"Modern library investment critical to futureproofing research and education in digital era of 'alternative truths'", says Dame Lynne Brindley at the University of Birmingham

Dame Lynne Brindley and Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor, unveil a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of the University of Birmingham Library

Speaking on the future role of libraries at the opening of the University of Birmingham’s brand new, ‘transformational’ Library on Monday (13 February) Dame Lynne Brindley, Master at Pembroke College, Oxford, and former Chief Executive of the British Library said: “Librarians should work as partners with academics to provide students with frameworks for information literacy, digital fluency and critical judgement skills around the superabundance of unauthenticated data and information swirling around the ether.

The University of Birmingham Library, which opened its doors in September 2016 heralding a new era for modern libraries, has been tailor-made to suit modern users’ requirements, embracing new technologies while making more of the University’s extraordinary collections accessible to students and researchers. Built at a cost of £60 million, the building brings together 2.1 million physical items from books and journals, to CDs and DVDs, with experts on hand to help and advise on texts, support and resources.

“Students need to be supported and trained to think about how to discern truth, weigh up conflicting evidence, be able to argue cases and deal with complexity of data, statistics, algorithms and viewpoints”, explained Dame Lynne, who highlighted the new risks of judgement swayed by fake news, alternative facts, a deluge of tweets, or imperatives of ubiquitous social media, around which their daily lives revolve.

She welcomed the University’s vision and endeavour, saying: “The new Library represents the best of ideas, ethics, values and social responsibilities. New libraries are neither bookless nor brickless, but designed to serve a new generation of students, retaining enough print, alongside unique treasures and plentiful digital resources. Within its walls and its wires, with shelves and with servers, the new Library provides inspiration to its students and underpins the impact that research undertaken here will have on the world.”

The opening ceremony was held to thank the staff and project partners, as well as our donors, of which one thousand, six hundred alumni generously gifted £1.8 million towards the development, to make the ambitious vision a reality.

Diane Job, Director of Library Services, University of Birmingham said: “Dame Lynne is arguably the most influential librarian of our generation, it has been an honour and a pleasure to welcome her to the University.

“This landmark occasion comes after nearly ten years of planning and development and I am so proud to now be watching students and researchers making the most of the space. Our library is now celebrated as an inspirational place where people connect with information, resources and ideas.”

As well as providing a new home for the thousands of books and publications owned by the University – arranged over 62Km of shelving – the Library also delivers inspirational learning and research spaces. A dedicated research reserve brings new benefits to staff and researchers as needs and research methods continue to evolve.

The modern approach taken by the University brings to the forefront technologies, such as GIS and visualisation, the power of big data and associated data and text mining. Dame Lynne noted: “We are seeing the creation of massive datasets for analysis and manipulation – at CERN, through space exploration, oceanography and biomedicine – this world requires new skills of researchers and places new demands on libraries – to support long-term digital access, archiving and stewardship, to train students in data methods, and to help navigate the dynamic world of massive datasets and the software toolkits that support their future use.”

Diane added: “As we see the collapse of trust in liberal elites and experts of all kinds, it is more important than ever that we equip our academic colleagues with fast and easy access to the information they need and we educate others in its importance.”

Notes to editors

The Library was designed by Associated Architects and built in partnership with contractors, Carillion. The modern building has already received a number of plaudits and awards including the Design Stage certificate of the Building Research Establishment for achieving its ‘Excellent’ standard. Known as a BREEAM, the Building Research Establishment Environment Assessment Method is calculated according to a building’s ecological impact. This takes into account travel facilities and employees’ well-being, as well as how much energy the building uses.

It forms part of the University’s ambitious five-year capital development project, which will transform the University’s Edgbaston campus.

For more information, please contact Samantha Williams, University of Birmingham, +44 (0)121 414 3984.