Hurrah! Library and Play-cafe open April 3 at 9 am

We’re thrilled to share the news that the refurbished Sutton Coldfield town centre library, incorporating the Little Green Bookworm play café, is to open on 3 April at 9 am.

The re-opening of the library reflects the culmination of hard work on all sides to secure its long-term future, as Jenny Wilkinson, Treasurer of FOLIO, explains, “When, back in October 2016, I started a petition and set up a Facebook group to protest against Birmingham City Council’s proposals to close Sutton’s central library, I had no idea that this is where we would end up. It has been a long 18 months of negotiation and collaboration between FOLIO, 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. We can all be very proud of what we have achieved.

Photo: Najm Clayton

Zoe Toft, Chair of FOLIO added, “I cannot wait for the doors to open at 9am on April 3rd! 18 months of incredibly hard work are coming to fruition and I’m so very excited.

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. We’re enormously grateful to the Little Green Frog Play Cafe Ltd team who have provided all the expertise in setting up our cafe, and who will be managing it for us.  A special thank you goes to all the organisations who granted us awards to fit out our play café; the Birmingham City Council Local Innovations Fund, Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust and Birmingham Airport Community Trust Fund.

Photo: Najm Clayton

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.

Photo: Najm Clayton

Looking to the future, FOLIO Secretary, Jonny Mayner, said, “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 the 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. Our first big event will be on Saturday April 7 – a whole day of free activities including visits by authors B. B. Taylor and Sally Jenkins, a family workshop with Creation Station, a drop-in board game and puzzle session and much more. Events in the coming weeks – thanks to a grant from the Active Citizens fund – include Birmingham Play Care Network hosting a family workshop making crystal mazes (April 11), two teen authors, Marcus Alexander and Steven Camden, running creative writing sessions with free pizza and doughnuts (April 21 and 28), a reminiscence session for anyone wanting to join in sharing memories of Sutton Coldfield in times gone by (May 9) and more. You’ll be able to find out full details on our website or by following FOLIO on social media.

Photo: Najm Clayton

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.

Thanks must go to all involved: the dedicated volunteers; all those at FOLIO who worked constructively on a solution; Little Green Bookworm; and colleagues at Royal Sutton Town Council. We all look forward to welcoming old and new customers at the library.

Town Clerk Olive O’Sullivan from Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council who have part funded the library this year and will continue to do so going forward said “The refurbishment of Sutton Coldfield library has been a real community effort, with many people working together to secure and improve an important facility in the town. It also shows what can be achieved when the community, Town Council and City Council work in collaboration. The Town Council is pleased to have been able to provide £180,000 to date towards the cost of running the library, looks forward to continuing to work with FOLIO in support of the library and wishes FOLIO and all their team every success in their new venture.

Thank you Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust!

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is delighted to announce it has been awarded a substantial grant by Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust in order to purchase the specialist play equipment that will feature in FOLIO’s play-café, Little Green Bookworm.

In response to this exciting news FOLIO Trustee and Fundrasing Lead, Noran Flynn said:

“The trustees of FOLIO are very appreciative of Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust awarding us £17,350 funding to install an exciting play structure in our play-café inside Sutton Coldfield Library. We are local people who are responding to local residents’ requests for a play-café in the heart of Sutton Coldfield and this funding from a local charity will allow us to provide an exciting venue that will offer a service and activities for all residents. We are keen to work with other partners to develop a vibrant hub that will offer a wide range of activities accessible to all Sutton Coldfield residents.”

Commenting on their decision to award FOLIO this major grant, Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust said:

“The Trust has supported Sutton Coldfield libraries for many years through the Summer Reading Challenge and is pleased to continue this commitment with the establishment of such a unique facility in the Town Centre.”

In addition to the external grants FOLIO has now secured, Sutton Coldfield Town Council’s commitment to play a key role in securing the future of the library has been vital and FOLIO recognises the crucial role they have played. It was this time last year Cllr Liz Parry tabled a motion to get the Sutton Coldfield Town Council to commit (at that point) to bridging finance for the library, and the passing of that motion decisively turned the tide in FOLIO’s campaign to save the library.

Cllr Simon Ward, Leader of Sutton Coldfield Town Council commented:

“The Town Council is pleased to support the ongoing work to make the library a sustainable and vibrant resource for all residents of our royal town. We applaud FOLIO’s vision in wanting to appeal to all ages and ensure there is something for everyone at the library.  Retaining our library has been a key achievement of the Town Council over the last year and we are pleased to partner with FOLIO and Birmingham City Council in delivering a longer term solution.”

Work has already begun to install the play-café, (using the experience and expertise of Little Green Frog cafe in Lichfield) and to carry out additional refurbishment inside the library. It is anticipated that library and play-café will re-open around Easter. If you’d like to work in our play-cafe, you can find out more here (yes! We’re now hiring!)

The inclusion of dedicated play areas inside public libraries is a move that more and more libraries are adopting not only in recognition of the key role play has in building literacy skills for children, but also the wider recognition of the need to get children from as young an age as possible hooked on their local library in order to grow and nurture library patrons of the future.

In 2015 Knightswood Library in Glasgow invested in a soft play area inside their library. Knightswood Library in discussion with FOLIO confirmed that their soft-play area “works well to attract new users, prolonging and increasing their visits and better engaging them with our book lending and other services“. Over the first full year of the service at Knightswood Library Junior Fiction lending increased by over a third and visitor numbers to the library increased by 7000.

Last Year the Arts Council awarded Eltham Library in Greenwich over £125,000 to install a play-structure in their library, whilst in Canada $1,000,000 was invested in Calgary’s public library to put play at the heart of their library service. “We know that play is a big part of building literacy skills for children,” said Kristen Duke, Service Design Lead with the Calgary Public Library.

FOLIO is delighted to be part of a growing movement that recognises that play in libraries is something to value and invest in, and are thrilled that this has also been acknowledge by Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust by means of their award which will fund the new play structure to feature inside Sutton Library.

This exiting news comes hot on the heels of a statement from the newly appointed president of CILIP (the leading professional body for librarians in the UK), Ayub Khan MBE who sees libraries needing to redefine their role in the digital age, recognising how libraries can transform to become community hubs. He also highlighted how many non-users don’t realise just how much libraries have changed or what they now offer and how attracting new library users will be imperative.

FOLIO Chair, Zoe Toft said “All of this aligns very well with what FOLIO is trying to achieve in collaboration with Sutton Coldfield librarians, Birmingham City Council and Sutton Coldfield Town council. Jointly we are working to create a library of the future as recognised widely across the library sector.

Art reference books now available to browse

Yesterday, Friday 19 January, FOLIO volunteers helped install the pop-up art reference section, on loan from Sutton Library, in the Direct Art Action art gallery housed inside the former BHS site in the Gracechurch shopping centre.

Gav Lawley of Direct Art Action said, “Direct Art Action is delighted to work with the Sutton Coldfield library and FOLIO to open up a new space for an arts specific resource at the Direct Art Action Gallery in Sutton Coldfield,“ whilst Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council commented “This is a great example of innovation and creative thinking at a grassroots level, ensuring part of the Sutton Coldfield Library stock remains accessible during the closure. It is this enthusiasm and commitment by organisations and individuals locally that has laid the foundations for a much more sustainable library service in the future, and I would like to again thank everyone for their efforts.

Photo: Najm Clayton / Royal Sutton News
Photo: Najm Clayton / Royal Sutton News
Photo: Najm Clayton / Royal Sutton News
Photo: Najm Clayton / Royal Sutton News

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is delighted to be working with Direct Art Action and Sutton library staff to provide some continuity of service while the library is temporarily closed. We’re aslo really looking forward to our first joint story and play session for toddlers on Wednesday 24 January at 11.15, also in the Direct Art Action art gallery.

Pop-up art reference library and toddler story times

FOLIO is really pleased to let you know about a new collaboration with Sutton Library and Direct Art Action which will enable some aspect of library provision to continue in central Sutton whilst the library building is temporarily closed.

Not only is a selection of Sutton library’s art history books being made available for browsing and reference inside Direct Art Action’s pop-up gallery on the former BHS site, Sutton librarians and volunteers from FOLIO Sutton Coldfield will be hosting free toddler play and story time sessions once a week in the art gallery, to ensure that families still have the chance to come together and have some fun whilst the library is being refurbished.

The pop-up reference library will be ready next week, and our first play and story session for toddlers will be on Wednesday 24th January at 11.15.

We hope we’ll see lots of you in the art gallery over the coming weeks!

Secure donations via PayPal

FOLIO is delighted to announce that you can now make secure charitable donations using PayPal to support our work.

FOLIO’s funds go towards putting on additional events and activities in the libraries in Sutton Coldfield and do not fund core library activities (which are paid for by Birmingham City Council and Sutton Coldfield Town Council). Whilst we are continually applying to grant-awarding bodies for the core of our funding, donations made by individuals go along way to covering the essential running costs of our charity. Whilst all trustees are volunteers and donate their time and experience, we have regular costs (such as insurance and website hosting) which your donations will help us meet.

You can make a secure donation to FOLIO Sutton Coldfield via PayPal by clicking on the button below:

FOLIO pays a fee of 1.4% + 20p (PayPal’s charity rate) on all donations made via PayPal.

If you would prefer to make a donation by cash or cheque, please contact FOLIO’s treasurer, Jenny, on

Wow! A big thank you to all our volunteers

Almost 50 volunteers offered to help pack up and move books in the library this week, in preparation for the renovations which will see the FOLIO’s play-cafe The Little Green Bookworm installed. Indeed so many volunteers offered their time that FOLIO wasn’t able to take them all up on their generosity. Monday 15th January saw the first team of volunteers working alongside librarians, and such was the tremendous effort and enthusiasm, the work which was expected to take up to two weeks was completed in just one day!

It was incredible to see the commitment and enthusiasm from such a broad range of Sutton residents who all wanted to play a part in building a better Sutton, by offering their time (and arm power!) to make a real difference. Thanks to our volunteers we’ve been able to reduce the time the library is temporarily shut, as well as saving the library service money. What a great demonstration of the local community’s support for our library and FOLIO’s plans for the future.