A group battling cuts to opening hours at the Library of Birmingham say the building’s last ever Sunday was packed with students – with a queue to get in.
The controversial decision to cut access times to save costs has provoked widespread outrage since it was revealed in the Birmingham Post.
It will be open for just 40 hours a week – down from 73, and at weekends people will only be able to use it for six hours on Saturdays, with the building closed all day on Sunday.
The Friends of the Library of Birmingham (FoLoB) said last Sunday – the last time it was open on that day – there were around 100 people lining up to go at opening time and claimed there was barely a space left to sit down in the building.
Steve Gove-Humphries of FoLoB said: “Many of the people we spoke to said they had come to the Library of Birmingham on a Sunday because they didn’t have enough room to study at home.
“It is the exam season and also some people said that where they lived there was no reliable access to the internet so they were unable to study properly.
“There was a really long queue to get into the library when it opened at 11am – and people have to get there early to get the special tickets to get study rooms.”
Mr Gove-Humphries added that the library was seen by many parents as an excellent place to study during times normal education establishments aren’t open.
He explained: “Some said that parents allowed them to go to the Library of Birmingham to study as a quiet and safe environment. Where else would they go? The school or college library is not open, and where except for coffee shops could they also get wi-fi?
“Many were unaware of the cuts and were shocked when we told them. Adults who came as they study to get qualifications said they couldn’t get access at the hours now to in place. One man said he worked six days a week and Sunday was his day for study, with the library of offering a real lifeline. Many parents with children were accessing the children’s library. Most said Saturday was busy with family shopping and sports and the like.”
Other regular users of the library also slammed its new hours.
Commenting on the Post’s Facbook page, Vicki Searle said: “This is ridiculous. I study regularly at the library, but as I work full time, evenings and weekends are the only time I can benefit from it.
“Every time I have visited the library it has been full, and not full of tourists but full of students, working alone or in groups, parents with young children doing their homework, school kids doing their homework together after school or revising for their exams.
“All of this will now be impossible as by the time school or work finishes for most people the library will be closed .
“The reduction in hours is disgraceful but the way in which the council has chosen to operate them shows they only care for tourists and as usual it’ll be the local people who lose this service completely. A community library? More like a ludicrously expensive tourist attraction. Absolutely shocking.”
The council is axing about 100 staff as part of the cuts, with the library currently costing the authority about £22 million a year to run – half of which is interest payments.
The authority is hoping to save about £1.3 million a year in costs.
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “Funding cuts mean changes to the Library of Birmingham opening hours were sadly inevitable.
“Following public consultation, changes were made to proposals, reducing the impact on specialist collections and to increase support to child literacy.
“But it is important to understand the pressures we face from the costs of building the library.”