Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham Library cuts could leave 'empty shell', campaigners warn

View of Library of Birmingham from the amphitheatre
Image caption More than half of the 188 staff at the new library's staff are to be cut, and opening hours halved

Proposed cuts at the Library of Birmingham could leave the building an "empty shell", campaigners have warned.

The flagship £189m building faces losing half its workforce if proposals to slash its annual budget go through.

A meeting attended by hundreds of people on Wednesday heard some library services would be "irreparably" damaged under the plans.

Birmingham City Council has said it was exploring alternative ways to save services.

The meeting, in the library's studio theatre, heard from a number of library supporters.

'Irreparable damage'

Sam Owen, a member of staff at the library, branded proposals to cut staff "short-sighted" and said only basic counter services would remain if cuts were approved.

She said the building's specialist archive and research staff would be lost, and collections would be "irreparably damaged".

"Without the staff...[the library] would just be an empty shell," she said.

"It's no good having a state-of-the art library if there aren't enough experienced staff to run it."

Image caption Hundreds of people attended the meeting, held in the library's studio theatre
Image caption Author William Gallagher told the meeting the proposals left him "shaking" with anger

William Gallagher, an author and Writers' Guild representative, said the proposed cuts were "embarrassing" for the city and could damage its image.

"Birmingham is supposed to be a great place to do business," he said.

"But we are showing the world we can't even keep our library open."

If Birmingham City Council's budget proposals for 2015/16 are approved, 100 library staff will lose their jobs and opening hours will be reduced from 73 to 40 hours per week.

On Tuesday the authority said it was considering an approach to the British Library in a bid to make Birmingham one of its regional centres.

But Councillor Penny Holbrook said the discussions were at an "early stage", and the British Library said it had not been contacted in relation to the idea.

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