Birmingham Public Library

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The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is the public library system for the City of Birmingham. It consists of the Birmingham Central Library and Linn-Henley Research Library downtown, as well as sixteen regional and branch libraries located throughout the city with around 285 total employees. The Birmingham Public Library is a major part of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative. It is supported by the city, by the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library, and by the Birmingham Public Library Foundation.

The director of the Birmingham Public Library is Floyd Council, who began his term in November 2017.


The first "public" library in Birmingham was established in 1886 by John Herbert Phillips, the superintendent of Birmingham City Schools. It consisted of shelves of books made available to teachers and students in a room adjoining his office in the Enslen Building. In 1891 the school library was made into a public lending library through the sale of $2 annual subscriptions to the public.

In 1898 a second school library, for African-American teachers and students, was established at the Slater School with Phillips' approval. In 1903 the growing main collection of books was relocated to the 4th floor of Birmingham City Hall on 4th Avenue North at 19th Street. The subscription fee was abolished, an it was made a "free and forever after," under the auspieces of Birmingham Public Library Association, effective in 1909. The Association was succeeded by a city-created Birmingham Public Library Board in 1913. In addition to the central library at city hall, the new board took over operation of the Avondale Library, the Ensley Library, and other suburban institutions which had been annexed as part of the "Greater Birmingham" legislation that took effect in 1911. Other neighborhoods also petitioned the Board to open new libraries, such as the East Lake Library, which was dedicated in February 1914.

With the support of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington, the Slater School library was also turned over to the Library Board in 1913. After more than $4,000 in private donations were handed over, the board rented a storefront at 1715 3rd Avenue North and opened the "Lincoln Branch" to serve black patrons in October 1918. In 1924 the first county-wide library services program was initiated when the Jefferson County Board of Revenue contracted with the Birmingham Public Library Board to offer Bookmobile service to rural communities.

The main library was destroyed in the 1925 City Hall fire. A new library building, built in part with donated funds, opened in Woodrow Wilson Park on April 11, 1927. Bookmobile service resumed in 1952, thanks to an $11,000 donation from Mrs Horace Hammond. In 1956 the Smithfield Library opened as the second branch available for the use of Birmingham's African-American residents.

In the early 1970s, following guidance from the Alabama Public Library System, Birmingham Public Library director George Stewart began meeting with other public librarians in Jefferson County to discuss unifying their services. The Jefferson County Librarians Association was established in 1974 and oversaw the drafting of a cooperative services document that led to formal creation of the Jefferson County Library System on October 1, 1980.

After a long debate about where to construct a new library, the present Birmingham Central Library was built across 21st Street North in 1984, designed by KPS Group. The 1927 building was completely renovated and reopened in 1985 as the Linn-Henley Research Library.


The Birmingham Public Library houses numerous notable collections in its archives, including the Tutwiler Collection of Southern History and Literature and the Rucker Agee Collection of Maps of the Southeast.



The Birmingham Public Library has the following branches:

Regional branches

Neighborhood branches

Former branches

In preparing to submit his 2011 Birmingham budget, Mayor William Bell asked Library director Renee Blalock to provide a list of five of the city's 19 branches that she could recommend for temporary closure in order to cut costs. The initial list included the Slossfield, North Avondale, East Ensley, Inglenook and Ensley branches. Blalock subsequently developed a plan to cut $900,000 from the library's budget by closing three of the branches (Slossfield, East Ensley and Inglenook), cutting part-time staff, reducing utility costs, and ending Saturday hours except at the Central library and regional branches. Public outcry led the board to preserve two of those, East Ensley and Inglenook.


  • Alabama Historical Association. (2001) "The Birmingham Public Library" Historical Marker. Linn Park. [1]
  • Wolfson, Hannah K. (December 26, 2009) "Main Birmingham library's map collection ancient, 'priceless'." The Birmingham News
  • Wolfson, Hannah (June 18, 2010) "Three Birmingham library branches to close by end of July." The Birmingham News
  • Williams, Roy L. (October 23, 2017) "Birmingham Public Library hires Floyd Council as executive director." The Birmingham Times
  • Prickett, Sam (October 9, 2018) "Birmingham Public Library Atmosphere 'Toxic' 'Hostile,' Employees Say. Leadership 'Not for Faint of Heart,' New Director Responds" BirminghamWatch

External links