The library since the War
The public library provided a book-based lending service above all else for many years. One happy result of an early specialisation by branch libraries was the development of the railway books collection at Acocks Green, which now contains about 1,800 volumes. Although it has not been possible to invest in this collection as before, it remains one of the largest collections in the country, with strength in depth from the 1960s to the 1980s. Today there is a great deal more emphasis on links with the community, although a local library has always been a community resource for local people anyway. Certainly, it was the frontage of the library where a garden of remembrance and cenotaph were erected in 1965.
Ever since the last war the British Legion had had a temporary Garden of Remembrance in Acocks Green, and in May 1964 they applied to have a permanent Garden made outside the Library, which they would maintain. They wrote: 'we desire to have some place where people of all denominations can freely place something to the memory of their lost loved ones'. Just before Christmas the idea was approved by the Council, and J White and Sons, Memorial Craftsmen of Yardley, were asked to design the Memorial. They suggested a paved area up to the Cenotaph and lawns either side and behind, with a section of the Library wall coming down to give access. Next spring the Acocks Green Branch of the British Legion put in a request for rose bushes to be planted in the Garden, but the City Librarian was only prepared to contemplate them being behind the Memorial. He complimented the Legion on keeping the frontage tidy, and actually asked them if they could take on the other side of the frontage as well! As far as is known, the roses were not planted.
Unfortunately, after a while, library users began to cut the corner and cross the grass when leaving the building, which affected the appearance of the area. By late 1980, other plans were coming to fruition, and the wall on the right-hand frontage was partly removed, and a paved area with shrubs and trees was installed. Councillor Matt Redmond was involved in this work. Shrubs were also put in on the left hand side around the memorial. The frontage had already lost the railings, which had been removed for the war effort: a small piece was returned, and stands to the right hand side near the benches.
Every Armistice Day a service is held at 11.00 hours outside the Library, and the British Legion put poppies and flowers in front of the memorial. The memorial is a place of reflection and dignity, and it needs constant effort to maintain that dignity outside a public building.
By the late 1970s, the library was extending the range of its services in the building. The former Newspaper Room, referred to above, was converted into a Community Room in September 1978. One of
the most important groups to benefit was a drop-in and advice centre for the elderly, which has prospered and continues strongly as a Coffee Morning. It celebrated its 100,000th cup in February
1987, and its 25th Anniversary in September 2003. For many years, old furniture had to be begged or borrowed, until the refurbishment in the mid-1990s. Also there was no kitchen for about five
years, so water had to be brought down from the staff kitchen to be boiled, and washing up had to be taken upstairs do be done. Below are some pictures. During the 1980s, four railway models were
rescued from being scrapped, and were installed in display cases in the library. More information is available here.
The library service had taken on many more community roles since 1978, and the building itself was no longer capable of accommodating all the new roles in its existing form, so plans were made for a refurbishment. After nearly ten years these plans finally came to fruition.