Birmingham Library: History, What to Explore, Events

From thousands of texts and journals to a beautiful book rotunda, a secret garden, and panoramic views, the Library of Birmingham is quite an exciting experience! No wonder it attracts all kinds of visitors, not just book lovers. 

In this article, we’ll reveal everything that’s exciting about the Birmingham library, the upcoming events, how to reach it, and more. We’ll also explore its enticing history and check out other nearby attractions.

Read More:
Time your Birmingham visit to attend the thrilling Commonwealth Games 2022!

Looking for more attractions in Birmingham? Here are the 20 Best Attractions to Visit in 2022.

This Article Contains:

Birmingham Library Contact Details & Opening Hours

Address: Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2ND, West Midlands, United Kingdom


Phone Number: 0121 242 4242

Opening Hours
Monday to Tuesday: 11 AM – 7 PM 
Wednesday to Saturday: 11 AM – 5 PM
Sunday: Closed

A Brief History of the Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham is a public library located on the west side of the city centre at Centenary Square, beside the Baskerville House. 

For many years the Birmingham City Council tried to relocate the library, originally planning a new library in the emerging Eastside district. However, for monetary reasons and reservations about the location, the plan was never executed. 

The Birmingham City Council then decided that the library should be divided between a new building constructed between the Repertory Theatre and Baskerville House at Centenary Square.

However, this idea was abandoned, and the archives and special collections were moved to the site at Centenary Square.

The Birmingham Library of today is designed by architectural firm Mecanoo, replacing the Birmingham Central Library (designed by John Madin). 

All books and archives from the Birmingham Central Library are now stored in Birmingham Library. This British library has become not only a repository for beloved books, but also transformed Centenary Square into a people’s place with three distinct realms: monumental, cultural, and entertainment.

General Information About the Library of Birmingham

OwnerBirmingham City Council
Architectural TypePostmodern High-Tech
Main ContractorCarillion, Capita Symonds (Project Managers)
ArchitectFrancine Houben
Civil EngineerBuro Happold
Structural EngineerBuro Happold

What’s Inside the Library of Birmingham?

The Birmingham library has way more than just rare books. Let’s find out why you’ll have a splendid time at the Library of Birmingham:

1. Book Collections and Journals
2. Roof Terrace Gardens
3. Skyline Viewpoint
4. Shakespeare Memorial Room
5. Book Rotunda
6. Archive and Heritage
7. Repertory Theatre
8. Photography Collection
9. Amphitheatre

1. Book Collections and Journals

The Library of Birmingham houses many rare books and thousands of collections to make any book lover’s dream come true.

Here are some of their collections:

  • World history
  • Music
  • Law and government
  • Literature and literary collection
  • Community information
  • Archives & Heritage
  • Newspapers
  • Photography

This British library also has numerous journals, including amateur gardening, BBC History, Creative review, Ebony, Pride, Times Literary Supplement, and World Soccer — to name a few!

Back to Contents

2. Roof Terrace Gardens

The library has soft landscaped roof spaces called roof terrace gardens — Discovery Terrace on level three, and the Secret Garden on level seven.

The Discovery Terrace overlooks Centenary Square and has a mixture of perennials, evergreen species, and small trees. This roof terrace is the more active of the two terraces.

The Secret Garden, on the other hand, is more introverted, with denser planting. You’ll notice sloping beds here, designed to mirror the city’s landscape. Spend an hour and take in one of the most beautiful panoramic views from this terrace.

3. Skyline Viewpoint

Speaking of panoramic views, you don’t want to miss the most stunning one in Birmingham: The Skyline Viewpoint. It’s right opposite the Shakespeare Memorial Room on level 11 of the library.

4. Shakespeare Memorial Room

The Shakespeare Memorial Room was created by John Henry Chamberlain to house the Shakespeare Memorial Library in 1882. He was the one to rebuild the old Central Library after the original building was damaged in a fire in 1879. 

The Shakespeare Memorial Room has been preserved in multiple places before it found its home on the ninth floor, inside the ‘crowning’ golden rotunda of the Birmingham library.

Even though it’s placed in a new library, this room purely reflects the Elizabethan age as a homage to the playwright and poet.

Back to Contents

5. Book Rotunda

The Book Rotunda is the central feature of the library — a spectacular book-lined space celebrating books. Just stand in the middle of the rotunda to take in a beautiful sight where you’re surrounded by book after book as you look around and above.

Visitors can use the escalators to reach different levels of the rotunda that provide natural daylight and ventilation.

Fun fact: It can also serve as an iconic dinner or gala setting for 200 people where the guests are engulfed by thousands of books. 

6. Archive and Heritage

Another compelling reason for you to visit the Birmingham Library is that it houses gems like the Boulton and Watt Collection (the most important archive of the Industrial Revolution) and the Hardman archives.

It also has many other collections of early and fine printing, photography, and literature, as well as the Birmingham Collection.

7. Repertory Theatre

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, also known as the Birmingham Rep or just The Rep, was founded by Barry Jackson.

The Repertory Theatre produces numerous dramas and plays in its three auditoria:

  • The House with 825 seats
  • The Studio with 300 seats
  • The Door with 140 seats

Here are some notable productions by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre:

  • What’s New Pussycat? (2021 world premiere)
  • The Snowman (1993 world premiere)
  • Rebus: Long Shadows (2018 world premiere)
  • What’s in a Name? (2017 United Kingdom premiere)
  • East Is East (1996 world premiere) 
  • Frozen (1998 world premiere)
  • The Exorcist (2016 United Kingdom premiere)

Back to Contents

8. Photography Collection

The Library of Birmingham holds one of the national collections of photography. It’s the only such collection in the UK kept outside a national library, museum, or archive.

The vast collection of 3.5 million items consists of daguerreotypes made at the dawn of the photographic era, modern digital prints created by leading contemporary photographers, and so much more. 

It also includes collections of photographic albums, books, and an extensive collection of literature associated with photography

These special collections attract students, photographers, researchers working at every level of study, and tourists. 

9. Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre is a unique outdoor performance space, beautiful under natural daylight. The space is used for drama, music, and poetry reading.

On the same level as the amphitheatre, you’ll also be able to access the Children’s Library, where you can introduce your child to tons of books, story sessions, hands-on digital activities, and more.

Note: There are many other informal performance spaces and a protected outdoor space at the Birmingham library with inviting natural daylight.

How to Reach the Library of Birmingham

Any person can easily reach the Birmingham library in multiple ways, depending on their choice of transport:

1. Cycle

The Library of Birmingham has cycle racks right in the front, on Centenary Square, West Midlands.

2. Train

Birmingham library is about an 11-minute walk from Birmingham New Street Station and a 10-minute walk from Snow Hill Station.

You can also reach via the Moor Street (16 min walk) and Five Ways (18 min walk) train stations that are a bit further away.

3. Bus

You’ll find many bus stops nearby including the Baskerville house (3 min walk) and Civic Close bus stop (5 min walk).

4. Car

Take your car via the M5, M6, M40, and M42. Follow the Birmingham City Centre and ICC signs, and you’ll reach the correct destination.

Here are some quick routes depending on where you start:

  • From the South-West (M5), leave the motorway at Junction 3, then follow the A456 towards the Birmingham city centre.
  • From the South (M40), South-East (M6), East (M69), or North-East (M42), follow the M6 to Junction 6. Then follow the A38 towards the city centre.
  • From the North-West (M6) or West (M54), follow the M6 to Junction 7 and then the A34 towards Birmingham City Centre.

Remember, the Birmingham Library doesn’t offer car parking. However, public car parks can be found nearby at Cambridge Street and Arena Birmingham.

You’ll also find two bays for Blue Badge holders (disabled parking) on Cambridge Street right behind the library on The Repertory Theatre side.

5. Taxis

There’s a taxi rank right across the road outside the famous Hyatt Regency Hotel on Broad Street.

Back to Contents

Upcoming Events at the Library of Birmingham

The Birmingham Library often hosts events, exhibitions, and other activities. Here’s a quick upcoming event list:

‘To still my beating mind’ (Exhibition)24th May – 27th July (2022)Everyday 11:00 – 17:00Free
Creative Tots for June9th June 202211:30 – 12:00Free
Bob Willis Fund Gala Dinner1st July 202219:00 – 23:00£120

To stay updated on newer events, keep an eye on the website.

Facilities and Library Services in the Library of Birmingham

The Birmingham Library is not just a fine piece of architecture, but it’s also highly accessible to all. Here are some facilities at the library:

  • Baby changing facility
  • Level access and automatic doors
  • Several audio and large print books
  • Accessible, ambulant, and step-free standard toilet
  • Mobility impaired walker
  • Audio format information for visitors with visual impairments
  • Ramped access, and manual doors
  • Assistive listening
  • Off-site parking
  • Seats available for all visitors
  • Blue badge or accessible parking bays

How to Get a Library Membership

Membership at the Birmingham Library is free for all age groups.

All you have to do is fill out an online registration form at any hour of the day. If a person is under 16, they’ll have to ask a parent, guardian, or someone over 18 in their family to fill out the registration form on their behalf. 

Once you’ve filled the form, carry your selfreg reference number and proof of address to the Library of Birmingham to collect your membership card.

Need a membership for eContent?
Send the library an email with your selfreg reference number, and they’ll create an eBooks account for you.

Back to Contents

Other Attractions Near the Birmingham Library

  • National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham (0.3 miles away)
  • Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (0.3 miles away)
  • Broad Street (0.4 miles away)
  • Ikon Gallery (0.4 miles away)
  • The Birmingham Contemporary Art Gallery (0.6 miles away)
  • The Canal House Bar & Restaurant (0.2 miles away)
  • Hyatt Regency Birmingham (0.2 miles away)
  • Castle Fine Art gallery, Broad Street (0.2 miles away)
  • The Coffin Works (0.4 miles away)
  • Birmingham New Street station (0.5 miles)
  • Birmingham City Centre (1.4 miles away)
  • Chamberlain Square (0.2 miles away)

Other Public and Community Libraries in Birmingham To Visit

Here are some public and community libraries:

  • Birmingham Botanical Gardens Public Library
  • Sutton Coldfield Library
  • Spring Hill Library
  • Bartley Green Library
  • Birmingham Mobile Library Service

Now, if you’re looking for more things to do in Birmingham, here’s the best itinerary for 24 hours, 48 hours, and longer!