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British Library confirms no approach over Library of Birmingham rescue bid

London institute says project to make Library of Birmingham a regional centre is only part of internal discussions at this stage

The British Library has warned it is early days after it emerged the landmark London institution could save the Library of Birmingham from a dramatic reduction in its opening hours.

In December, Birmingham City Council announced opening hours at the new library could be slashed from 73 to 40, resulting in around 100 redundancies.

The council said yesterday the British Library had shown an interest in using the Library of Birmingham as a regional centre but the former has now confirmed it has not been approached about the project.

In a statement, it said: "The proposals mentioned in Birmingham City Council's press statement are part of internal council discussions at this stage and the British Library has not been approached regarding these ideas.

"The British Library already works closely in partnership with the Library of Birmingham through a range of projects, including its Business & IP Centre, and looks forward to continuing that close relationship."

Birmingham City Council is keen to see the £188 million library, which opened in September 2013, become a regional centre for the British Library and is planning to approach it and other potential backers to see if it can mitigate cuts.

The Labour-run council has come under fire over the proposals to cut opening hours which have been brought forward in a bid to save £1.5 million a year from its £10 million annual running costs.

Arts and culture groups have said such cuts so soon after the library opened would be a huge embarrassment for the city.

The British Library proposal has been championed by the West Midland Lord-Lieutenant Paul Sabapathy CBE.

Council cabinet member for culture Penny Holbrook said: "When we announced the proposed cuts I said we were doing this with a heavy heart.

"But as with any possible cut, we will leave no stone unturned to find alternative ways forward. We will do whatever it takes to save services if possible." She describes the British Library proposal as one which could ensure Birmingham continues to have a 'flagship library service the city can be proud of'."

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