Birmingham Libraries in Trouble

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Library of Birmingham (photo by me)

So what I had feared is happening. Birmingham, yes, cannot really afford its lovely new library. I was concerned from the beginning (well sort of) that the opening of a fancy, new, and- yes- expensive library would effect the libraries in Birmingham as a whole.

First the hours were cut and staff were let go. Now apparently new fiction is not being bought- there’s just no budget. I fact reportedly some Birmingham libraries have been asking for donations for their shelves.

I love the Library of Birmingham. It is a beautiful building, and of course all the books. However I never really saw a problem with the old one at least it terms of it’s purpose as a library. You couldn’t exactly call it beautiful, but it had books, and places to read them, which is the important thing really. It’s nice to have a library which isn’t a concrete monstrosity, but I’d rather have the old old library back based on the pictures I’ve seen, apparently at the time it was too ‘showy’ though, and the knocked it down when the ugly new library (of the time) was built.

Victorian Library (source)

The Library of Birmingham is probably the library I use the most (there are others closer to home, but I travel through town every day. It is certainly a nice library to have as my main library, although the decreased opening hours have meant that it’s often already closed when I am travelling through town on the way home.

That fiction is being cut I think really shows the attitude that libraries and reading are a luxury. Is this true though? Whilst non-fiction may be more intellectually enriching, fiction is, at least generally speaking, more emotionally enriching. Is that the type of society we really want? Where intelligence is rated above compassion or empathy? Plus reading has been shown to have good effects on mental health which is surely a good thing.

Old central library (source)

Again it is the poor that are getting hit. Those for whom the library is their only, or their main source of books. I am lucky. I can afford to buy more books than I really ‘need’. I have a pile of books waiting to be read which could last me a few months, and enough Waterstone’s points to buy three or four books if I’m really desperate.

However I remember a time when I used the library a lot. I did much of my studying for my GCSEs there, and spent a lot of time there during my holidays. I was a frequent visitor at the school library. If it wasn’t for the library- and yes, especially the fiction section I wouldn’t be the reader I am today.

Reading isn’t a luxury. Reading is a way of life, and in a world where there are so many other things to distract potential readers shouldn’t we be putting more into our libraries, not taking away from them. Books create a person, books are a lot of what I am, not just a reader, but my personality too. I hate to think of a world where this access to self is lost.

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6 Comments

Filed under general, Musings

6 responses to “Birmingham Libraries in Trouble

  1. Reblogged this on Birmingham Libraries Campaigns @FoLoB_ and commented:
    Lucybird in her blog says: ‘If it wasn’t for the library- and yes, especially the fiction section I wouldn’t be the reader I am today…Books create a person, books are a lot of what I am, not just a reader, but my personality too. I hate to think of a world where this access to self is lost.’

  2. It’s so sad to read yet another story about libraries in trouble. I relied on them as a child/teenager and hate to think what would have happened to me if I hadn’t spent all those hours reading. I’m lucky enough to not need them now, but you’re right about it being the poor who suffer. So sad.

  3. I’m also very sad about the plight of the Library of Birmingham. I can’t help thinking there was a lack of forward planning. The library is certainly prestigious, and a good addition to the skyline of that part of the city centre. But, without books, it is not a library, and not an asset. I have to admit that its title ‘Library of Birmingham’ has never appealed to me. Birmingham has lots of libraries with librarians doing fantastic work to encourage reading – not least the local library that you mentioned, which asked for book donations. So the city centre library is only one library *in* Birmingham. What was wrong with ‘Central Library’? But I suppose that is just a bugbear with me – wanting recognition for the whole network of libraries that provide a service for people who can’t get into town, but for whom the trip to their local library is a familiar and pleasant routine. If having the Library of Birmingham deprives the whole service of new books something is going wrong. And I agree about fiction books – they are important to people. The library service better buy the third part of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy when it comes out! A great read if you want to find out what it was like to live in Tudor Britain.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Surfing 23/8/15 | Lucybird's Book Blog

  5. I remember going to the “showy” library to (ahem) revise … with my boyfriend. We used to call it the “Reference Library”. I don’t know if books could be borrowed or not. I was tickled to see that the Library of Birmingham has also been a haven for after school socialising. I did think the name “Library of Birmingham” was a bit pompous. Would the money have been better spent going to local libraries? They buzz with intent and are accessible to all.

  6. I think it would have been, especially given the recession. When it was first planned (I was still at school) it was a good idea, but I think it should have been shelved once the council knew that cuts needed to be made.

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