Later this month, designers of the Baldwin Public Library's expansion project will begin to roll out plans for the first major upgrades in decades to the historic building at the heart of downtown Birmingham. Presentations are planned for:
- 7 p.m. Oct. 16: Birmingham Historical Commission
- 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21: Baldwin Public Library Board
- 7:30 p.m., Oct. 23: Birmingham Planning Board
The library board will specifically seek public input following the architect's presentation at the regularly-scheduled meeting, officials said.
“The Library Board, the Joint Library Building Committee, and the architects are all interested in hearing feedback from the community about the project as it continues to develop," Library Director Doug Koschik said.
Koschik recently provided an update for Patch on the latest about the project. As you read along, keep in mind that even if the project succeeds in clearing several hurdles, it still faces approval from Birmingham voters.
1. The Library's 2010 strategic plan called for adapting the existing facility for more flexible use. Based on that goal, we conducted a public survey about the building, held focus groups and a community forum, and benchmarked Baldwin against other comparable libraries. The research showed that there was reason to consider a renovation and expansion of the existing building. A Joint Library Building Committee (JLBC) formed, consisting of representatives from the Baldwin Library Board, the Birmingham City Commission and the Birmingham Planning Board.
2. Based on the research already conducted and on interviews with JLBC members and Library employees, a well-known library building consultant, whom the Library had hired, compiled a "building program," which called for an expansion of somewhere between 22% and 32%. The increases are largely driven by the need to improve handicap accessibility, expand the Youth Room, provide more quiet study rooms and collaboration space, arrange the collections in a more user-friendly manner, and possibly add a small cafe and Friends of the Library used bookstore. (As the Library transitions to greater reliance on electronic content, the size of the collections will actually shrink slightly.)
Since Library functionality will inevitably continue to change in the future, the building needs to provide flexibility. The program also calls for keeping and maintaining the spirit of the Grand Hall and the Library's original 1927 building, and for improving lighting and organization.
3. The JLBC, Library Board and City Commission accepted the building program and then issued a request for proposal for architectural services to develop conceptual drawings and cost estimates. The firm selected to provide these services is Quinn Evans Architects (QEA), based in Ann Arbor. Since June, QEA has been working with the JLBC. QEA researched the history of the structure (the original 1927 building, plus a 1960 addition and a 1981 addition) and proposed several options to the JLBC. These ranged from keeping all of the current building and adding an addition at the Merrill St. side, to keeping only the 1927 building and replacing everything else with a new structure.
4. The JLBC and QEA recently discussed the advantages and disadvantages of various concepts for a possible library building renovation and expansion. The JLBC ended up directing QEA to develop further the concept of replacing the current 1960 and 1981 additions with a two-story building along Merrill Street. This concept would result in the original 1927 building being restored and more visible than it currently is. Furthermore, the JLBC instructed QEA to limit the size of the expanded building to what the Library's 2012 building program called for.
5. Once the concept has been developed further, it will be presented to the Planning Board, Historic District Commission, Library Board and City Commission. Only after all of these steps will a final plan be developed and sent to the Library Board and City Commission for approval.