The new Library of Birmingham could have its naming rights sold to a sponsor for up to £10 million as part of a drive to raise income from commercial activities.
Brian Gambles, project director for the Library of Birmingham, said at a conference on the future of libraries that he “wouldn’t have a problem” with a company buying the naming rights of the library.
It is understood such a deal could be worth up to £10 million.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, he said: “We would be very sensitive about how we approach commercial partners. We won’t go down a crass naming route.
“All I am saying is we have not ruled it out. And if the price is right, then I think the city should accept that.”
Mr Gambles believed it would be the first time a public library is named with a commercial partner.
“There is plenty of tradition of naming buildings,” he said. “There is not a problem philosophically with doing that – but nobody has done it for a public library.
“You could say you’re selling your soul to the devil. But I see nothing philosophically wrong, provided the relationship is a properly thought-out one.”
While the library will be primarily funded by the city council, Mr Gambles is keen to generate income from commercial activities, sponsorship and fundraising.
He said: “The city council will still be the major funder, as it is at the current library. What I’m looking to do is get a significantly increased amount of income from our commercial activities, from fundraising activities and from commercial sponsorship.
“We should be quite clear this is city council-funded – no public library is capable of being a public library and standing on its own commercial feet.”
The Library of Birmingham is predicted to receive 10,000 visitors a day when it opens in summer 2013.
The 10-storey development, costing £188.8 million, will physically connect to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and will include a theatre, a recording studio and free access to the National Film Archive.
Mr Gambles said: “The present model that we have is that most of our services are rightly and statutorily free. We won’t charge anybody for coming into the library, for giving them information or for lending them a book.
“We do charge them for things like booking a meeting room or borrowing a DVD or the classic library fines.”
However, he said: “We can be much smarter and more business-like about catering in a way that generates income; running retail in a way that generates income. There are services that we know are in demand but we can only offer if we levy a charge for them, such as research services.”
The library will have approximately the same running costs as the Central Library, which is just over £10 million a year, he said.
Mr Gambles believed “well below” half of that could be raised through commercial sponsorship and fundraising.