Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 21, 2009): The sentiment expressed by a Huron High School student at Monday night’s library board meeting – “I just want to get it over with” – might also reflect how board members feel as they brace for construction of the Fifth Avenue parking structure, a project to begin in earnest next week at what’s known as the Library Lot.
The student was attending the meeting as a requirement for a civics class – he said he chose the library board because it was a meeting held early in the semester, compared to his other choices. In contrast, library officials have no menu of choices regarding the parking structure. Though heavily used by library patrons, it’s a city-owned lot – the new structure being built by the Downtown Development Authority. AADL director Josie Parker told board members they’re trying to make sure that patrons know it’s not a library project.
Parker also gave the board some good news: Stimulus funding has been secured to hire a coordinator for the Washtenaw County Literacy Coalition. Parker is co-chair of that group, which is working to end illiteracy.
Parking Structure Update
During her director’s report, Josie Parker gave an update on several aspects of the underground parking structure to be built on Fifth Avenue, just north of the library’s downtown building. She began by reminding board members that they’d been invited to the Downtown Development Authority’s Oct. 1 groundbreaking ceremony for the project, which starts at 4 p.m.
As she’d reported at the board’s June meeting, the library has been in talks with the DDA, which has requested an easement on land that runs between the AADL building and the University of Michigan Credit Union at 333 E. William St., east of the library. The DDA needs the easement to run a water main from William Street to the parking structure.
Rather than digging up the small parking lot on the library’s east side, the water main will be installed using a “jack & bore” method, Parker reported. The library has requested a legal description of the easement, which is now being reviewed by the city attorney’s office and will ultimately need approval by both the city council and the library board.
In addition, the power line that feeds the library will need to be moved. It currently runs beneath Fifth Avenue from a source near the Blake Transit Center, but will be disconnected when the road is dug up as part of the Fifth and Division streetscape project. Parker said they’ll get power from a utility box at the northeast corner of the library building.
The power line to that box is currently buried under the city-owned parking lot – the DDA is requesting that it be relocated on library property. Parker said she’s being cautious about the location of a buried line, because she doesn’t want to agree to anything that could hamper the library in the future, should they proceed with a building project of their own. [Late last year the board called off plans to construct a new downtown building, citing difficult economic conditions.] Phone lines for the library that are buried under a section of the city-owned parking lot will need to be relocated as well.
Where can People Park?
Parker said she’s been told that the parking lot across Fifth Avenue – on the former YMCA site – will remain open, and that patrons will have access to the library’s main entrance during construction. [A press release issued on Sept. 23 by the DDA points out that the 4th and William structure will also remain open as a potential parking location for former library lot patrons.] If that changes, she said, alternative access to the library will be provided at the DDA’s expense. A handout given to board members about the project states that starting in December 2010, the 300 block of South Fifth – which runs in front of the library – will likely be closed for six months.
Parker said she’s made it clear that the library won’t pay for any of the work requested by the DDA – it’s not the library’s project, she said. As soon as any of these negotiations are finalized in writing, she said she’ll bring agreements to the board for approval.
Blueprint to End Illiteracy
Parker described the library’s involvement with Washtenaw County’s literacy initiative as “intense,” but that work they’ve done with other community partners has resulted in the county securing $150,000 of federal stimulus funds for a literacy coalition coordinator. The money is coming from workforce training funds awarded to the county’s Employment Training and Community Services department (ETCS) department. It will fund that position for two years, with the nonprofit Washtenaw Literacy acting as the fiduciary on the grant.
The position is crucial, Parker said, because it helps small nonprofits that provide literacy training, like the Family Book Club and Family Learning Institute. These small groups don’t have the capacity to write grants and do fundraising themselves, she said. The literacy coordinator will do grantwriting and other administrative tasks. Parker said a committee has been formed to make the hire, which could occur within the next few weeks.
Ann Arbor News Archives
Parker said she hopes to reach a final agreement by the end of the month with the owners of the Ann Arbor News regarding the transfer of News’ archives to the library. [Parker gave an extensive report on this project at the board's August meeting.] On Monday, she told the board that she’s located space to store the archives, but it’s contingent on finalizing an agreement with the News. If she reaches an agreement by the Sept. 30 retreat, she might ask the board to approve the deal at that meeting. If not, they’ll either hold a special meeting, or deal with it at their regular Oct. 19 board meeting.
The AADL board unanimously passed a resolution supporting Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s amended executive order, which keeps the Library of Michigan and the position of a state librarian. Previously, Granholm had issued an order that abolished the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, of which the Library of Michigan is a part. The board’s resolution also urges the state legislature to maintain a $10 million level of funding for libraries – an amount needed to ensure matching federal funds – and to guarantee line-item funding for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
The board will hold a strategic planning retreat on Sept. 30, facilitated by local consultant Sandra Greenstone, to discuss long-term priorities and goals. Board member Prue Rosenthal noted that their biggest issues – and unknowns – were the economy and a new downtown building. “If we try to anticipate something, it’s foolish,” she said. Margaret Leary, the board’s secretary, said it was possible to plan one direction for a certain set of circumstances, and another direction if those circumstances change. “We can always make a plan and decide not to follow it,” she said. “We’ve been known to do that.”
The meeting is open to the public and will run from 3:30-8:30 p.m. at the law offices of Dykema, 2723 S. State St. in Ann Arbor.
It’s relatively rare to have anyone attend the library board meeting and speak during the time set aside for public comment, and Monday night was no exception. “We haven’t had any citizens for such a long time,” remarked board member Prue Rosenthal. Board president Rebecca Head joked that Rosenthal should tell all her friends to come. It seemed unlikely that Rosenthal will act on this suggestion.
Present: Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Carola Stearns, Ed Surovell. Also Josie Parker, AADL director.
Next meeting: The board will hold a retreat, which is open to the public, on Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 3:30-8:30 p.m. in the law firm Dykema’s Ann Arbor offices, 2723 S. State St., Ann Arbor. The next regular board meeting is Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm dates]