Birmingham's first library was organized in 1886 and in 1891 became a subscription library for the general public. In 1908 the Birmingham Public Library Association established a free public library, and the City created an independent Library Board in 1913. For decades the library was housed in various locations including the old City Hall where it was destroyed by fire in 1925. Libraries throughout the U. S. sent books and local citizens contributed for a new building. It opened April 11, 1927, was peacefully desegregated in 1963, served as the main library until 1984, and was renovated and reopened in 1985 as the Linn - Henley Research Library.
This four-story Neo-Classical structure designed by architects Miller, Martin & Lewis, was built of Indiana limestone in 1927. A model facility when completed, the library served as a cornerstone of Birmingham's cultural and educational development. The building was renovated in 1984 by architects Kidd, Plosser, & Sprague and renamed the Linn - Henley Research Library. Special collections housed here include extensive southern history resources, maps, and the city's first municipal archives. Significant interior features include murals and decorative ceilings painted and installed in the 1920s by national known artist Ezra Winter.