A new £1.4m library and arts and heritage space in the centre of Lichfield will open in December.
The investment in the former St Mary’s Church has opened up the ground floor to accommodate the library and tourist information centre, while the first floor will include a versatile gallery, heritage and performance space, as well as an access point for digitised archive collections.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Cabinet member responsible for libraries, said:
I am delighted that the work on this exciting project has come to fruition in an excellent location in the heart of Lichfield.
The county council’s investment will ensure a first class library there for the next 30 years, safeguard the future of a landmark building and support shops and businesses around St Mary’s by increasing footfall.”
The new library, which will also be equipped with computers, free wifi and 3D printers, is scheduled to open on Monday, December 17th at 9am. Before that the current library at The Friary will close for the last time at 4pm on Saturday, December 1st.
Borrowers who would have books due for return between December 1st and 17th will be given an extended return date to cover the closure period or can use another library.
Work on the building has included exposing the church’s 19th century columns, incorporating etched glass screens into the new layout and retaining the altar, choir stalls and pews at the east end in an IT study area.
While one end of the first floor will have a balcony overlooking the level below, its central space will be occupied by a flexible performance and exhibition space with seating for more than 130.
While the new library opens on the 17th, the inaugural performance by Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, on the 13th December has already sold out. Tickets are available for St Mary’s other Christmas performances – see www.stmaryslichfield.co.uk for details and booking.
Nick Sedgwick, Chair of the Board of Trustees for St Mary’s, said:
After overseeing a significant heritage restoration programme, I am very excited to announce the opening of a unique arts and performance venue on the first floor of St Mary’s.
The venue offers a versatile space for musical recitals, plays, concerts, weddings, dinners and business events as well as a changing programme of visual arts and heritage displays and our permanent Treasury exhibition.
Our aim is to create a vibrant and flexible space for the young, old and everyone in-between, in the heart of Lichfield City.”
The ground floor will also be home to Lichfield’s tourist information centre. Coun Ian Pritchard, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Environment & Development Services at Lichfield District Council, said:
We’re really excited about moving our tourist information services back into the newly developed St Mary’s.
Not only will the new venue help us to serve even more customers, the footfall we attract will in turn help to boost local shops and businesses. From information about local events and tour tickets, through to visitor information for a wide range of local attractions, we would encourage people to come in and visit us to find out more about what our fantastic city and district has to offer.”
To allow the move to take place, the tourist information desk in the old library will close on Saturday December 1st and will reopen in St Mary’s on Monday, December 17th.