Library of Birmingham: The people’s playground

Look at this picture. Does it look like a library to you? No, nor me. If you’d asked, I’d have said it was a garden.

But that’s the thing about the Library of Birmingham, which opens on Tuesday 3 September 2013 – it isn’t a library in the sense that we have always known it.

It IS a library.  It still is unique amongst UK libraries for the depth and range of its collections, six of which have been designated “outstanding” by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.  You will still be able to go in to look something up or borrow a book.

BUT, as well as being a place for books, it is also a garden, a recording studio, a theatre, a concert hall, a board room, a coffee shop, a viewing point. (I would have taken photos of all of those things to show you, but the garden’s the only thing that’s ready at the moment.)

Architect Francine Houben calls it the “people’s palace.” I like that description but it doesn’t quite work for me because I don’t know what one does in a palace, except walk quietly down the corridors and be on one’s best behaviour.

I prefer to think of it as the “people’s playground” – a place where you arrive and think : “Oooh, look we could play pirates over there.   Or shall we go down here and pretend to be hobbits? But I want to play on the swings first.  Hey, look!  Let’s make a den over there.”

The Library of Birmingham is opening soon. Palace of playground, get ready for something you have never experienced before.

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