The West Midlands Writers’ Guild has joined library staff, visitors and campaigners in condemning planned cuts to the new Library of Birmingham, which opened last year.
The plans, announced by Birmingham City Council last week, would mean the loss of around 100 staff, and opening hours cut from 73 to 40 hours a week.
“In its short time, the Library of Birmingham has become a huge focus for every kind of artistic, educational and media work that goes on in this exciting and vibrant city,” said Writers’ Guild West Midlands regional representative William Gallagher. “You can’t make a building be important but when it is, when it has become vital, you can easily throw all of that away.
“A Library of Birmingham that is staffed, open and used to the potential we were promised and that we have seen in action is a cause for civic, artistic and regional pride. A library that is closed is a defeat.
“That we have to fight for the library after only a year is an excoriating embarrassment for Birmingham. But that we will fight, that the writers and artists and public of our city are fighting for the library, is testament to what this building and its staff mean to us.”
The £188-million library is Europe’s largest and the Labour-controlled Birmingham Council said it had no choice but to press ahead with plans in the light of Government cuts, which have seen the number of libraries in the UK fall by 7.5% since 2010.
“As the largest and most visited public library in Europe the Library of Birmingham is not only of regional importance but of national and international importance too. It should be treated as such,” said Writers’ Guild Deputy Chair and Birmingham resident Tim Stimpson.
“At a time when Manchester has just been awarded £78 million by central Government for a new ‘flexible art space’ it is not acceptable that Birmingham’s cultural sector has been left to fend for itself yet again.
“The West Midlands Writers’ Guild calls on the region’s citizens, its institutions and interest groups to come together to demand that the Library of Birmingham is given the financial support it requires.”