When we think of a place to hang out and relax on a rainy Sunday afternoon the library never really comes to mind. In fact most of us connect the image of a library with student-hood, with papers, preparing a thesis, exams and all the hard working part of being in university. I personally haven’t set foot in a library since I graduated and honestly didn’t think I’d do it again. Until I visited the Birmingham earlier this year and had a different perspective on what a library should mean for city and its community.
Opened in 2013 in the center of Birmingham, the new construction looks like a pile of large gift boxes one on top of the other. The outside design can be mistaken for a new shopping mall like the Bull Ring or another business center but in fact the interior is an enchanting paradise of calm.
The 10 floors building hosts reading halls, a cafe, garden terraces, amphitheater, music rooms and a lovely Shakespeare room on top. Wherever you settle from your desk or shelf you’ll have fragmented views over the city to remind the visitor of the modern busy world he’s part of.
The library is a revelation for those seeking a social place to find culture and inspiration. It’s far from the kind of place where you get shushed for raising your voice. Here is room for noise, activity, walking around and getting together with friends.
Birmingham has managed to achieve something that we should all aspire to: transforming a notion related to study and scholarship into a hip destination of culture and social gathering. It’s the sign that we all needed to bring in the old forms of learning into our changing societies and make study recreational and a form of social interaction. Hopefully, as cities evolve and respond to new needs of the community they will be able integrate the new concepts of library into the mainstream centers of research, literacy and cultural exchange.