School Election Change Would Affect Library

AADL board awaits school board decision, sets public hearing

Ann Arbor District Library special board meeting (Dec. 1, 2009): During a special board meeting held on Tuesday, the Ann Arbor District Library board discussed the implications of possible changes to the school board’s election date.

Bottom line: If the school board moves its May election to November, the library board will be forced to do the same.

The school board is expected to make that decision at its Dec. 16 meeting. If the school board approves the change, the library board will need to act before the end of the year, too. To prepare for that possibility, the library board voted to hold a meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, with a public hearing scheduled on the topic of the election. If the school board votes not to move its election date, it’s likely that the library board will cancel the Dec. 21 meeting.

A Bit of History

The link between the library and the Ann Arbor schools dates back to the time when the library was part of the school system. In 1989, the state passed the District Library Establishment Act, which enabled local libraries to operate as separate entities. In 1995, the library separated from the Ann Arbor Public Schools through an agreement between the city of Ann Arbor and AAPS. Since then, the district library has operated independently from the city and school district, with its own governing board and an operating millage that was passed in 1996.

The state District Library Establishment Act requires that if a school district is a “participating municipality” in the agreement establishing a library district – as is the case in Ann Arbor – then library board elections must be held at the same time as school board elections. This is also written into the AADL’s bylaws:

3.2 Terms. Board members shall be elected for staggered terms in accordance with Section 11 (MLCA 397.181) of the Act at school board elections and, except as provided in Section 3.3, Board members shall serve for four (4) year terms that begin on July 1 following the election.

Those elections were held in June, in even-numbered years. But in 2004, the state legislature passed a package of election reform bills, which among other things limited school elections to dates in May or November. Since then, elections for both the Ann Arbor school board and Ann Arbor library board have been held in May, in even-numbered years.

AAPS Contemplates Change in Election Date

At Tuesday’s special library board meeting, Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, told board members she’d recently been informed that the school board was seriously contemplating moving its election to November, as a way to cut costs. “If they do, we must – we don’t have a choice,” she said. The school board is expected to make its decision at their Dec. 16 meeting.

Even though the library board doesn’t have a choice regarding the move, they are still required to hold a public hearing on the issue, Parker said, and vote to move their election date. In light of that, the board voted to hold a meeting – which includes a public hearing – on Monday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. If the school board decides not to move its election, it’s likely that the library board’s Dec. 21 meeting will be canceled.

Changing the election from May to November would also mean that for 2010, terms that currently end on June 30 would need to be extended to Dec. 31.

Another issue is how to handle the term of Carola Stearns, who was appointed to the board in August of 2008 following the resignation of Jean King, who was elected in May of that year. The board has the authority to appoint board members when a position is vacated, but only for a two-year term – not the original four-year term to which King was elected. That means Stearns is up for election in 2010.

The terms for three other board members also end in 2010: Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman and Ed Surovell. Terms for Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal end in 2012.

Surovell said the move to a November election would be a “nightmare” for the library board. It means the electorate will be faced with a massive ballot, he said. And since there’s not a daily print newspaper anymore – the Ann Arbor News closed in July of this year, and its replacement,, publishes a print edition only twice a week – Surovell said there will be “zero ability in print to discuss library issues” before the election.

Parker said she planned to seek additional clarifications about the library elections with the state elections office.

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

Next meeting: Board meetings are typically held on the third Monday of the month, with the public portion of the meeting starting at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The board has tentatively scheduled a meeting on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss possibly moving the board’s election dates. Their next regular meeting is on Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. [confirm date]


  1. By Matt Hampel
    December 6, 2009 at 9:39 am | permalink

    “there will be ‘zero ability in print to discuss library issues’” — what? That just doesn’t make sense. Sure, .com only prints twice a week. But the election is over a year away!

  2. December 6, 2009 at 10:41 am | permalink

    I think Ed might mean that with so many other contests on the ballot that there wouldn’t be space for library issues. Maybe, maybe not. Seems like the board would have some ability to influence that.

  3. By Matt Hampel
    December 6, 2009 at 3:47 pm | permalink

    Also, when was the last time there was a contested library board election where the candidates had significantly different views?

  4. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 9, 2009 at 7:04 am | permalink

    Not sure if having a vote during a high turn out November election would be a ‘nightmare’ after witnessing the under-ten-percent turnout for City Council primary elections in August.