The Library of Birmingham at Centenary Square has eleven floors, ten of them above ground. Most of the 5th, 6th, and 8th Floors are closed to the public.
The new setup allows for the display of over 400,000 books, more than twice as many books as were accessible in the old Central Library, a Birmingham City Council spokeswoman reported on April 29, 2013.
She also reported the Central Library, which opened in 1974, would close for good on Saturday, June 29, 2013, except for “Reception, Tourist Information and Box Office located in the foyer.” To help ease patrons temporarily losing physical access to documents, a new Library of Birmingham Web site provided greater information about collections and access for the first time to electronic copies of newly digitized documents in the archives.
The spokeswoman further announced that as a result of a Twitter contest, J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit, became the first book to be placed on the new library’s shelf.
It is worth pointing out the book is more on people’s minds than it otherwise might be due to Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit being released in 2012-2014 about a decade after the release of his adaptation of Tolkien’s three-part novel The Lord of the Rings. Also, John Ronal Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) is something of a native son. Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, placed The Hobbit on a bookshelf on Monday, April 29, 2013.
The Birmingham City Council spokeswoman noted, “Staff at Birmingham’s Central Library have been working for many months to prepare the city’s millions of books, music, archive and heritage resources, photographic images and rare books for the move. The process will see specialist move contractor Nexus transfer millions of items over the coming months. It is estimated that 1,100 crates will be brought into the new Library every day for three months – a total of 66,000 crates in all. Placed end to end, the Library’s books would stretch from Birmingham to Edinburgh.”
The city’s internationally-important archives and collections will be housed in a climatically controlled ‘golden box’ of secure archive storages, These include one of the world’s largest Shakespeare collections, the Parker Collection of Children’s Books and Games, the Early and Fine Printing Collection, the Boulton & Watt archive and Photography Collection – one of only nine national collections and the only to be housed within a public library.
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said, “The Library of Birmingham is a beacon of what the library sector can offer society, providing specialist services for all in business, personal health and learning, and events, live performances and exhibitions for all ages and tastes. But books remain the heart of what libraries are about, and it seems only fitting that The Hobbit, a book inspired by Tolkien’s Birmingham childhood, is the first book to be placed on these stunning shelves.”
 He was born in Bloemfontein, the capital city of the Orange Free State (now part of South Africa), but his parents – Arthur Tolkien and Mabel Tolkien (nee Suffield) – were from Birmingham and he lived in Birmingham and its suburbs and outlying villages from 1895 to 1911. Arthur Tolkien died in Bloemfontein in 1896 while his wife and sons (John and his younger brother Hilary) were on a visit home with the Suffields in Birmingham. After his widowed mother’s untimely death in 1904, the Tolkien boys were wards of Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan, a priest at the Birmingham Oratory, founded in 1849 by another famous Birmingham resident, John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890). J.R.R. Tolkien attended the same school his father had attended, King Edward’s School, except for periods when his mother taught the boys at home and another period when she enrolled them at a Catholic school attached to the Oratory House, the Grammar School of St. Philip. While Fr. Morgan was their guardian, he placed them first with their Aunt Beatrice Suffield, and then with Mrs. Faulkner. J.R.R. Tolkien fell in love with another orphan-boarder in Mrs. Faulkner’s home, Edith Bratt. Fr. Morgan separated them for a period of three years, but on Tolkien’s twenty-first birthday he wrote Edith to ask her to marry him. They wed in 1916 after he obtained his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oxford’s Honour School of English Language and Literature and had received his army commission, but before he shipped off to France to fight in World War I. See Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien: The Authorized Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977.