Malala at the library

Malala Yousafzai opened the new Birmingham Library today.

How’s that for the best possible revenge? It’s not revenge at all, it’s just surviving and flourishing and being an inspiration to people who need that very thing, when ignorant warped bullies wanted her dead.

As part of the opening ceremony, Malala placed her copy of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho in the library – the last book to go on the shelves. She has been given membership to access the archive.

Addressing the public, Malala said she was feeling very proud the building had been designed by a woman and the city was now her second home after her “beloved Pakistan”.

She said books were weapons to beat terrorism and “the only way to global peace is reading knowledge and education”.

“Books are precious,” she explained.

“Some books travel with you back centuries, others take you into the future. Some take you to the core of your heart and others take you into the universe.

“There’s no better way to explain the importance of books than to show even God chose the medium of a book to send his message to his people.

“This library will continue to enlighten future generations.

“It is written that a room without books is like a body without a soul. A city without a library is like a graveyard.”

Speaking of how Birmingham has become a home to her, Malala said: “This city is the beating heart of England.

“Birmingham is very special for me, because it was here I found myself alive seven days after I was shot.”

She said the “great people” of the city gave her moral support.

“This event proves this city loves me and I love it too.”

The BBC has a slideshow – the restored Shakespeare room is a knockout, as is the roof garden and the view of Brum from the roof.


  1. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Wow, wow. What a tremendous young woman.

    And what a *fabulous* architectural treasure that library is. Almost makes me teary to see so much thought put into the aesthetics, charm, and feel of the rooms. So much construction anymore is simply utilitarian. And by that I mean soul-killing.

  2. says

    Oh wow that’s a gorgeous library. O_O and I think this is my favorite thing she said:

    “Some books travel with you back centuries, others take you into the future. Some take you to the core of your heart and others take you into the universe.”

  3. says

    Birmingham is also, for those outside the country, Britain’s “most Asian” city, besides being the second-largest. So it’s in some ways really appropriate for Malala to be opening the new library there, as a sign of the huge contribution to Brum’s success that is being made by people of Asian backgrounds. Which is awesome. 🙂

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Awesome to hear this,great news and well done Malala Yousafzai – inspirational stuff.

    Of course, back in Afghanistan and other religions ruled by Islamist extremists things for schoolgirls are still hellishly bad beyond anything most of us who are lucky enough to be living in the Western, first world, educated nations can imagine.

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    That’s supposed to be other ‘regions ruled by islamists’ not religions, d’oh!

  6. Minnow says

    Great choice to open the library and very touching that she obviously really chose a book she loved rather than something for personal display. The building is annoying though, telling that the best thing about it is something retrieved from an earlier library.It’s not horrible, but it looks mediocre to me and it replaces a great building. Typical British architectural myopia.

  7. Helena Bowles says

    The old Birmingham Central Library was a great building? You’re kidding, right? An inverted ziggurat in sixties brutalist concrete? It was awful. I can’t say I’m madly in love with the new design but it beats the old one hands down!

    Derail over. It is really, really cool that the council asked Malala to open the library.

  8. Ben Wright says

    Minnow, you can’t be talking about the previous library, which was (and is, the building is still standing and has shops on the ground floor) ghastly, nor the car park that was on the site of the new library. What did it replace?

  9. jefrir says

    It’s not horrible, but it looks mediocre to me and it replaces a great building.

    Which great building are you referring to here? Because the old Birmingham Central Library is not great by any stretch of the imagination.
    Just to be clear, the Shakespeare Room, which is truly stunning, is not from the previous library but from the one before that, which was demolished in 1974.

  10. Minnow says

    I do mean the library that they are about to demolish! It is a great building, perhaps the only great building in Birmingham and certainly one of the few masterpieces of modernist architecture in the UK. Horribly neglected, of course (almost goes without saying) but a profound work of art all the same.

  11. Ben Wright says

    I do mean the library that they are about to demolish!

    I have no words. It’s repulsive.

    For starters, it’s badly-designed from a practical point of view. It’s a choke-point between the amphitheatre in front of the museum and the walk up to the Rep area that’s barely navigable during the Christmas market. There are no public toilets. Aesthetically, even when new it looked hideous. Given that it’s surrounded by better architecture – the museum, the town hall, the pyramid thing, I can’t understand why anyone would mourn its passing unless they had a fetish for concrete.

    Returning to the rails – I was puzzled why Malala was chosen to open it at first (the link between libraries and pursuing education notwithstanding), but the full article cleared it up. It makes me feel a mixture of pride and anger; local pride that she could find a second home in the West Midlands but anger that she was forced to find such a second home. I can’t help but feel that Pakistan needs people like her far more than we do.

  12. Minnow says

    Crazy talk from Ben there. It is a great building, easy to restore to its proper majesty. It has real monumental power rather than the frothy ingratiating charms of what replaces it. A masterpiece.

    Feast your eyes:

  13. jefrir says

    No accounting for taste, I guess.

    There are no public toilets.

    Actually, there are. But they’re on a random corridor on about the third floor, and not well signposted.

  14. Minnow says

    Toilets can be added! Facilities in St Paul’s not so good in that regard either, but still a terrific building.

  15. Ben Wright says

    Even from it’s best side, it’s still appalling. We had plenty like that in Coventry until we had the good sense to bulldoze them flat.

    I’m talking more about the shops area on the ground floor having no toilets rather than the library part itself (having not been in there).

    Perhaps the worst part of this carbuncle is that it spoils what would be an otherwise impressive view from the museum down Broad Street towards the Rep and new library.

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