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Library of Birmingham gets some new friends, but cuts still go ahead

Library of Birmingham gets some new friends, but cuts still go ahead

🕔22.Jun 2015

The British Library has agreed to enter a 12-month partnership deal with the Library of Birmingham, it was announced today.

But hopes that the deal would immediately ease the Library of Birmingham’s dire financial position and reverse some of the £1.3 million budget cuts imposed on the Centenary Square building have been dashed.

The possibility of a tie-up between the two libraries was first revealed by the city council cabinet member for skills, learning and culture Penny Holbrook in January.

Cllr Holbrook told the council then that she would “leave no stone unturned” to find alternative ways forward and a partnership with the British Library could “ensure we continue to have a flagship library service the city can be proud of”.

However, the council is now making it clear the cultural partnership won’t lead to a reversal of the cuts package, which has seen more than 90 jobs disappear and the library opening hours severely cut back. Cllr Holbrook said:

I am delighted that Birmingham is at the forefront of this development and look forward to continuing to develop our partnership with the British Library which already has strong foundations in the work we have delivered through the Business & Intellectual Property centre.

However, we must recognise that this will not solve all the challenges we face with the Library of Birmingham, but it is a positive start for looking at different ways of working.

The 12 month pilot will test a new model for partnerships between the British Library and libraries across the country.

The British Library already has a strong partnership with the Library of Birmingham through a joint commitment to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The Library of Birmingham launched its Business & IP Centre last year, joining a growing network of libraries offering a dedicated space for entrepreneurs in a project spearheaded by the British Library, who have been running their own Business & IP Centre in 2006.

The new initiative will bring together curatorial expertise to take advantage of the world class collections of both libraries in a series of activities for 2016.

These include a proposal to work together on a special project around the time of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

Cllr Holbrook said:

The British Library’s collections and curatorial expertise is a world class asset which further enhances the renowned collections at the Library of Birmingham, including our Shakespeare and photographic collections, and draws on our reputation for engaging with local communities.

This new partnership will be an opportunity to test new ways of working together to increase the impact of both organisations during the Shakespeare anniversary year.  It will also start a programme of sharing skills across our workforces which I hope will lead to further opportunities for collaboration in the longer term.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said:

We’re delighted to be building on the strong foundations of our existing work with Library of Birmingham as part of the network of Business & IP Centres in public libraries across the country.

As custodians of two of the world’s greatest Shakespeare collections, it’s especially exciting that our two libraries will be working closely together during next year’s anniversary celebrations.

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