The former head of Birmingham Libraries and Archives has called cuts to the city’s library “distressing” and warned they threaten the city’s heritage.

John Dolan OBE contacted the Post to express his fears for the future of the Library of Birmingham with savage council cuts meaning 100 people face redundancy .

The proposals would also see the library’s opening hours slashed from 73 to 40 , which Mr Dolan described as “heading for a spiral of decline”.

Mr Dolan, who ran Birmingham’s libraries from the mid-90s to 2006, said the cuts present a blow to history and heritage in the city, with access to world-class Shakespeare collections and photography severely limited.

He said: “I wrote a few years ago about the dismantling of our community library services. Regrettably that damaging process has not abated. I now read of the distressing proposals to dismantle the Library of Birmingham undoing everything which justified its creation in the first place.

“The Library of Birmingham was built to create the essential conditions in which the unique collections could be properly housed and protected and make them and related services accessible to the people of Birmingham as their heritage, their culture, their identity.

“This is the people’s property and it had to be conserved and open to all. Millions of unique photographs, many the personal collections of living gifted photographers, placed on trust for our enjoyment and future legacy.

“The Shakespeare collections are among the most significant in the world. His 400th anniversary next year will be celebrated worldwide, exactly the time to bring those collections alive in his home region.

“The archives tell Birmingham’s and Britain’s history in the work of the world’s greatest industrialists: No library, no history!”

Library services will be cut back as the council looks to save £1.5 milllion from the £10 million a year running costs, and unions have pointed the finger of blame at the Government.

That will mean less than two years after the £188 million library opened it will be open an average of less than six hours a day.

Mr Dolan, who was honoured in 1999 for his services to librarianship and information provision, added: “Opening hours at the Library of Birmingham will be reduced from 73 per week to 40. Well, if it’s not open, it’s shut; out of use and heading for a spiral of decline.”

He added: “Some serious re-thinking has to be done to affirm where are the city’s (not just the council’s) aspirations for our future. Moreover, those who invested public and private funding and personal property in the library may rightly come, seeking explanations and more.

“The city must reaffirm the library’s future, not just in a city of work and commerce, but in a city of people, families and communities enriched by past legacy and future ambition. Forwards, not backwards!”