Renovate or Expand? Birmingham Considers Future of Baldwin Library Building

Two plans that would completely rethink the library's footprint are under consideration.


Editor's Note: In November, Bloomfield Hills residents narrowly passed a a 0.39-mill levy to fund a three-year contract with the Baldwin Public Library, giving them a library to call their own after several years and two previous millage attempts.

What kind of renovations are on the way for the building?

Library administrators presented two possible plans for renovating the library during the , and though the plans are far from fruition, the feedback from city leaders was positive.

"I like how this is going, this is good," said Commissioner Stuart Sherman, who directed library administrators and the Baldwin Library Board to, among other things, solicit community feedback as they decide how to move forward.

Library Director Doug Koschik noted that Saturday was a "starting point for conversation about the library building," and so far, there are two tentative plans on the table for Baldwin: one, a complete renovation that maintains the building's footprint; the other, a full-scale expansion that would increase the size of the building by 42 percent.

Library's list of needs long, reflects Baldwin's 'size and caliber'

Though technically an independent entity with its own governing board, the building housing the Baldwin Public Library is owned and maintained by the city. The last comprehensive renovation there took place 30 years ago.

According to Koschik, Baldwin has a long list of needs going forward, including "providing enough space for a library of this size and caliber." Currently, Baldwin serves more than 35,000 residents from Birmingham, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and .

Specifically, Koschik outlined the library's following needs:

  • More space in the youth room.
  • A dedicated teen area.
  • More space for adult study and seating, and perhaps slightly less space for collections.
  • More study rooms.
  • Better handicap accessibility.
  • Improved interior and exterior lighting.
  • Improvements to main entrance aesthetics.
  • Better ways for patrons to find their way around the library.

The building has 39,619 square feet and two study rooms. The nearby , on the other hand, which serves 41,000 residents, has 102,205 square feet and 20 study rooms.

Also on Baldwin's eventual wish list, Koschik said, is an entrance off Martin Street, a cafe and a permanent used bookstore.

Plans to cost $3 million-$10 million

Koschik and Assistant Library Director Matt Church discussed details about the two plans under consideration:

Renovation Plan No. 1

Plans to simply renovate the library were drawn up by the Fanning Howey architecture firm, Church said, and are projected to cost around $3 million.

The plan would include:

  • Reorganizing the Birkerts addition, where a large part of the library's nonfiction section, teen area, public computers and DVD collection is housed. The computer area and more tables for group work would be clustered in the middle of the room. 
  • Increasing the number of study rooms through several small, but optional, additions to the Birkerts addition.
  • Reorganizing the library's youth room, including adding a homework center and creating separate spaces for young readers.
  • Bumping out the wall in the youth room is an option that would dramatically increase seating areas and collection space. 

According to Church, by simply renovating the library, the building's functionality would improve, as would aesthetics and appearance. Finding one's way around the library would become easier and, in total, the plan is fiscally prudent, he said.

Concerns associated with the plan include the fact that there would be little to no increase in total square footage, the handicap access at the front entrance would remain unchanged, very few study rooms would be added, and it includes no plans for a bookstore, cafe or an entrance on Martin Street.

Renovation Plan No. 2

The building expansion plan was drawn up by representatives at Victor Saroki and Associates and would cost an estimated $10 million, Koschik said.

The plan would include:

  • An entrance off Martin Street.
  • Changes to the building's exterior appearance as well as a total shift to interior floor plans.
  • A new indoor and outdoor cafe, as well as a permanent used bookstore, on the library's lower level.
  • An updated second floor, including a dozen more study rooms, a study area, an auditorium with more than 100 seats and a rooftop garden and terrace. 

Benefits of the Saroki plan include better handicap access for staff and the public, more study rooms, increased light from the southern exposure as well as the addition of a Martin Street entrance, bookstore and cafe. Under this plan, the library would grow to 56,429 square feet.

Of course, construction costs will be higher, Koschik pointed out, and the building would have higher ongoing expenses, including additional heating and cooling. More staff would also be needed.

Up next: City to form committee to study renovation plans

Going forward, Koschik said the Library Board has tentatively supported the more modest renovation plan. However, he said if there's public support for the expansion, the board would be willing to work toward that goal.

"These ideas have been percolating for a while at the library," Koschik said. "And I think we need to decide if we're going to do anything at all so we can adjust our budgets for the next decade."

Coming up next, Koschik said he and City Manager Bob Bruner will develop a charge for a joint committee comprising members of the Library Board and the City Commission. The committee will be charged with investigating the issue of the renovation plans. This committee will solicit public input as well as use comparable data from surrounding libraries.

Once the library's needs and public expectations are determined, Koschik said the committee will then develop an appropriate building plan and discuss the timing and financial arrangements.

Baldwin's presentation to the Birmingham City Commission, as well as the renovation report to the Baldwin Library Board, can be viewed by visiting baldwinlib.org.

Linda P January 29, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Watch out Birmingham Taxpayers, your library has sold itself out to other communities with cheap contracts for full services, but you will pay the bill not them for any library renovations or expansions that come your way with a mileage. Just last year Baldwin, it seems was crying the blues over too little budget money, now it seems they have expansion in their starry eyes!!
Keith Peters January 30, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Why not think out of the box and double the library capacity. Obtain the old Borders building on Woodward and make it the Martha Baldwin Library Annex. The location is great and it already has a coffee shop!


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