Chief Reporter Paul Dale talks to Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby about his vision for a £147 million people's library...
The new Library of Birmingham will not simply provide high-quality public buildings, it will also deliver a much needed boost to regeneration in two key parts of the city centre.
The lending section - working title: the Knowledge Centre - is to be built on what is, at the moment, a surface-level car park next to Baskerville House, in Centenary Square. It will kick-start the council's West End vision for the redevelopment of Paradise Circus by enabling the existing Central Library in Paradise Forum to be demolished.
By opting to place the city archives at a History Centre adjoining Millennium Point, the council aims to give fresh impetus to Eastside and, hopefully, attract more visitors to the Thinktank museum of science and discovery.
Mike Whitby is enthusiastic about what he sees as the perfect solution to a five-year battle to replace the dilapidated Central Library.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said: "Building the Knowledge Centre in the West End will encourage more development in the area and release Baskerville House to become one of the most prestigious office addresses in the country, situated next to a major new building.
"It will also release Paradise Circus for a landmark development befitting this gateway site between the West End and the city core.
"The Knowledge Centre is in the city's civic heart, so we would be looking for a high quality building to reflect this and will be looking for a major architect to take it forward, once the funding package has been put in place."
Coun Whitby said the Heritage Centre would be a focal point for the Digbeth History Mile - a heritage trail leading visitors around Eastside's historic buildings and canal network. The centre itself would enable the city, for the first time, to showcase the role Birmingham played in the Industrial Revolution.
Coun Whitby added: "Our city archive is not only of local but also of national and international significance. Among its many important collections are the personal and business records of Matthew Boulton and James Watt, which tell the birth of the Industrial Revolution in Birmingham.
"These collections have huge potential to enrich lives and inspire learning. As the city's collective memory they play an important role in helping us to understand the past in underpinning our personal and community identity and shaping our future."
Research commissioned by the council has shown that existing Central Library users and people who do not use a library would be prepared to make the 15-minute walk between the split sites. Both centres will use emerging technology to link electronically with each other.
The Knowledge Centre will be based around four hubs: n Lending - bringing together lending services and creative reading activities for children, young people and adults. n Arts and Creativity - a regional centre for music, literature, creative reading and writing. n Business, Science and Innovation - focusing on innovation and enterprise, this hub will help support business startups and new enterprise. n Citizenship and Community - themes will include human rights and legal information, government and politics, the economy, health information, environmental issues and Birmingham's place in the world.
Coun Whitby said the new library would be a "unique place for knowledge, understanding and innovation".
He added: "The Library of Birmingham will foster social inclusion by creating a new facility that breaks down intellectual barriers, helps to change perceptions of learning, and draws in new users from under-represented and minority groups."