Resident calls for resignation of Birmingham Library Board after letter closing branches

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

A West End resident called for the resignation of the Birmingham Public Library board at Tuesday’s city council meeting following a recommendation from the chairman of the board to close four libraries.

Longtime activist and West End resident Maralyn Mosley told Council the BPL board must leave, “as soon as possible.”

BPL board chair Eunice J. Rogers sent a letter to BPL staff on Friday recommending the closure of four library branches: East Ensley, Ensley, North Avondale and Titusville. The letter states that BPL is working to support “Mayor Woodfin’s vision of reducing the number of [BPL] physical locations.

However, the mayor said he was caught off guard and the BPL chairman should “have an honest conversation with the public and open communications with council and me rather than.. Playing the games.”

From Tuesday’s board meeting and at a BPL board meeting later in the day, residents rang for planned closures.

“We need a new library board… They have to resign and the city council has to appoint a new board,” Mosley told the Birmingham Times after Tuesday’s board meeting. “[The library board is] disconnected from citizens. They don’t understand the city and the mayor needs to have more influence over what the library board does. “

Libraries are part of what makes neighborhoods attractive to new residents and closing the Titusville location would upset residents of that community and create bigger problems for the city, Mosley said.

“I don’t know if most people realize that when people are looking for places to move, they are looking for amenities. They want churches. They want libraries. They want schools, they want groceries. They may want a restaurant to sit and eat, “Mosley said,” but they want those amenities. Do you want to move to a place where there is no convenience within walking distance? “

In his Friday letter, Rogers wrote that the recommended closures were to be discussed at the regular council meeting on Tuesday, but the decision was postponed following a response from Woodfin, who said he had spoken to no member of the library board.

“Such unilateral action by the president of the library board jeopardizes confidence in the board charged with overseeing our libraries …” Woodfin said in a statement.

In response to Woodfin, Rogers said the decision has been postponed until council conducts more research and meets with the mayor, city council and neighborhood officers.

At BPL’s board meeting on Tuesday, (how many people have spoken?), including Keith O. Williams, vice president of the North Titusville Neighborhood Association, said closing his neighborhood library would take away a “safe haven” from residents.

“You take away knowledge. You are taking away resources that people need that are not accessible in their area, ”he said,“ and since I go there every day, I can tell you with certainty that the library has really been. a vital resource.

Cara McClure, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Alabama and founder of advocacy group Faith & Works, said the discussion about closing libraries was “heartbreaking.”

“In my opinion, we should put libraries on every street. . . books saved my life, ”said McClure. “I was a homeless single mom… I beg you not to close the libraries. I’m sure there are other options.

BPL board member Lynn Flowers-Martin said she saw firsthand how children used the North Avondale branch.

“As an educator, I would always say we need every library… when these kids weren’t in school, they would come straight to that library, use the computers and work,” said Flowers-Martin. “And I really think they need these libraries in the community, and I really support them.”

Rogers appeared to be backtracking on his recommended closures (late Tuesday?) Going forward, the council will thoroughly review potential closures, speak to city leaders before making a decision, when did she say?

“Our goal is to keep BPL as a meaningful entity for the citizens of Birmingham because that’s our goal,” Rogers said. “It’s about providing our community with the highest quality experience for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment, and we take this mission very seriously. “

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