Work on a major £1.2m project to create a brand new library in Lichfield started this week.
The project will see the opening up of the ground floor at St. Mary’s Church in Market Square to accommodate the library and tourist information service. The first floor will include a permanent museum, exhibition and performance space, as well as an access point for digitised archive collections.
The new library will be modelled on Stafford Library which opened in 2015, which includes wifi, touchscreen tables, computer tablets and 3D printing facilities.
Work will include exposing the church’s original features, 19th century columns, incorporating etched glass screens into the new layout and retaining the altar, choir stalls and pews at the east end as a study area and IT suite. 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.
Staffordshire County Council’s Libraries and Archives Chief, Gill Heath said:
“These are very exciting times for the City and it’s great to see work on the new library get underway. This will not only ensure that Lichfield has a first-class library for the next 30 years, but will also help safeguard the historic building from closure, boost the heart of the city and support local traders.
“The new History Access Point will also give people access to archives and will provide an opportunity to get more people interested in their local and family history. This will also help strengthen the number of tourists exploring Lichfield’s fascinating past.”
A £250,000 fund-raising campaign was launched by The Guild of St. Mary’s to reinvigorate the first floor.
Caroline Kerr from St. Mary’s said:
“Our vision for St Mary’s is to become an arts and learning venue that is affordable and accessible to all. We want to provide on the first floor a vibrant and engaging heritage and arts experience alongside the relocated library. We will work with Lichfield Library to create a holistic offer that benefits all and knits together our already creative offering in the city.”
Simon Baker, Archdeacon of Lichfield added:
“The Diocese of Lichfield is delighted that the plans for St Marys will be going ahead and look forward very much to the opening of the new library.
“St Mary’s church has stood at the centre of the city of Lichfield for centuries and has served the community as a place of worship as well as a community centre. It will continue to serve the community in the years to come as a place to learn about the past as well as build community relationships in the present. Libraries are changing as society changes and this will be reflected creatively as the old and new come together in the renovated building.”