Fundraiser celebrates 90 years of Baldwin Public Library

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 18, 2017


BIRMINGHAM — As far as female trailblazers go, the city of Birmingham has one of the best.

Back when Birmingham was still a village, Martha Baldwin was a force to be reckoned with. She founded the public library, became a public servant in a male-dominated realm, and created a Village Improvement Society that advocated for the installation and beautification of sidewalks, which included a ban on spitting chewing tobacco in public — a ban she personally enforced.

Oh, and she refused to wear a corset too.

“(Baldwin Public Library) is named for Martha Baldwin, the indomitable 19th-century woman who founded the library, developed a beautification program and was the bane of the all-male Village Council before women could vote, among other things,” said Leslie Pielack, director of The Birmingham Museum. “She had great influence and a firm sense of what Birmingham should be.”

On Nov. 10, the library that bears her name will celebrate its 90th anniversary during its annual Books and Bites fundraiser. The speakeasy-themed event will feature live jazz performances, a photo booth, game tables, an auction, food and drinks, and plenty of old-time debauchery in an effort to raise much-needed funds to support library programming.

The theme is an appropriate homage to the library’s start, opening 90 years ago after a bond was passed in 1926 to create the public resource.

“We are very proud of the 1927 library building and are pleased to be celebrating its 90th anniversary this year,” said BPL Director Doug Koschik, who explained that the history of the Tudor-style building was so significant to residents that designers carefully preserved much of the structure during the recently completed renovation of the adult services section.

“One important feature of the adult services renovation was to spotlight the exterior of the original building. It’s succeeded in making people more aware of the history of the building,” he said.

In the past, the Books and Bites event has benefited the youth early learning corner, the teen space, outreach services and, most recently, the creation of the library’s makerspace, called the Idea Lab. This year, money raised will go to expanding and renovating the youth room.

Big Rock Chophouse, Griffin Claw Brewing Co., The Bird & the Bread, Bistro Joe’s, Great Harvest Bread Co., 7 Greens, Svenska Café, Toast, Whistle Stop Diner and Whole Foods Market have all signed on to make the fundraiser the tastiest yet.

The Books and Bites event will be held 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at the library, located at 300 W. Merrill St. in downtown Birmingham.

Tickets cost $75 for “shakers,” ages 64 and under; $65 for “boomers,” over the age of 65; and they’re free for guests 90 and older. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call (248) 544-4683.