On its website, the University explains that 'the current library, which was built to house a print-based, pre-digital collection, and which has grown sporadically since the 1950s, no longer meets students' expectations'.
It states that the construction of a new library is 'a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our campus and ensure that our students, staff, and wider community have a facility that serves their changing needs, exceeds their expectations, reflects the status of their institution, and is a source of pride for decades to come.'
However, the proposed new design, a contemporary structure that would replace the redbrick façade of the current library, has met with criticism from students.
A Facebook group entitled 'Save the University of Birmingham's Redbrick Library' has been set up to petition against the demolition of the redbrick façade, and since being created in December, has attracted over 400 members.
Matthew Key, a student ambassador at the University, and co-founder of the group, explained the reasons for creating a petition 'Primarily, I considered it inequitable that the University would think to go ahead with a decision as monumental and instrumental to the daily well-being of its students without any prior student consultation.'
'Secondly, after reviewing the plans myself … I found the plans drab, utilitarian and not in keeping with the beautiful aesthetic the University champions.'
'I think we all agree that the library is in severe need of a bit of refurbishment and, most importantly, an introduction of plug sockets en masse! However, at what cost should this modernisation come? Should modernisation take precedence over the maintenance of our beloved Redbrick heritage? So far, 400 students have emphatically said no.'
Jacob Lovick, a first year English and Drama student, commented 'I think that it would constitute the destruction of the redbrick heritage that our University is known for, and would temporarily deprive students of an amazing literary resource that we come to university to use.'
As stated on the petition, the group hopes to 'urge the Projects Department to reconsider the submitted proposal for the new library and consider a more traditional design or, at least, to not obliterate the front façade which, not only provides useful space, but stands as a monument to our university's heritage'.
Some progress has been made in the campaign. The Guild President, Mark Harrop, has been invited to attend a 'Library Planning Group', and Key is positive that the planning team is aware of students' concerns.
Mark Harrop commented 'I have been to a planning meeting to put across the view from students regarding a traditional aesthetic and I am pushing hard for further student consultation'.
In addition a motion has been passed in the Guild that means it is now official policy that students should be consulted on architectural developments. The protest group aims to deliver the revised petition by the end of March.
Written by Ella Parsons