Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tour: Library of Birmingham

The queue to enter the library during its
opening weekend
At the end of each academic year, the college in which I work holds a staff development day for all staff. This year, the library team visited the new Library of Birmingham for a tour. 

The Library of Birmingham is fairly local to where I live so I had visited it before as a user and also for the 2013 CILIP AGM. However, the majority of people in the library team had not visited before as they live outside of the West Midlands area. It was nice being able to share their enthusiasm of experiencing it for the first time. All eleven of us were present, which is an achievement in itself! Due to part time hours, term-time only working and being multi-site, we are often ships that pass in the night. One of us pointed out that the new library had brought us all together and it takes a rare thing to do that!

Tickets for the tour were £5 for non-members and a reduced rate for members. I must say it was well worth the money! The tour lasted almost two hours and we learned so much more than if we had simply been browsing the library as users. Our guide was knowledgeable and answered all our questions about the service provided and the building itself. We visited each terrace and balcony, the archive room and the Shakespeare Memorial Room. I particularly liked the BFI programme booths and spent quite some time here on a previous visit. I also noted that it has a licenced bar! A unique selling point of the library is the beautiful view – a wonderful source of inspiration for those with creative minds. I love seeing the building in the Birmingham skyline. As a member of the local community I feel proud of it. I first visited it the weekend it opened and queued for 15 minutes to get it. A queue for a library – who would have believed it in this day and age?!

The decommissioned Central Library, as seen from the
new Library of Birmingham
During my A-levels and undergrad degree I spent many times working in the old Birmingham Library. It was an unattractive building in very poor state, no longer fit for purpose in various ways, but I will always remember it fondly. It was particularly poignant being able to see the old library from the window of its successor. The Library of Birmingham is an amazing resource for the local area and I do hope people continue to make use of it once the hype has died down.

It was interesting to be given a sneak peak behind-the-scenes of a large public library and compare it to our small further education library. Different in every way!

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