A million books under one roof. That’s heaven for some people and hell for others.
Despite the advent of texts, tablets, Kindles and audiobooks, the centrality of the printed word as part of our history and culture came to the fore today as the Library of Birmingham opened. Costing £189 million, the brand new building (replacing an ugly lump of concrete which squatted miserably over Centenary Square) contains more than 200 public access computers, theatres, an exhibition gallery and music rooms.
The library was opened by Malala Yousafzi, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out about the right of girls to be educated.
Malala, who was treated at QEH in Birmingham and now lives and goes to school in the city, spoke eloquently and beautifully at the library’s opening.
And this is why I’m writing this post, because I believe her words are worth sharing.
This is an extract from her speech:
“Now I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge. Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism. I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through educating not only our minds, but our hearts and our souls. This is the way forward to our destiny of peace and prosperity.
Dear sisters and brothers, Books are very precious. Some books can travel you back centuries and some take you into the future. In some books, you will visit the core of your heart and in others you will go out into the universe. Books keep ones feelings alive. Aristotle’s words are still breathing, Rumi’s poetry will always inspire and Shakespeare’s soul will never die.
There is no better way to explain the importance of books than to say that even God chose the medium of a book to send His message to His people.
This great library, which is the biggest library in Europe, has educated the people of Birmingham for decades and it will continue to enlighten future generations. As once said, a room without books is like a body without soul, and I say “a city without a library is like a graveyard.”
Poetic words from a young girl who has already been through so much. I don’t need convincing that words, books and stories are powerful. I just don’t want our world to forget it.
You can read Malala’s full speech here: