Survey Says: Residents Want More Computers, Study Rooms at Baldwin Library

In addition, survey respondents said they would be willing to pay more in taxes for a renovated or expanded library, though they want to see plans first.

When it comes to renovating Baldwin Public Library, the surveys say Birmingham residents are willing to pay a little more to renovate the library, but they want to see a complete plan first. 

In late October, the city heard the preliminary results from various surveys conducted throughout 2012 on the state of Baldwin Public Library and the renovations or projects residents would like to see happen first.

According to plans presented at the city's long-term planning session in January, Baldwin is looking to either expand the library's footprint by 42 percent or renovate the entire building.

The last comprehensive renovation of Baldwin happened 30 years ago and estimated costs for another renovation could range between $3 million and $10 million.

In the spring, the library worked with the city to form a joint committee charged with investigating renovation plans and soliciting feedback from the communities Baldwin serves, including Birmingham, Beverly Hills and Bloomfield Hills.

From May-August, the committee collected feedback via a community survey, and held focus groups and a community forum in June. As of August, 663 surveys were completed, with 55 percent of the respondents from Birmingham and 18 percent from Beverly Hills. Thirty-nine percent of respondents say they visit the library weekly.

Overall, though the report indicates a demand for more communal work spaces and a unified design for Baldwin, the committee admitted they don't know where the future of libraries is heading.

"The one certain thing abouit the public library of the future is the uncertainty," the report reads. "While we can safely say that less space will be needed for collections and more will be needed for activities ... and while we can be sure that technology will play an increasing role in library activities ... we cannot know for sure exactly what shape public library service will take ten or 20 years from now."

"Therefore, it is advisable to create spaces that are as flexible as possible, so that they will be able to accomodate whatever the future brings."

The survey says: more study rooms, computers and bigger youth area

The joint library committee's report drew the following conclusions:

Favorite parts of the library:

  • Grand Hall — described as "comfortable" and "homey"
  • The historic and older nature of the building
  • The meeting rooms, including the Rotary Room and Board Room
  • The Harry Allen Room
  • The smaller scale of the building that makes it feel like an "oasis"
  • Exterior landscaping

Least favorite parts of the library:

  • Exterior of the Birkerts addition is inconsistent with the rest of the building
  • Lack of study rooms and small group meeting rooms
  • Unwelcoming main entrance
  • Poor lighting
  • Inadequate way-finding and signage
  • Cramped and "chopped up" nature of the interior
  • Small youth and teen areas
  • Under utilization of the lower level
  • No drive-up book return
  • No nearby free parking

Building priorities:

  • Add a cafe
  • Add an outdoor study area
  • Add a new/used bookstore
  • Expand the teen area
  • Expand youth area
  • Improve handicap accessibility
  • Add more study rooms
  • Add more technology and computers

Renovation vs. expansion:

According to the report, 34 percent of survey respondents were in favor of a comprehensive renovation, while 32 percent were in favor of a significant expansion.

Meanwhile, community leaders polled during a focus group strongly favored renovation versus expansion, though regular adult patrons were more in favor of an aggressive expansion.


When it comes to paying for renovations at the library, increased taxes weren't ruled out by focus groups and participants of the community forum, though residents wanted to see the plan before deciding.

In fact, higher taxes wasn't a problem for many adult library patrons, though survey respondents and focus group members said they wanted to make sure there was value there.

Carolyn J. Butcher December 05, 2012 at 05:34 PM
As a Sr. citizen, and long time resident of Birmingham, who also loves her library, and uses it quite regularly, I believe we need to look at the long term use of the library, at "rethinking" the spaces that we currently occupy, and possibly come up with a solution that doesn't involve adding to the footprint of the building. There are a lot of residents of Birmingham, who are "underwater" with their mortgages, but that continue to pay the higher taxes levied by the city, because they "love their city". If we need places for the teens to meet, why not think about all the empty school buildings that are vacated at 3:30 P.M.? Do we need some volunteer parents to supervise them? Our Churh's CLC "The First Methodist Church of Birmingham" has a huge gymnasium building that is available, and is used by a large percentage of Birmingham residents for walking, sports and various activties. I may be in the minority, but I do not want my taxes raised to provide any additional building facility for the Library without an extensive "city wide think tank", looking at all our available options! Carolyn Butcher


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