Acocks Green Library: its history
Acocks Green Library celebrated its 70th Birthday on 14th June 2002. It was the 25th library to be opened in Birmingham. In the same year the Green was redesigned, so the library building and the layout of the Green are contemporaneous. The library was designed with an emphasis on light and ease of access. The modern Georgian look was enhanced by the use of hand-made facing bricks, Grinshill stone masonry, and terrazzo. The flooring is oak, and the shelves too. However, the shelving contains elements of a previous era of library design. Acocks Green was planned on the open access principle, where the public could walk around the shelves and look at the books before they made a choice. However, the hatch in the screen separating the counter from the hallway, and the door in the Magazine Room marked Private, reveal details of the closed access model, where readers had to look at an Indicator Board to see what was in, and chose solely on the basis of the limited information there. So it appears that not all the thinking was entirely up to date when the building was planned. The library cost £14,000 to build, and the books cost £3,000. Over 9,000 books were issued in the first week.
In any event, the oak screen between the Magazine Room and adult lending area was removed after only a few years, around 1938, and the Magazine Room was incorporated into the lending area, allowing more shelving for books to be brought in. However, this was not made to the same standard as that in the rest of the building, and was finally removed in 1994-5.
Below is a selection of photographs taken when the library opened. We are grateful to Acocks Green Library for letting us scan the photographs for this piece.
When Acocks Green first opened, the service was provided until 9 p.m. including Saturday. The staff had no tea breaks. One constant problem was the attempts by bookies to conduct their business in the library. The staff pasted over or blacked out the racing news in order to counter this unwanted use of the building. There were complaints in the newspapers about betting in libraries. In fact a separate room for newspaper readers had been provided, across the hallway from the Magazine Room. Perhaps this was a statement that readers of newspapers were not quite the same kinds of people as those who read magazines!