Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 18:39 UK

Library to replace 'monstrosity'

By Andrew Dawkins
BBC News, Birmingham

A 1970s library in Birmingham dubbed a "monstrosity" is to be replaced.

A car park is due to be transformed into a new £193m library - a 10-floor building which would dominate the Centenary Square skyline.

New library design (from special film on the subject)
The shared entrance to the library and the REP will be below a public balcony

And much has been made of plans to link it to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (REP) next door.

But library project director Brian Gambles said the REP and the new Library of Birmingham would still have their own "very distinct identities".

Critics of the current library in Paradise Place have included Prince Charles.

It also leaks, city council leader Mike Whitby said.

But while English Heritage has tried to get the existing building listed status, the council stressed the new library was "happening anyway".

Mr Whitby said: "We'll have to manage whatever happens.

Birmingham Central Library
The existing library has been described as a "monstrosity"

"I don't know what will happen to it (the current building) at the moment. We await the minister of culture."

Key players in the new library project assembled in Birmingham on Thursday to officially announce some of the plans.

The building's design and style and its facilities were discussed, but there is more work to be done.

The new building would have "improved climatic conditions" to store the library's archives, those behind the project have said.

Watch events

Exhibition space will be "dramatically increased" to allow for improved public access to archives.

Mr Gambles said: "We have collections which total over about 100 miles in length and we have 2.5 million photographic images in our collections.

"The opportunity to view the gems of those collections is what really excites us about the prospect of the new library."

Centenary Square
The new library will be between the REP and Baskerville House

The REP would also be renovated under the plans.

A new 300-seat studio theatre would be created to be shared between the REP and the library.

People would be able to come together in the mainly glass library building in hour-long seminars on a range of subjects and possibly go on to further study.

Visitors would also be able to watch events in Centenary Square from a public balcony and there are proposals for "elevated" gardens.

In a wider context, the scheme is part of the Big City Plan involving proposed developments over the next 20 years in the centre of Birmingham.

Transforming New Street railway station and the former MG Rover site at Longbridge and completing the new University Hospital Birmingham are among plans for the city.

The library project itself will create 250 new jobs including apprenticeships, those behind the project said.

Mr Whitby added: "The library has actually cut through the stereotypical prejudices that sometimes afflict Birmingham's reputation, perhaps in the United Kingdom but certainly not internationally."

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