Birmingham City Councilor attends library board meeting, opposes branch closures

Local News

A Nov. 9, 2021 meeting of the Birmingham Public Library Board (Photo by Lee Hedgepeth)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham City Councilor Crystal Smitherman said she grew up carrying heavy books to and from the Titusville library. Years later, Smitherman has said “it’s yet to be seen” whether that library will remain open. 

On Tuesday, Smitherman attended the latest meeting of the city’s library board. Smitherman offered the library system help from the city council and stressed that members should come to that body before making major decisions about branch closures. 

After the meeting, Smitherman told CBS 42 she is opposed to closing libraries. She specifically emphasized her opposition to closing the Titusville Library, which is in her district. 

“I’m from Titusville,” she said. “I know the importance of the library. I grew up walking to the library. I pass by often.”

The subject of library closings has been at the center of the board’s attention since Mayor Randall Woodfin made comments that suggested closing the doors of some branches may be in the city’s future. After those comments, Library Board President Eunice Rogers singled out four library locations — North Avondale, Titusville, Ensley, and East Ensley — for potential closure. Significant public backlash followed, and Woodfin responded by saying Rogers was “playing games” and that he had not met with her before the announcement. 

Nearly a month since those developments, President Rogers told CBS 42 that she still has not met personally with the mayor, although she said there had been meetings with his staff.

Birmingham Public Library Board President Eunice Rogers (top left) and City Councilor Crystal Smitherman (center right) speak to citizens opposed to the closing of library branches. (Photo by Lee Hedgepeth)

Councilor Smitherman’s short address to the library board came between citizen complaints about the potential closure of the library branches. 

Speaking to a meeting of a small number of board members — not enough to legally take votes — Smitherman said that the council plans to send at least one member to library board meetings moving forward. 

Before and after she spoke, about half a dozen local residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the discussion of shuttering libraries. 

“Bad thing to do,” David Russell told the board. “I think we need to maintain our libraries. Please do not close any of our libraries.” 

Russell and others pointed to the valuable services the branches provide to the community, like computers and programming, as some of the important reasons to keep their doors open.

Dorothy Scott, another community member, told the board that hearing about the possibility of closing libraries gave her “trouble in [her] heart.” 

She said local libraries provide necessary resources for those that may not otherwise have access to them. She said board members should “rethink” any closures because libraries provide an invaluable service to children.

“Our children need it,” Scott said Tuesday evening.

President Rogers told concerned members of the public that their thoughts would be carefully considered before the board makes any final decisions on branch closures. 

“It’s not easy to make decisions,” Rogers said in the meeting, “because someone doesn’t always come out on top.”

Library board meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 4:30 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library at 2100 Park Place in Birmingham.

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