Tag: Library of Birmingham

In an old episode of BBC science programme The Infinite Monkey Cage the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson described how as a young boy growing up in New York City he never saw the stars in the night sky; in a city, when you look up you just see more city. When he eventually saw the wonder of the stars it was in the New York planetarium. That was where he found his love of science, and that was how his life’s work in cosmology began. Tyson is quite the poetic scientist, and I found his story captivating. The city exists, he seems to suggest, only between its highest penthouses and the ground below them — all the sky above is lost. Of course New York is a very different cityscape to Birmingham, but there’s something in what he tells us about wonder, about knowledge and enquiry, that …

Wondering stars Read More »

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A cabinet meeting in the Council House – there’s a sign above the desk that tells us this. The table is filled with nondescript aging men in suits. We are looking over one man’s shoulder at a clipboard with a list on it in a suitable handwriting font. The list is headed ‘Library Partnership/Begging Shortlist’ and says: British Library – they don’t know who we are (crossed out) Genting – already have NEC Arena (crossed out) Central Library – turns out we had it knocked down (crossed out) Wickes – Plus point:: ladders? (this is also underlined in red pen) Doug Ellis – he does like his name on things Malala – you get about a million for the Nobel prize (may have spent on sweets) Davenports – closed? Cockburn’s – ?? The caption reads ‘Any port in a storm’.

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A very wide fish-eye lens ‘shot’ of Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square – this is a big New Year double page spread, ‘a year in Kerslake review’ if you will, a bonus for all fans of our satirical cartoons. Outside the new library there is a group of people protesting with ‘Save the Library’ placards, they are chanting ‘No to the cuts’. Malala Yousafzai is holding her Nobel prize, which has her name and what it is on the plaque, and leading the protest. A fat man who may be Eric Pickles (wearing a badge that announces who he is, and carrying a big pair of scissors labeled ‘cuts’) is hiding in a Trojan wheelie bin, and being pushed inside the council house by someone with a Ukip rosette. They both wear flat caps with razor blades in. Outside the old library there is a group of …

Satirical Cartoon: 2014 in review Read More »

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A man in a suit with a badge on that says ‘Sir Albert Bore, Leader of the Council’ is at the enquiries desk of the Library of Birmingham – you can tell that because of the sign. Further behind the counter are empty shelves, marked ‘Sports And Lesiure’, ‘Accoutancy’, ‘Children’s Services’ and so on. A fat bloke – Eric Pickles – is in the background with a wheelbarrow of books and cash and football and food. Sir Albert asks the librarian, “have you any books on standing up to the Tory government?” The caption reads “Shhhh.”

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You can be fashionably late to a party – arriving after the nominal start, when everyone is warmed up and in the swing of things, lubricated by the richest pickings from the drinks table, kitchen counter, or bath full of ice. But you can also arrive unfashionably late, when people are tiring, feeling jaded, and all that’s left to drink is a two year old bottle of Bailey’s. I’m unfashionably late to the Library of Birmingham. Like a pub worker who had to clean down then jump in a taxi to catch the last hurrah of the night, I come to the LoB three weeks later, making a metaphorical 2am appearance at its launch party. The bunting and the zany have all gone. The spectacles that caught the lenses of the media and the instagrammers have slunk off, leaving the library naked with only its truth to …

It’s 2am and there’s only Baileys left Read More »

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We couldn’t have thought of two better people to send to the new Library of Birmingham preview tours than Ben (his take here) and Handsome Devil Danny.  Were we right? You decide… Meeting Ben for coffee in Paradise Forum before we go on a tour of the new library of Birmingham felt weird, a slight betrayal. Like going on your first date with someone new in the pub where your ex works. And looking back squinting in the sun, I swear I saw the old concrete bitch scowl at me. The small reception around the back of the library is bright and sterile, yet to be scuffed and smudged into utilitarian invisibility. The other people there have nearly all picked up their security badges, me and Ben find ours. Where other people have Radio WM or Birmingham Post printed in the space marked for ‘occupation’ ours is left blank. …

There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more Read More »

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A new library opening prompts twenty-first century questions: what is the role of the library in the digital age? Wherefore books? Who now reads what, where? Despite what you may have heard, the paperless library is still a long way off. Birmingham’s numerous city libraries over the last 150 years reflect the city’s lack of sentimentality about its past: you can now practically renew libraries over the phone. The current regeneration is nearly complete: you can take a look for yourself from next Tuesday. I had a guided tour last week from Mecanoo’s Patrick Arends and the space is amazing. I’ve been reserving judgement on the building for the last few years, feeling it’s only fair to see the interior of a building before forming an opinion on the building as a whole. I’d also like to see it working as a library before completely deciding. There …

Ode to a Circle – Birmingham’s Flagship Library sets sail. Read More »

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