Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for championing the right of girls to an education, is to formally open Europe’s largest public library in Birmingham later on Monday.
The £188m building contains about a million books, access to a vast film and television archive belonging to the British Film Institute and is the new home of the second largest repository of Shakespeare’s works in the world.
Malala was attacked by Taliban gunmen on a school bus near her former home in Pakistan last October. She was targeted after campaigning for girls’ rights to go to school without fear in a part of the country where fundamentalists were trying to impose a strict form of sharia law. The 16-year-old survived the attempt on her life despite the assassin’s bullet grazing her brain, thanks to medics in Pakistan and later the UK where she was treated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital.
Surgeons inserted a titanium plate and a cochlear hearing implant, and she received a visit from Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, while recovering in hospital. She has since settled with her family in Birmingham.
In July she was praised for her bravery by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, when she addressed the UN youth assembly on her birthday. She has since been awarded the Tipperary international peace award and the international children’s peace prize.
“I am honoured to be part of the opening,” she said. “The content of a book holds the power of education and it is with this power that we can shape our future and change lives. There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word, The Guardian reported.
“It is my dream that one day, great buildings like this one will exist in every corner of the world so every child can grow up with the opportunity to succeed.”
Malala will place her copy of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho on the library’s shelves. The schoolgirl will receive membership to the archive before unveiling a commemorative plaque during the opening ceremony.
The 31,000 sq m (333,000 sq ft) library, dubbed the People’s Palace by the Dutch architectural firm Mecanoo which came up with the design, is clad partly in gold and covered in 5,357 interlocking metal circles supposed to reflect the values of universality, timelessness and unity. Its construction forms part of a wider redevelopment of the city centre.