The People’s Palace


A room without books is like a body without soul, and I say, a city without books, and a city without libraries, is a graveyard.
– Malala Yousafzai

I’m a big fan of public libraries. The title of this post is shamelessly stolen from a BBC documentary, celebrating the opening of the Library of Birmingham last week. Well worth a look while it’s still on iPlayer. The title says everything about what is owed to citizens in a democracy.

But it’s more than just a library. It’s a big, beautiful whack upside the head to the small-minded purveyors of austerity, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. That value was demonstrated by the young woman who opened the library, Malala Yousafzai, shot through the head at the age of 15 in her native Pakistan for the crime of advocating education for girls.

Since recovered and now a Brummie, she talked about education and the value of libraries.

Inspiring stuff. It’s sad that someone for whom education was a life-threatening endeavour had to say it in a country that allows its glorious legacy of public libraries to be destroyed.

I love this YouTube footage of the opening from Maria Clara Sibayan. It’s as much about the people of Birmingham enjoying their new library as it is about the building. And that’s exactly how it should be.

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