A petition with over 863 signatures – including 183 online – was delivered to Sandwell Council this week urging the council to act now to save the Carnegie building from falling into disrepair.
The Carnegie building, located in Victoria Road, Tipton, was a gift from Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish born American historian and philanthropist.
The Grade-II listed building was designed by George H. Wenyon and built in 1905, complete with red brick, bands of yellow terracotta and a tile roof.
Khurshid Haque, who presented the petition, said the community has worked “very hard” to try and build momentum to save the building.
He said: “It now stands empty and it’s a lovely building. It’s shameful for a building of that nature to be unoccupied. We, speaking as the residents of Tipton, thought the building could be useful for a better facility and to provide facilities for the local community.
“There is a lot of history in Tipton that needs to be retained so youngsters can learn about their history and how they can associate themselves with their heritage.”
Ideas include using the building as a warm space, a point of information for welfare benefits for residents, and bringing the library back into it.
Mr Haque also claimed those who run the historical museum and archive located within the current Tipton Library, in Tipton Shopping Centre, were interesting in a potential move to the Carnegie building.
Significantly, Mr Haque said the building could be used as a ‘centre of integration’, in reference to historic racism and far-right activity in the area.
“We want to unite everyone. We are living in a society where we want everything to be part of each other. If I am celebrating Eid or someone is celebrating Christmas, we want to bring people together cohesively, and have an understanding.”
“The Metro station is around the corner. People can easily pop in. That way they can use Victoria Park much more. There is a lot that can be done. We’ve worked hard to make sure the building comes back into good use for the community.”
Angela Fletcher, who signed the petition, said: “Libraries should always be opened. They are an asset to the community. Tipton Library is a special building and should be in use.”
Rebecca Timmins, who also signed the petition, said: “Historic architecture should be preserved for future generations to enjoy what a beautiful building stunning better craftmanship than the stuff they build now.”
Councillor Danny Millard, the chair of the petitions committee, said: “This needs to go to some officers who will investigate what we can or can’t do with the building, what the plans are for the building. I certainly know there is a push from the cabinet that we want it back in use. It’s a beautiful building.”
Councillor Zahoor Ahmed, the cabinet member for environment, said the building was being “considered as an option” as a potential warm space to help with inflation and the cost of living crisis.