New Birmingham Public Library board will decide the future of library closures 

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Birmingham Public Library #8

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

The Birmingham Public Library Board will swear in new board members Tuesday afternoon, making a majority of the appointees first-timers.   

“There are nine board members, six of those nine members are new appointed members, and so it’s going to be in fresh blood. It’s new energy, and we all bring a different skill set to the table,” Jordan Davis said, who at 23 years old is one of the youngest members in recent history. 

Another notable appointee is comedian Jermaine “Funnymaine” Johnson, who gained a following for his online videos on SEC football.

Over the last few years, the Birmingham Public Library has had its share of controversy. The library board hired an executive director, Floyd Council, in 2017 only to have him resign three years later after staff complaints. 

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, libraries temporarily closed, the budget was cut in half and more than 150 employees were furloughed. Most of these workers returned by the end of that year. 

Since then, the previous board president, Eunice Johnson Rogers, campaigned to close some of the library locations. Birmingham has more library branches than typical for a city of its size – that’s a legacy of having segregated libraries during the Jim Crow era. Today, some areas have three libraries within three miles of each other. Davis believes the libraries should remain open.

“Our public libraries are the only free and public spaces that we have for community members, and so they’re vital of the life of our community,” said Davis. 

Davis said it’s a balancing act for libraries to serve their neighborhoods as well as be good stewards of taxpayer money. 

There are four branches that could be closed: East Ensley, Ensley, North Avondale and Titusville.  

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story falsely reported that Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin had advocated for library branch closures.

 

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