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New bid to save Mecanoo's Brum library from becoming 'a shell'

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Birmingham City Council is exploring whether its iconic city library could become a regional centre for the British Library after campaigners said proposed cuts could turn the building into a shell

This week the council said that the proposal for the Mecanoo-designed building could help counter the impact of savage cuts to staff and opening hours which it proposed last month.

More than 2,800 people have already signed an online petition calling on the council to reverse the planned cuts, which would see 100 library staff made redundant across the city and opening hours at the flagship building slashed from 73 to 40 hours per week.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Stirling Prize, the £188 million library on the city’s Centenary Square has been open for less than two years.

Speaking this week, Penny Holbrook, cabinet member for skills, learning and culture at the council, said: ‘We now have an interesting idea which could ensure we continue to have a flagship library service the city can be proud of.

‘The Library of Birmingham already has a glowing reputation. Being linked to the British Library would add further weight to this on the international stage.”

However, she warned that if the proposal proved unworkable, the council would be forced to continue with the proposed cuts.

The council is looking to slash £117million from its annual budget across all services due to a reduction in funding from central government.

At a public meeting organised by campaigners against the cuts earlier this week, Sam Owen, a member of staff at the library said that the job cuts would result in the building becoming ‘an empty shell’.

She was quoted on the BBC’s website as saying: “It’s no good having a state-of-the art library if there aren’t enough experienced staff to run it.”

The council is currently paying £12 million a year to repay the loan it took out to build the facility.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is a fabulous facility and in my experience very well used across a very diverse community, from high end academic research,
    study areas for individuals and groups, as well as purely social users who are experiencing international quality modern architecture as a really nice place to be!

    The building should be ring-fenced from cuts to retain its value as a centre of civic excellence.

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