Birmingham & Black Country

Library of Birmingham: 'It's about more than just books'

Library of Birmingham
Image caption Construction on the £189m project started in January 2010
Inside the library
Image caption The library is designed to hold 3,000 people in it at any one time

As the new £189m Library of Birmingham prepares to open, hundreds of people have been testing the building to check it can cope with the hordes waiting to see it.

When it opens, the building will be the biggest regional library in Europe.

But from the wood-panelled Shakespeare room at the top of the library to "spinney" seats and even the escalators, what were the first visitors' favourite features?

Did they find any downsides to the new building - and was it worth the cost?

Najma Hussain, lives in Great Barr

"Seeing the new library makes me feel so proud to live in Birmingham.

"I'm a writer and photographer and virtually lived in the old library - it was like my office - and I can imagine I'll be in here even more because it's such an inspiring place to be.

"I heard somewhere once that the old library was the third most-used library in the country and if people used that with all its concrete and lack of natural daylight, imagine how many other people would use this.

"A lot of money has been spent on it but we need something like this. People will travel especially to Birmingham to see it and it'll put our city on the map for years to come."

Stuart Knight, lives in Acocks Green

"I work in the building next door and I've seen the library go up from when they built the foundations three years ago so it's really nice to actually look inside.

"The whole thing's fantastic - and out here on the terrace, they've thought of everything - they've got bird boxes, sculptures and other ways to attract wildlife - it's not a bad view from the office window either.

"I've been able to wave at my workmates from out here on the terrace garden, which is brilliant. I might have to do that on all my days off.

"My 13-year-old daughter Georgia has been a fan of everything too."

Mohammed Abbas, 10, lives in Moseley

"Everything is just amazing.

"I loved the roof garden - but there were too many bees around, which were a bit scary.

"I also loved the spinney chairs, they were really fun, and there were lots of them so everyone should find somewhere to sit down.

"I think lots of people will like it and will help make reading fun."

Janet Bonner, lives in Bournville

"I used to work as a library assistant in the Central Library - and I even worked in the Victorian library before that too. Out of the three libraries I have to say this is my favourite.

"There were lots of lovely parts of the Victorian library and I think that's why my favourite part of this one is the Shakespeare room - I'd recommend that to anyone - and it feels just like walking into a piece of history.

"But overall this just has so much more space than a traditional library - there's a cafe and you can imagine a real atmosphere in here when it's busier. You can't imagine someone coming up and shushing you - they want people to talk, to enjoy themselves.

"The only problem I've come across is the lifts - quite a few people have mentioned those. They seem to go very slowly and people could be waiting a while, but hopefully they can sort that out."

Mel Charlery, lives in Hall Green

"I do like it, but I guess I expected it to be a bit more inspirational.

"You want a library to be somewhere where people will be creative, develop new ideas.

"I love the amazing curved bookshelves in the upper floors of the building but on the lower floors it feels a bit like too much of an old-fashioned library and they haven't really done much to present the books in an innovative way.

"All these things sound a bit petty, but I guess it's the Brummie way to find fault in everything - that's how we get things perfect."

Rohana Abeywardana, lives in Edgbaston

"It's absolutely awesome. It's really good to have such big open spaces in a library like this - to me it tops the British Library in its design and what it has to offer people.

"The amphitheatre reminds me of The Scoop venue on London's South Bank and it shows we can compete with anything the capital's got to offer.

"I never used the old library much but I can see lots of people like me coming over in their lunch breaks.

"It's more than just about books - it's a place to gather your thoughts and see Birmingham from a whole different perspective."

Sharon Hopwood, lives in Erdington

"It's just fabulous.

"Not only is the library itself very modern, the ideas that have gone into it are also very forward-thinking too.

"Although they've got a cafe, they want people to bring their own food, which is fantastic for families and they have the only adult-sized changing rooms for people who need them.

"That's not too much of an issue for my disabled son, I have friends with children with much more severe disabilities to which that will just be indispensible.

"My only gripe is the lifts being slow, like other people, but 98% of it is brilliant.

"Maybe the rest of Britain will stop seeing us as thick Brummies now and actually be jealous of all the culture we've got to offer here."

Michelle Mahoney, lives in the city centre

"Wow - I just absolutely love it, I think it's fabulous. I feel so proud to be a Brummie right now.

"I used to be a member of the Central Library but I just stopped going after a while.

"This will be right up there on people's lists of things they have to do in the city centre, which is all being improved right now.

"You'll have to go to Selfridges, the new John Lewis and definitely the new library."

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