Baldwin celebrates new adult services department

By: Tiffany Esshaki, | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 14, 2017

BIRMINGHAM — There were Birmingham city commissioners, library board members stacks of books, fresh carpeting, and sharp, modern décor at the Baldwin Public Library June 11 when the ribbon was cut to officially reopen the remodeled adult services section.

There was something else at the party too: light. And plenty of it.

“What has this project accomplished? Light and airiness, especially with the new exterior windows, improved traffic and flow, spaciousness without adding to the library’s square footage,” BPL Director Doug Koschik told the grand opening crowd.

The adult services renovation was the first phase of multiple steps to overhaul the outdated library. The renovation began late last summer for a cost of $2.1 million.

Along with dedicated study rooms and makerspace, the section got updates to carpeting, furniture and technology.

But it was the wall of windows spanning the southwest side of the building that got the most attention. That’s where the most recent addition to the library was placed in 1981 — known as the Birkerts addition for well-known architect Gunnar Birkerts, who designed the space that expanded on the original 1927 structure.

The Birkerts addition, once dark and congested with tinted windows and stacks of books, is now bright and open with larger windows, higher ceilings and fewer stacks, making way for plush seating areas.

The sleek, modern design is reflective of the new technology of the library and gives a nod to the historic Tudor-style building that was carefully preserved and highlighted during the renovation.

“We put in a lot of hard work over the years to get this done,” said Frank Pisano, president of the BPL board of directors.

Residents and city officials had discussed the need to make over the library for several years, citing a variety of shortcomings, including outdated technology and layout, and more pressing issues, like structural problems and poor accessibility as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In May 2014, residents voted down a $21.6 million bond proposal to renovate the library. Many in the community complained that while they support the library, which also serves and is supported by Bloomfield Hills, the price tag was just too high.

Library officials worked with city leaders to develop a new plan to refurbish the building, which now includes a plan spaced out over several years and doesn’t involve any tax increases for residents.

“The library increased its millage, and the city generously lowered its for the next two years,” said Koschik.

That’s a strategy that sat better with Tom Varbedian, of Bloomfield Hills, who was at the unveiling Sunday.

“It’s beautiful,” he said, adding that he was put off by the price of the 2014 bond. “This is a better use of the money than the original design. This is a light-filled design for everybody to use.”

“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” said community activist Dorothy Conrad.

Asked if the hard work and planning were worth it, City Commissioner Rackeline Hoff smiled with approval.

“This is a beautiful, utilitarian renovation; the community has been very supportive of this,” she said. “It’s truly an amazing asset to Birmingham.”

Phase two, a renovation of the youth room, is anticipated to move forward in 2019, with more planning still to come. Phase three will follow and include a redo of the public entrance, the lobby and the circulation desk.

For more information on the plans, visit baldwinlib.org.