – so maybe a weekend in the Library of Birmingham is what I need.

There are the usual controversies about the construction cost, and whether it will be an asset to the city in the long run. My main concern is, as with all public buildings, how long before this gets old. Look at the original Central Library, forty years ago it was built and the insides were tatty, worn out and old-fashioned colours. How long before the gardens can’t be kept anymore, or the signs fall off the shelves and there are no cushions left in the quiet relaxing areas? In 40 years time, will we be complaining about this library? About the BullRing? About the new New Street Station?

Whatever the outcome in the future, I will be enjoying every minute of this one. It’s open until 20h00 every evening, there’s a café lovely seating areas on the garden terraces. I’m going on Wednesday with my Mom, she moved out to the countryside in February so doesn’t come into town much anymore. Should be a nice night. We ended our evening last week in Chilacas, a Mexican version of Subway, putting the world to rights and enjoying this city.

Inside the Library

Inside the Library

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