The fate of Birmingham Central Library has become a long-running saga which has sometimes descended into farce.

Proposals have been hit by delays, concerns over funding and controversy over the fate of the existing building.

But the impressive designs unveiled by the city council may put these debates to rest.

The proposed building will have its critics, but it may become an icon of which Birmingham can be proud.

The link with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which will share the library’s exhibition space and a café, is an imaginative attempt to ensure that the library really is accessible to the entire community.

There should be no doubt that the ultimate purpose of the library is to make books easily available to the people of Birmingham.

But that means ensuring the library is not hidden away, either physically or metaphorically. It should be placed right at the heart of the city’s cultural life, which is what the city council’s plans appear designed to achieve.

Affection for the existing building should not be allowed to stand in the way of the proposals.

The blunt truth is that Birmingham Central Library as it stands today is not pretty. Perhaps it was an impressive building when it first opened, although this is debatable, but like so many concrete constructions, its glamour has faded rapidly.

It is hard to imagine those people who wish it to become a listed building really want to look at it regularly. Yes, it may have historical importance, but so did the Black Death. Not everything historic is worth preserving.

That is not to say the library and its staff do not already play a vital role in the life of the city. But they will now do so from premises which reflects their importance.

Question marks remain over the funding of the new building. Much of the cash is due to come from land sales – but it is unclear whether there will be buyers in the current economic climate, or whether they will pay enough to make the scheme a reality.

For city council leader Mike Whitby, getting the library built must look like a top priority.

This will be a chance to prove his critics wrong and make another long-lasting mark on the city.

But despite the delays that have already occurred, it would be a mistake to press ahead if the time is not right.

Birmingham can wait a little longer if that is what is needed to create an affordable new library.