Handsworth Library 10

Teenage area

Handsworth Library 08

Study area

Handsworth Library 07

Reception area

Handsworth Library 06

Reception area

Handsworth Library 04

Reading area

Handsworth Library 02

Music zone

Handsworth Library 01

Children's Library



Handsworth Library is a grade 2 listed building. It was built in 1878 as the council house and public library for Handsworth Borough Council, prior to its incorporation into Birmingham in 1911. The modernisation of the library has transformed it into a building fit for the 21st century.

The design team headed by John Hunt Associates followed a brief informed by extensive public consultation, and produced an innovative design that provides interest and excitement at every turn.

The library treats each zone as a seperate entity to create environments that reflect the needs of the users. Some parts are traditional in feel, others are funky and bright to reflect the desire of the teenage users and the childrens library is like "the best children's bedroom you ever saw".

The lighting is a key feature to achieving the result as is the eclectic mix of furniture from the cheap and cheerful of Ikea to the designer chairs of Philippe Starke and Vitra. Special features include a performance space for live events, a projection wall showing film and video presentations by artists, a community room that can be split into 2 smaller rooms which is proving a lucrative money maker, and plasma screen technology. An exhibition space is one of the new features of the building and we currently have an exhibition by internationally renowned photographer Vanley Burke.

The shelving is all mobile allowing the space to be quickly transformed to create a cat walk for fashion shows, a theatre environment for live music or a cinema for film and presentations.

Since the library re-opened in September 2006 the visitor numbers have almost doubled any year since 2001. The public response has been enthusiastic and the range of opportunities to enable communities access to new experiences has significantly increased.


Winner of the Cilip Public Library Buildings Award UK and Republic of Ireland - Interior Design Category, 2007. Shortlisted for the FX Design Award - Public Spaces category, 2007. Longlisted for the BURA British Urban Regeneration Association Award. Will be notified in Septemeber whether we have reached the shortlisting stage.

The Building

The Building

Type of library

Small community library


600 m2




Birmingham City Council

Building contractor


The Space

The Space

Features and services

Special services

Audiovisual/Multimedia areas, Equipment provision, Exhibition/display areas, Group study spaces, Meeting rooms, Services to particular groups, Services to particular groups, Sound and image processing facilities

External features


Internal features

Design features

Energy efficiency


Accessibility provision

Access to building, Access within building, Assistive technology

Interior designer


Furniture suppliers

BBI Office Interiors, Ikea, Laporta, Micro Slat International, Point Eight, Purves & Purves, Vitra

Services and facilities suppliers


IT provision

General, Internet access, Number of public computer terminals: 34

Seats/study places