The Ensley Library (or Birmingham Public Library Ensley Branch) was a public library founded in the City of Ensley in 1906 which became a branch of the Birmingham Public Library when Ensley was annexed into Birmingham in 1911, and was closed in 2021 due to flood damage.
The original Ensley library, supported by a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie, opened its doors on July 12, 1906 as the first free public library in Jefferson County. More than 2,000 people attended the grand opening at the corner of Avenue H and 18th Street. The building, designed by Breeding & Whilldin, was a compact T-shaped block typical of Carnegie libraries. It measured 56 1/2 feet wide by 48 1/2 feet front-to-back and was clad in gray pressed brick with stone trim.
Lila Chapman was employed as the first librarian. The Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company donated a collection of technical books and the Ensley Land Company provided for subscriptions to various newspapers and magazines.
The library became a branch of the Birmingham Public Library after Ensley was merged into Greater Birmingham in 1911. Chapman later became head of the Birmingham library system.
At some point, the library moved to a new building at Avenue I and 5th Street. The original building was rented to a physician and later demolished.
A new Birmingham Public Library Ensley Branch was constructed at 1201 25th Street in 1955, opening on June 26 of that year. The new steel-framed building with brick infill panels was air-conditioned and added a children's area and a meeting room. The modern design of the building won an award from the Alabama Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the building was profiled in 1957 in the Italian building magazine Vitrum.
In 1977 a burglary and arson was committed at the library, required extensive repairs.
In 2004 the library was again closed for renovations, including new air conditioning, carpeting and insulated windows as well as enlarged bathrooms and improved accommodation for patrons with disabilities. Richard Upton, architect for the Birmingham Department of Planning, Engineering & Permits, designed the renovations, which were executed by Battle Miller Construction and Jordan Construction. The Ensley Library reopened on October 9, 2005. Even so, the branch was among five that were threatened with closure under William Bell's administration in 2010.
In 2018 the Ensley branch was temporarily closed due to HVAC issues. It reopened that fall. In June 2021 the building was closed again due to extensive flood damage. The Library Board, under pressure to reduce operating costs, identified the Ensley branch as a candidate for permanent closure. No formal action was taken, but the library has remained closed with no funds allocated for repairs.
- Lila Chapman, 1906–
- Maxine Matthews, 2005
- Prince, A. G. (1982) Landmarks of Ensley: Past and Present. revised edition. Ensley: Best Printing Service
- Garrison, Greg (October 14, 2021) "Plan to close four Birmingham library branches pulled back." The Birmingham News
- Hedgepeth, Lee (November 3, 2021) "On the shelf or on the chopping block? 4 Birmingham libraries still at risk of closing." CBS42.com
- Michaels, Ryan (December 23, 2021) "Birmingham Public Library Asks City For More Funding to Keep Open Libraries." The Birmingham Times
- Birmingham Public Library Ensley Branch at jclc.org