Awards, Archives and Air Handlers

Parker to library board: "It's a choice to be this type of library"

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (March 16, 2009): At their Monday night board meeting, a full contingent of the AADL board heard about the online searchable archive of Ann Arbor city council minutes, got a report from director Josie Parker (putting a recent library rating into context), set a process for conducting Parker’s performance review, and voted to approve additional funds related to replacement of air-handlers in the downtown library.

Director’s report: Why this award matters

Parker focused her remarks in the director’s report on AADL’s recent 5-star rating from the Library Journal Survey of Public Libraries. Nationwide, 7,115 libraries were evaluated and only 3.5% of those received stars – of the 88 libraries in AADL’s budget bracket, AADL was among 10 nationwide to receive the 5-star ranking.

This is the first year for this rating. Another rating system – the HAPLR index – is bogus, Parker said. It uses data such as how many books the system owns and how many square feet its buildings cover. It doesn’t measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing, she said.

In contrast, this new rating looks at how the public uses your institution, Parker said. The Library Journal index is based on circulation transactions per capita; visits to library buildings per capita; computer sessions per capita; and program attendance per capita. Though this index also has some problems, she said, it’s more valid than any other system. And she said she’s proud of the rating AADL received.

“It’s a choice to be this type of library,” Parker said. “It’s not an accident, it’s a choice.” For her and the staff, she said, what’s significant and worth celebrating “is that the public thinks that we’re relevant, and they say so.”

Archive of Ann Arbor City Council minutes

Amy Cantú and Andrew MacLaren, production librarians who are involved in the library’s online projects, made a presentation to the board about several online local history projects, including one that has digitized Ann Arbor city council minutes from 1891-1930. The Chronicle previously reported on this project when Cantú and MacLaren gave a similar report to Ann Arbor city council at their March 2, 2009 meeting.

The minutes represent 1,300 different meetings and roughly 16,000 pages. MacLaren said the project arose from a conversation between Debbie Gallagher, an AADL government information specialist, and city clerk Jackie Beaudry. The actual scanning was done by a local company, National Archive Publishing (formerly part of ProQuest, which used to be known as University Microfilms International, or UMI).

He gave a quick demonstration by searching for “library,” and pulled up minutes from July 6, 1903, that included the following resolution:

To accept the donation of Andrew Carnegie:

Whereas Andrew Carnegie has agreed to furnish $20,000 to the Board of Education of Ann Arbor, Mich., to erect a free public library building, on condition that said city shall pledge itself by resolution of council to support a free public library at a cost of not less than two thousand dollars a year and provide a suitable site for said building, now therefore Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Ann Arbor that said city accept said donation and it does hereby pledge itself to comply with the requirement of said Andrew Carnegie.

Resolved, that it will furnish a suitable site for said building and will maintain a free public library in said building, when erected, at a cost of not less than $2,000 a year.

Resolved that an annual levy shall hereafter be made upon the taxable property of said City of Ann Arbor sufficient in amount to comply with the above requirements.

Cantú noted that there are several other online databases focused on local topics, including Ann Arbor Cooks, a collection of heirloom recipes and cookbooks, and the Ann Arbor architecture archive, with photos and text taken from “Historic Buildings Ann Arbor, Michigan,” a book by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.

In addition to these projects, the library is working on several other digitization efforts. They include creating online archives that can be searched or browsed for:

  • “The Signal of Liberty,” a 19th century abolitionist newspaper from the Bentley Historical Library’s collection, published in Ann Arbor in the 1840s.
  • 75 years of historical programs from the University Musical Society’s collection, including programs from the regular season, special concerts and the May Festival.
  • articles on local history from the Ann Arbor Observer by local historian Grace Shackman.

Evaluation of AADL director

Trustee Margaret Leary, the board’s secretary, laid out the process by which the board will evaluate Josie Parker’s performance as AADL director. Parker has already completed a self-evaluation, Leary said, which will be sent by regular mail (not e-mail) to each board member. They will read her evaluation and write their own comments. All comments, along with Parker’s self-evaluation, will be compiled by a committee consisting of Leary, trustee Carola Stearns and board president Rebecca Head. That committee will draft a formal evaluation to be discussed by the entire board at an April 20 executive session. The committee will also bring a salary recommendation to that meeting. After the board’s discussion, Parker will be invited into the meeting to talk about the evaluation. Based on those discussions, the board will present a formal evaluation to Parker in the form of a letter, which will be a public document and read into the record at the board’s May 18 meeting.

Purchase of controls for new air handlers

The final order of business was a resolution added late to the agenda to approve the purchase of digital controls for two air-handling units that the board had authorized to buy at its February meeting. Background material given to the board indicated there were two options: 1) to modify current controls to operate the new air handlers, for $38,725, or 2) to buy new digital controls, thermostats, humidity sensors and software for $67,905. Carola Stearns asked why the administration recommended option 2. Ken Nieman, the library’s associate director, said the new digital controls would pay off fairly quickly, allowing library staff to control the HVAC system more efficiently.

In response to a query from Jan Barney Newman, Parker said the controls were supposed to have been included in the original proposal to replace the 57-year-old air handlers in the downtown library. She said they discovered that the cost for the controls had not been included only after the board had already voted on approving the purchase of the air-handlers for an estimated $235,000. “So it’s our oops,” Parker said. The resolution was passed unanimously.

Present: Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Josie Parker, Prue Rosenthal, Carola Stearns, Ed Surovell.

Next meeting: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]


  1. March 18, 2009 at 9:29 am | permalink

    Congratulations to the library on this well-deserved award. The AAPL continues to be the crown jewel of downtown and a crucial enabler for education and entrepreneurship.

  2. March 18, 2009 at 12:17 pm | permalink

    It appears we have come to our senses.
    We are maintaining an outstanding building, rather than campaigning for its demolition!

  3. March 18, 2009 at 4:45 pm | permalink

    The maintenance versus demolition debate was resolved (for now) not by choice but rather because the AADL board found that due to the crisis in credit markets no one would loan it the money to finance the construction of a new building.

  4. March 18, 2009 at 7:55 pm | permalink

    so… the credit crisis is …. good?