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.

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

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