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150th anniversary for city libraries

Published: Tuesday, 18th October 2016

Libraries across Birmingham will be hosting a series of activities and events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the city’s first purpose-built Reference Library this month.

Our Libraries week (24 to 29 October) will be launched at the Library of Birmingham, where a commemorative 6ft ‘bookend’ plaque, will be unveiled on the Book Rotunda on Monday, 24 October at 11.30am.

The plaque - designed and built by library staff has been painted by local artist Sandra Field to replicate some of the ornate book bindings found in the library’s Legacy Collections.

When it opened in October 1866, the Reference Library provided information and education to all citizens of all ages for the first time - which it continues to do. Since then, the city’s library service has developed and grown to incorporate new technology alongside traditional reference materials and archives.

Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, who will unveil the plaque with the assistance of a regular library user, said: “Our library service has come a long way since 1866, I think 19th century visitors would not recognise libraries in 2016, as they have evolved to embrace developments in technology.

“When the Reference Library opened 150 years ago, its ‘open to all’ approach enabled people from all walks of life to access education and information for the first time.  Our libraries are modern, relevant and remain at the heart of our community.”

Other events during the week include a Business Master Class on 24 October (6.30pm) with the Library of Birmingham’s entrepreneur in residence, Simon Topman, and a writing workshop led by writer and broadcaster Louise Page on 25 October (2.30pm).  Places for these events can be booked via

As the celebrations coincide with the half-term holidays, there will be a series of activities for younger visitors, including information sessions, readings and a visit from Educritters.

The week will close with a talk by Rachel MacGregor, looking back at the history of the Reference Library, on 29 October (2pm) at the Library of Birmingham.

For more details about these events and other Our Libraries activities, please visit the Library of Birmingham website -

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