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The re-opening of the library reflects the culmination of 18 months of negotiation and collaboration between FOLIO (Friends of Libraries in Our Sutton Coldfield), its predecessor The Library Lobby, Birmingham City Council and Sutton Town Council, with all parties working together to ensure a financially viable future for the library.

A case study in commitment and collaboration

It has been a genuine partnership driven by the commitment and enthusiasm of the community itself. Zoe Toft, Chair of FOLIO, has this to say:

“Libraries are perhaps the only space in today’s society where everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, income, faith (or none) can feel equally welcome, where anybody can escape to another world or discover new ways and knowledge to help navigate this one. To be part of the enormous collaborative effort which has saved the biggest public library in Birmingham, outside of the Library of Birmingham itself, has been an honour and I’d like to add my thanks to all the councillors, council staff, volunteers and colleagues who have worked tirelessly to get us to this point.

“FOLIO, and its predecessor The Library Lobby, has fought from the start to maintain a professionally staffed library. Libraries across the UK have been faced with closure or being run only by volunteers. We knew that to keep our library professionally staffed by trained librarians would be a particular challenge, as we would have to find a way to provide ongoing income to be part of the package which ensured the library had long-term financial security.

“We’re absolutely delighted that 3rd April also sees the opening of our Little Green Bookworm play café inside the library. The Little Green Bookworm will provide just the sort of family-friendly space that the centre of Sutton has been crying out for. Looking to the long-term, getting the very youngest hooked on visiting the library is just as important as providing an ongoing revenue stream for the library.”

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FOLIO Trustee, Noran Flynn, sums up the sense of optimism for the future: “As a FOLIO trustee and a Sutton Coldfield resident I am very excited at the development of a vibrant community hub in the heart of our town. This is a great opportunity for more people to access the library, get involved with a range of activities for all ages, influence what is provided and have fun in a safe and welcoming space. It is a real testament to people working together to ensure the best outcomes for local residents.”

Looking to the future, FOLIO Secretary, Jonny Mayner, says: “Exciting times lie ahead. On average, we already have planned and funded one event every week through till the summer holidays, including events for brand new library users and long-term regulars. Look out for award winning authors who will be visiting, local history talks, craft sessions, family history help desks, help with your gadgets, and much more to be announced over the coming weeks.”

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Jacqui Kennedy, director of place for Birmingham City Council said: “This is a wonderful example of partners working together to help the community. There has been a huge amount of collaboration and negotiation over the past 18 months and we are now delighted to formally announce the re-opening of the library.”

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All photos: Najm Clayton