Birmingham to open largest public library in Europe

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-8-29 13:40:42

Library of Birmingham, the largest public library in Europe, will open to the public on Sept. 3.

Located in Birmingham's Centenary Square, the center of the England's second largest city, the Library is expected to attract over 3 million visitors a year, with many more visiting online.

To celebrate the opening of the Library, which cost 188.8 million pounds (or 293 million US dollars), a program, called "Discovery Seasons," of exciting events and activities for all ages wil run until the end of 2013.

Designed by a team led by Netherlands-based architectural practice Mecanoo, the Library is a flagship project of Birmingham City Council's 20-year Big City Plan.

The Library is set to transform the city's library services and become a major cultural destination, housing Birmingham's world-class collections of archives, photography and rare books as well as a million printed volumes, the largest number held by any public library in Britain.

At 31,000 square meters, the 10-level Library is around 20 percent larger than the old Central Library building, sharing a spacious entrance and foyer as well as a flexible studio theater seating 300 people with the Birmingham Repertory Theater. Located in the downtown, it will, along with the REP Theater and Symphony Hall, form a new cultural heart of the city.

The Library is unique for the depth and range of its internationally-important archive, heritage and photography collections. Six of its largest and most significant collections were recognized under the former Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) Designation Scheme in October 2005, more than any other public library, according to information of the Library.

These collections are Birmingham City Archives, the Birmingham Collection, Photographic Collection, Early and Fine Printing, Literature and Music Collection.

For example, the Library includes one of the world's most comprehensive Shakespeare collections, which comprises 43,000 books, including copies of the First, Second, Third and Fourth folio editions and many rare, early and valuable editions of individual plays published before 1709.

The Library is owned by and serves the people of Birmingham -- a "People's Palace" in the words of its architect and Library of Birmingham Trustee Francine Houben.

Birmingham has 40 community libraries, a Mobile Library services, a Libraries at Home scheme for residents, delivering books and other library materials to people, according the public information.

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