Birmingham deserves the sort of central library the city can be justifiably proud of and which provides national and international attention that seems so important these days.

There is as close to a common consensus as you are ever likely to get in Birmingham over this.

And yet the attempts to create a new central library for Birmingham has lurched from one farce to another and continues to get mired in disagreements, delays and division.

The latest announcement that English Heritage is urging the Government to declare the Central Library a building of architectural importance has thrown yet further doubt and confusion into the mix.

English Heritage believes the 1970s building at Paradise Circus, which tends to divide the city as clearly and definitely as which football team you support, is worthy of special recognition.

I tend to agree. There is a certain, cliched beautiful ugliness about the Central Library I find hard to resist.

Birmingham’s Central Library is also something of a personal landmark of my time in the city and the Midlands. I spent a fair bit of time using the library’s facilities to get up to speed on Birmingham ahead of my job interview with The Birmingham Post – and afterwards once I got the job.

Far more importantly, I met Rachel outside the library for our first date. I still think back to that Saturday afternoon whenever I walk by the library.

For that reason alone the building resonates with romance in a way others will not understand.

And yet, having spent time using the facilities, I also appreciate the building’s drawbacks and limitations.

I don’t care so much whether it, or the long overdue planned replacement, has the “wow factor” – after all, one person’s “Wow!” is so often another person’s “Eh?”

Rather, I’m concerned that Birmingham gets the sort of library the city deserves and one which future generations will continue to enjoy.

Clive Dutton, Birmingham’s regeneration director once memorably described as city planning’s answer to Jonathnan Meades, is someone who has worked tirelessly to try and maintain the progress of recent years and there are numerous examples of his success. But I have to take issue with his description of the Central Library as a “blot” on Birmingham’s cityscape.

There clearly is no simple solution to the Central Library puzzle. But all the pontificating, political point scoring and general prattishness of the last few years has ensured it has become far more complex than it should have and we are really no further towards getting a resolution.

I’d be happy to see a modernised, revitalised Central Library in Paradise Circus if that represented the best option. But I’d also be delighted to see a new landmark library for the city and others to swoon over if that is what ticks all the right boxes.

Yet, five or so years on, we don’t seem to be any closer to deciding what does represent the best option. 

One response »

  1. […] hot on the heels of the on-going library farce, we’re reliably informed by a committee of MPs that the £600m revamp of New Street railway […]

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