A campaign group has raised fears that the new play area at a Sutton Coldfield community venue will turn it in to a ‘glorified Wacky Warehouse’ but those behind the plan say without it the library would be doomed.

A play area and café that campaigners hope will save Sutton Coldfield Library from closure could turn the venue into a ‘glorified Wacky Warehouse’ it has been claimed.

Libraries campaign group - The Friends of the Library of Birmingham (FoLoB) - say the play café which is about to be constructed at Sutton Coldfield Library will irrevocably change the nature of the venue, make it noisy and will detract from users other than young families coming in.

But local library campaigners FOLIO (Friends of libraries in our Sutton Coldfield) have hit back at FoloB and said without a play café, which will be run by its trading arm – Little Green Bookworm CIC (community interest company), bringing in an income of around £40,000, the town centre venue would have to shut in any event.

Martin Sullivan, secretary of FoLoB, said: “What we are unhappy about is the children’s play area with a café. It’s quite a big bit of the library which is all on one floor.

“The council say they can’t afford proper soundproofing. What our group thinks is this changes the nature of the library. When people browse through books you need it to be quiet. We don’t accept it isn’t possible to soundproof it.

“And we believe this change will people will stop using the library. It will get children in the library but there’s a difference between getting children in to the library to play but not to read books.

“We are not against this sort of thing, but not so that it’s at the detriment of others. For us having even a minimum requirement of quietness is important.”

Fellow FoLoB member and regular Sutton Coldfield Library user Stephen King said: “My feeling along with other members of the Friends of Birmingham Libraries is this will be an end of Sutton Coldfield Library as we know it.

“It was closed due to asbestos and when it was reopened it was condensed from two floors to one floor. What about the students and elderly people that want to use the library as a quiet place?

“To me it’s a horror story.

“All the work to keep the library open. Really this is not what local residents want.”

The 70-year-old Sutton resident said there had been no public consultation on the proposed changes and added: “It’s not been transparent. The concerns are being swept under the carpet.

The new play café within Sutton Coldfield Library will feature a soft-play area for pre-schoolers
Sutton Trinity councillors Margaret Waddington (left), Ewan Mackey and David Pears (right) gave their backing to Zoe Toft and Jenny Wilkinson (both centre) from FOLIO’s plans for a new play café.

“There will be a lot of rowdiness with kids running around. It’s not going to be a library anymore.”

Zoe Toft, chair of FOLIO, hit back at the noise complaints and said FoLoB had not come up with any alternative plans. She said: “FoLoB is a campaign group rather than getting involved to make something better.

“Their members haven’t offered any constructive alternative to our play café.

“They haven’t taken on board if you want to save the library you have to have a plan.

Unique new café set to open in bid to save Sutton Coldfield Library

“Birmingham City Council are reconfiguring the library in to zones and the play café will be at one end and a quiet zone at the opposite side. From a practical point of the café will be sourcing its equipment bearing in mind noise levels and will choose the quietest we can get.
“The library will also make use of the fixtures and fittings to absorb sound.

“Noise has always been something we are very aware of. But if partitions are put in, the heating breaks down. A sealed area there is not architecturally possible we’ve been told.”

Zoe said the play café will encourage a younger generation to visit the library will be key to it’s long term future.

“We are mindful there will be changes in noise levels. We have done all we can given our resources to minimise the impact.

“We are driven by the demand from residents here. They want the library to survive. They have welcomed the play café idea. We welcome research in to soundproofing opportunities.

“We recognise there’s going to be a change in the environment. The librarians are supportive of the change.

“Either there’s some change or there’s no library!”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: "We are very disappointed by the comments that have been made - they miss completely the point that the play café is a key element of the plan to ensure the library remains viable.

"Our project partners FOLIO have led ten public consultation events since last summer.

“Whilst noise was raised by a small number of people as part of this consultation, we are advised that all were happy with the explanation of what was being done to mitigate noise levels being disruptive. We are also advised that FoLoB did not attend any of the consultation events, where their input would have been welcomed.

"The service will of course be different when we re-open but we look forward to welcoming old and new customers. We will also continue to listen to feedback and adapt."