Skip to main content

A brand new Main Library, built at a cost of £60 million and described as heralding a new generation of libraries in UK higher education, opened its doors today (September 19) at the University of Birmingham.

The milestone building will give users a ‘transformational experience’, providing state-of-the-art facilities for students, staff and researchers, as well as a cultural hub for the University and the city, and with some facilities being open to the public.


With some 62 kilometres of shelving, including 12km of open access bookshelves, the library will provide a new home for the thousands of books and publications owned by the University while also delivering what the University’s Director of Library Services Diane Job has described as ‘inspirational learning spaces embracing new and emerging technologies’. These include a new vanguard audio listening room and four video editing suite booths. Desks are placed near windows to maximise natural light and give spectacular views across campus.

Diane Job comments: ‘The opening of the library is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work to make sure our incredible resources are organised in ways which allow our students and staff to enjoy  new ways of working and access the considerable materials we hold in the most straightforward way’.


The library has been tailor-made to suit modern users’ requirements and is designed to make more of the University’s extraordinary collections accessible to students and staff, with expert library staff on hand to help and advise on texts, support and resources.

The opening is being marked with a special exhibition, open to the public, showcasing works from the University’s collections which have pushed the boundaries of Western knowledge over the last 500 years.

Organised by the University’s Library Services with the Cadbury Research Library, the exhibition, called Inspiring Knowledge: works of innovation and imagination that have shaped our world, will be staged in the new Library Lounge. Like the library itself, explains Diane Job, the exhibition is ‘a crucible of ideas; an array of ground-breaking works that have changed the way people have thought, experienced and imagined the world’.

The three show-pieces are The Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), Vesalius’s On the Fabric of the Human Body (1543) and Chaucer’s Works (1561). The collections of the Cadbury Research Library have been cherry-picked by the CRL’s exhibitions team for iconic works, complementing these three significant books and demonstrating the inter-disciplinary nature of knowledge and art, including Dürer, Harvey, Gessner, Dickens, Milton, Wollstonecraft and Descartes.

There will be a series of films complementing and promoting the exhibition on the three major works displayed and the essential part that books and libraries play in inspiring knowledge. These will be linked to on the University’s YouTube channel.

The exhibition will also be supported by a series of Inspiring Knowledge lectures:

• Professor Alice Roberts on The Genius of Vesalius, Thursday 13 October, Elgar Concert Hall, 13:00-14:00 (Booking through Book to the Future Festival)

• Professor Steve Ellis on The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Elgar Concert Hall, Thursday 2 March 2017, 13:00-14:00 (To celebrate World Book Day, booking through University events pages)

Dr Elaine Fulton on The Nuremberg Chronicle, Elgar Concert Hall, Thursday 16 March 2017, 13:00-14:00 (Booking through Arts and Science Festival)

Diane Job adds: ‘We wish to inspire our students with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm – encouraging them to see themselves as the next stage in a historic chain of knowledge.’

The exhibition will run until the end of the academic year. For more information, please contact the Cadbury Research Library.

The Library was designed by Associated Architects and built in partnership with contractors, Carillion.