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Gosta Green Library

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Birmingham Free Libraries in 1904

The Free Libraries Committee was set up in 1860; by May of that year it had been decided that there should be a central newsroom, lending and reference library; and four district libraries. These were all set up in the 1860s. The only one of the original buildings to survive is Deritend, but it is no longer used as a library.
Many more libraries have been added since that time. The oldest building still in use as a library is Bloomsbury, opened in June 1892. Harborne, previously a Masonic Hall, was opened as a library later that year; Spring Hill in 1893, and Balsall Heath in 1896.

Gosta Green Library in 1910

Gosta Green was the last of the original four district libraries to be opened. It was designed by the local architects Bateman & Corser, who had also designed Deritend Library. The newsroom was opened in February 1868, and the library in June 1868. The foundation stone had been laid by the Mayor Edwin Yates Esq. at noon on the 27th of October 1866. This was a significant date for libraries in Birmingham, as both the Reference Library and Deritend Library were to be opened later that day, at 1.30 in the afternoon.

The Mayor, Edwin Yates, made a speech when the foundation stone was laid. Later in the day George Dawson would give an inspiring address at the opening of the new Reference Library. The Mayor wished to make certain things clear as to his vision of the purpose of the free libraries; his speech has echoes of the lines from All Things Bright and Beautiful

'The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate,
God made them high or lowly, and ordered their estate.'

This is part of the address as reported in Aris's Gazette:
'...He believed the object which they all had in view in making these libraries and newsrooms for the benefit of the people - that each man, woman and child might be made acquainted with his or her duties in their own sphere of life. He was not one of those who advocated education with a view of advancing or rather altering the station of man; but he advocated it principally because he believed it would enable every man to do his duty in that station in which God had called him.'

Adderley Park Library
Constitution Hill Library
Deritend Library
The first Birmingham Central Library
A Brief History of Birmingham Central Library