New library only half open or is that half closed?


Two months after the opening of the new Library of Birmingham important services are not currently being provided or are partially accessible to members of the public.

The local archive is only open by appointment and items have to be pre-ordered, the waiting time can be several weeks. The archive holds internationally significant collections.

The archive previously operated on a walk-in basis up to November 2012 when it closed in preparation for the move to the new library.

The Council says the appointment system has been introduced to allow for the retrieval and acclimatisation of materials.

Many journals and reference books remain in the basement, no date has been set as to when they will become available to the public. One LoB librarian complained ‘I am only doing half a job’.

Slaney Street has been advised that there are currently insufficient library staff to retrieve item’s from the basement. According to the Council ‘a technical issue has been identified which has delayed the introduction of this service’.

The Library of Birmingham recently announced that it had received 500,000 visitors but concerns have been raised as to staffing levels to cope with the level of public interest.

The LoB is currently in the process of recruiting to 24 full and part time vacant posts and are at the stage of assessing internal candidates, the Council could not confirm when these posts might be filled.

Slaney Street has been advised that a number of these vacancies are the result of qualified librarians taking voluntary redundancy when the old Central Library closed.Qualified librarians are being flexibly deployed around the library regardless of their knowledge area and specialism and internal concerns have been raised as to whether this model of working is the most effective use of their time in serving the public.

A member of Birmingham’s library campaign commented ‘’there seem to be serious questions about the staffing levels and how staff are being deployed in the new library. We are concerned that restricting access to the archive and other materials is a way of managing inadequate staffing ’’

The Council has insisted that as the Library opened only 8 weeks ago and due to an exceptional number of visitors to the building that it has been necessary to phase in some aspects of the service.

Republished with thanks to Slaney Street

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