Birmingham Public Library

Coordinates: 33°31′14″N 86°48′27″W / 33.520418°N 86.807434°W / 33.520418; -86.807434
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Birmingham Public Library
LocationBirmingham, Alabama
Access and use
Other information
BudgetFY 2022 $13.2 million[2]
DirectorJanine Langston (interim) [3]

The Birmingham Public Library is one of the largest library systems in the southeastern United States. It consists of 19 branches and a main or central library located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The main library is composed of two buildings, the East Building and the Linn-Henley Research Library containing the Tutwiler Collection of Southern History, and the Rucker Agee Map Collection.


As an adjunct of Birmingham's public schools, the Birmingham Public Library was established in 1886. John H. Phillips, then superintendent of the public school system, set up a library in a room not much bigger than a closet. In 1913, a public library board was established, and the City of Birmingham assumed responsibility for funding the growing institution.

In 1918, a branch specifically for the use of African-American residents opened, named after Booker T. Washington.[5] The Booker T. Washington branch was headed by Mattie Herd Roland, and was the first African-American librarian in Alabama.[5]

The library was later moved to City Hall, where the collection burned in a fire in 1925. An impressive Neo-classical building of Indiana limestone was completed in 1927, serving as the central facility of the Birmingham Public Library for 57 years. The city's library system was desegregated in April 1963, in part because of a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights on behalf of Joe and Lola Hendricks.[6]

Exterior of the Linn-Henley Research Library

To accommodate the growing collection and demand for services, an additional structure containing 133,000 square feet (12,400 m2) of floor space was completed in 1984 and connected to the original building via a crosswalk. This building houses most of the Central Library's circulating and general reference collections, plus the technical services for the library system.

The original 1927 building was renovated in 1985 and renamed the Linn-Henley Research Library. This facility houses the library's special collections, and government publications. Together, these two buildings comprise the Central Library of the Birmingham Public Library system.

Entrance to the Linn-Henley Research Library
North side of the main research room showing part of one of the Ezra Winter Murals[7] in the Linn-Henley Research Library

In addition to the Central Library, the Birmingham Public Library system includes 17 branches located elsewhere in the city. This branch system was begun when the Birmingham library began to integrate libraries from independent communities that gradually became incorporated into Birmingham. In the 1980s, the library board had adopted plans to build regional libraries that would serve large sections of the city, would have larger collections and facilities, and would be opened more hours.

Annual circulation of roughly 1.7 million checkouts is matched by an equal number of materials being used within the libraries and via electronic access. Birmingham Public Library accounts for 46% of the circulation in the Jefferson County Library Cooperative, which posts a combined circulation of almost 3.7 million items checked out annually. The cooperative agreement that Birmingham Public Library shares with the other municipal public libraries of Jefferson County, Alabama greatly increases the number of library materials available to all library members. In fact, the Jefferson County Library Cooperative is a model for how separate governments can work together to provide a public service across city boundaries.

Floyd Council was named the first male African-American director of the Birmingham Public Library system in 2017.[8] Council's tenure was marked by internal conflict. Library employees suffered from "low morale,"[9] and allegations of a "toxic" work environment followed Council.[10] Council was suspended without pay for a month in October 2020 for undisclosed reasons.[11] He resigned shortly after in December 2020.[12]

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major service disruptions. All branches temporarily closed in March 2020 before reopening with a focus on virtual programming and curbside services. A budget cut of nearly two million dollars due to the pandemic caused the system to furlough 158 of its 211 employees in September 2020.[13] The Eastwood Branch Library was also permanently closed, the first branch to close since 2010. Many of the furloughed employees returned in December 2020 when curbside service was expanded to all neighborhood branches.[14]

Major collections and services[edit]

Tutwiler Collection of Southern History and Literature is a collection that covers Southern life and culture. There are extensive newspaper clipping files on local and regional history that can be searched for information along with periodicals and online databases. Other collections of note included are the Caribbean Collection, the Rucker Agee Map Collection, and the Rare Book Collection of early Americana.

In 2006, Digital Collections was initiated to preserve and make available the local history of Birmingham and the surrounding area.

Virtual Library Services include online databases, eBooks and downloadable audio books, Ask A Librarian, blogs and RSS feeds and other Internet resources.

Public Computing Services include public access computers at all locations and free wireless access to the Internet via Wi-Fi available at the Central Library, Avondale Branch, Five Points West Branch, North Birmingham Branch, Springville Road Branch and West End Branch.

Library events[edit]

Alabama Bound is an annual book and author fair that celebrates Alabama authors and publishers. Hosted by the Birmingham Public Library, it is an event where fans may meet authors, buy their books and hear them read from and talk about their work. Book signings follow each presentation.


The Birmingham Public Library operates 18 branches throughout many of Birmingham's neighborhoods. In addition to the Central Branch in Downtown, four larger branches are operate as regional branches.

Name Address Established Community Neighborhood Notes
Avondale (Regional) 509 40th St. S 1908 Red Mountain Forest Park-South Avondale Became BPL Branch in 1913
Central 2100 Park Pl 1886 Northside Central City Main Branch, Includes Linn-Henley Research Library
East Ensley 900 14th St., Ensley 1965 Ensley Ensley
East Lake 5 Oporto-Madrid Blvd. S 1914 Roebuck-South East Lake South East Lake
Ensley 1201 25th St., Ensley 1906 Ensley Ensley Became BPL Branch in 1911 Current building opened in 1955

Closed indefinitely as of Sept 2023[15]

Five Points West (Regional) 4812 Avenue W mid-1930s Five Points West Central Park
Inglenook 4100 40th Terrace N 1979 East Birmingham Inglenook
North Avondale 501 43rd St. N 1961 East Birmingham North Avondale
North Birmingham (Regional) 2501 31st Ave. N 1926 North Birmingham North Birmingham Current building opened in 1994
Powderly 3301 Jefferson Ave. SW 1979 Southwest Jones Valley
Pratt City 509 Dugan Ave. 1921 Pratt City North Pratt Current building opened in 2014 after 2011 tornado destroyed previous building
Smithfield 1 8th Ave. W 1918 Smithfield Graymont
Southside 1814 11th Ave. S 1945 Southside Five Points South Current building opened in 1996
Springville Road (Regional) 1224 Old Springville Rd. 1981 Huffman Spring Lake Replaced Huffman Branch Library est. 1963
Titusville 2 6th Ave. SW 1957 Titusville North Titusville Current building opened in 1992
West End 1348 Tuscaloosa Ave. SW West End Arlington-West End
Woodlawn 5709 1st Ave. N 1905 Woodlawn Woodlawn Became BPL branch in 1911
Wylam 4300 7th Ave. 1921 Ensley Wylam Current building opened in 2021  

Former branches[edit]

Name Address Established Closed Community Neighborhood Notes
Eastwood 4500 Montevallo Rd. 1982 2020[16] Crestline Eastwood Housed in Eastwood Mall until 2005
Slossfield 1916 25th Ct. N 1939 2010[17] North Birmingham ACIPCO-Finley  


  1. ^ "FY 2019-20 Annual Report" (PDF). Birmingham Public Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 5, 2022. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Annual Report Statistics 2008-2009". The Birmingham Public Library. 9 March 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  3. ^ Gregg Garrison (2020). "Birmingham Public Library names interim director". Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  4. ^ Mayor's Office (2007). "Mayor's Proposed Operating Budget Fiscal Year 2008" (PDF). City of Birmingham, AL. p. 56. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 7 September 2007.
  5. ^ a b Graham, Patterson Toby (2002). A right to read : segregation and civil rights in Alabama's public libraries, 1900-1965. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780817311445.
  6. ^ Graham, Patterson Toby. A Right to Read : Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965, University of Alabama Press, 2002. P. 84
  7. ^ "The Murals of The Central Library". Birmingham Public Library. Archived from the original on June 5, 2022. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  8. ^ Edgemon, Erin (23 October 2017). "Birmingham Public Library hires new executive director". Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  9. ^ Walburn, Jackie Romine (3 May 2018). "Survey Finds Low Morale at the Library; Board Expects Another Executive Session May 8 to Discuss Executive Director". Birmingham Watch. Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  10. ^ Prickett, Sam (10 October 2018). "Birmingham Public Library Atmosphere 'Toxic' 'Hostile,' Employees Say. Leadership 'Not for Faint of Heart,' New Director Responds". Birmingham Watch. Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  11. ^ Prickett, Sam (15 November 2020). "Birmingham Library Exec Returns to Work After One-Month Suspension". WBHM. Archived from the original on June 20, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  12. ^ Wright, Erica (16 December 2020). "Floyd Council resigns as executive director of Birmingham Public Library". Birmingham Times. Archived from the original on March 24, 2022. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  13. ^ Roop, Lee (21 September 2020). "Birmingham library system furloughs 158 because of COVID". Archived from the original on September 23, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  14. ^ Garrison, Greg (December 2020). "Holiday spirit: Birmingham digs in to reserves to bring back up to 132 employees". Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  15. ^ "Birmingham Public Library". Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  16. ^ Wright, Barnett (21 September 2020). "'Gut-wrenching' furloughs wipe out 75% of Birmingham Library workers". Birmingham Times. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  17. ^ Wolfson, Hannah (18 June 2010). "Three Birmingham library branches to close by end of July". Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.

External links[edit]

33°31′14″N 86°48′27″W / 33.520418°N 86.807434°W / 33.520418; -86.807434