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Acocks Green Library Building

Acocks Green Library is a Grade 'A' category building on the City of Birmingham's Local List. It is deemed to be of architectural interest and of local importance. The library was designed by John P. Osborne and Son and was opened on 14 June 1932. It was the largest library yet built in a Birmingham suburb at that time. It has a Georgian style facade, and all wooden features, including flooring, panelling, shelving, glazed screens and furniture were of oak. When it was first built, there was a newspaper room to the left off the entrance hall, and a magazine room to the right. Borrowers passed in and out via narrow passages at either side of the counter.

In time, the magazine room was incorporated into the adult library and additional shelving was brought into the centre of that area to accommodate a larger bookstock. By the late 1970s libraries were looking to expand their role into more work with local groups, and the newspaper room was converted into a meeting room.

At this time, funding for furniture and equipment was very tight, and items were begged or borrowed from elsewhere. By 1994, it was clear that the Library could no longer present an up-to-date attractive service in its present form, particularly to families and children, and the decision was made to undertake a comprehensive refurbishment of the building.

Local and senior librarians had put much thought into the redesign of the Library, and the City's Planning and Architecture Department, and its Conservation Unit in particular, together with the Planning Committee Chairman, Councillor Stuart Stacey, also played a strong part in influencing the refurbishment, which was undertaken by Fellows and Jones of Darlaston. As a result, the Library Service was able to reopen a much improved building on 9 May 1995. The Library is now comfortable, open, welcoming and bright, with a particularly colourful and attractive children's area. Removal of some surplus shelving brought about a huge improvement in visibility, and made apparent the grandeur of the interior.

The floor, which was beginning to splinter after sixty years of use and cleaning, has been carpeted to protect it, increase comfort, and reduce noise levels. Most of the oak furniture has been retained in a new study area, designed to look, with its rows of long oak tables and oak chairs, like a traditional library space. Similarly, the shelves for adult lending present an attractive radial design, with a long run of shelving on the walls. An extended counter in oak, skilfully designed in the style of the original, is the centrepiece. Only in the Children's Library was the oak shelving removed altogether, but oak panelling and glazed screens were retained.

In the Community Room, very careful attention was paid to the design of a new kitchen, storeroom, and toilets. The high dado, doors, and skirting are copies of original designs to be found in the building, and the new radiators installed have original terrazzo surrounds. New chairs and some new tables were bought. One toilet is designed for people with disabilities, and the other is modelled as a parent and baby room.

All the oak panelling and glazed screens throughout the building have been stained and varnished, there is new lighting throughout the public areas, and new furniture and features have been provided in the adult and children's areas. The building has been thought out anew as a set of distinct spaces, with their own functions. The study area in particular can be emptied of furniture, and the railway models there moved aside to allow concerts and other library events to be staged there out of hours. The refurbishment succeeded in retaining the best of the original features, and has given the local community an attractive, user-friendly library flexible enough to accommodate new developments such as ICT.

Acocks Green Library