Ann Arbor District Library Board Election

Seven candidates vie for four seats on Nov. 2

On Sept. 28, the League of Women Voters hosted a combined forum for candidates for Ann Arbor District Library board.

Ann Arbor District Library board candidate forum

CTN producer Tim Nagae, standing, clips a microphone on Ann Arbor District Library board candidate Ed Surovell. Candidates Barbara Murphy, far left, and Jan Barney Newman participated in the forum, as did (not in this frame) Nancy Kaplan and Vivienne Armentrout. (Photos by the writer.)

Nancy Kaplan, Lyn Powrie Davidge and incumbent Carola Stearns are running for one two-year term. Vivienne Armentrout and incumbents Ed Surovell, Jan Barney Newman and Barbara Murphy are vying for three four-year terms. Five of the seven candidates attended the forum – Stearns and Davidge were out of town and unable to participate.

Terms for the three other current board members – Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal – expire in 2012.

The forum took place at Community Television Network studios and was recorded – it is available online through CTN’s video-on-demand service.

The hour-long event was moderated by Nancy Schewe, and questions covered a broad range of library-related topics, from the fate of the downtown building and thoughts on the next-door Library Lot, to issues of noise, security and technology. This report is presented in the order in which candidates responded.

Opening Statements

Each candidate began with a 1-minute opening statement. Moderator Nancy Schewe began by reading a statement from Lyn Powrie Davidge, which stated that Davidge was in Salzburg, Austria on a trip she’d planned for more than a year.

Vivienne Armentrout

Vivienne Armentrout

Armentrout’s Opening Statement

Vivienne Armentrout said she’s lived in Ann Arbor since 1986 and most of that time has been involved in community service, either as a volunteer, appointee to a commission or committee, or as an elected official. Most recently, she served as a Washtenaw County commissioner from 1997-2004. She said she’s running for the library board because she sees this as a public service and that her prior service will help her be an effective board member. The library is an essential part of the community, Armentrout said, and it’s an institution we can be proud of. “I would be honored to help support the work of the library,” she concluded.

Surovell’s Opening Statement

Ed Surovell stated that he’s been a library trustee since 1996. “I’m the last of the original trustees,” he said, referring to the group who were elected when the library became an independent entity – it was previously part of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. The library has grown enormously during this period, he said, noting that he and the other trustees have been part of that growth. Surovell said the trustees’ job is to support the library’s director and staff, and to expect and demand fiscal conservatism and discipline. He said he has a personal commitment to that fiscal responsibility and to “programmatic adventurism.” Surovell said he was extremely proud of the enormous growth in services over the past 14 years, such as programs for non-English speakers.

Murphy’s Opening Statement

Noting that she’s served two terms on the board, Barbara Murphy said she’s learned a lot and feels she’s contributed a great deal to changes that the library has made over the past 10 years. That’s why she’s running again. Libraries are crucial to any democracy, she said. Having a literate, informed public is the only way to ensure that people can make wise choices when they vote. Unfortunately, she said, voting levels aren’t very high. The library tries to increase literacy, she said. She cited work the library has done with Washtenaw Literacy, the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, and the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, and mentioned that the library has taken responsibility for the archives of the former Ann Arbor News.

Newman’s Opening Statement

Jan Barney Newman noted that her colleagues have already covered a lot of ground, and it would be hard for her to expound on that. She said she’s only been on the board for one term, and she is very proud of their accomplishments in the last four years. They completed construction of the  Traverwood branch, saved the county’s Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, and saved the Ann Arbor News archives. All the while, she said, they have operated very sensibly with reduced revenues for the library, and no layoffs. She said she is very proud of that.

Kaplan’s Opening Statement

Nancy Kaplan thanked the League of Women Voters for hosting the forum. The library is a key community-based resource. Her goal is to contribute it its innovative growth and development to meet the needs of current and potential users of all ages and abilities. If elected, she said she’d have opportunities to guide the board to include input from the wide diversity of current patrons, and reach out to gain new community involvement. She said she had a broad range of professional, volunteer and community experiences, and that she’s confident she can successfully represent the interests of both the library and the community.

Downtown Library Building

Question: In November of 2008, the library board voted to postpone expansion of the downtown library. When would the library be ready to reconsider the project? Do you think plans will need to change? What’s your vision?

Nancy Kaplan

Nancy Kaplan

Kaplan on the Downtown Library Building

What was stopped was the decision to build a new library, Kaplan noted. The discussion should be opened about whether to renovate or to build a new library, she said, and she would like the discussion to be open to the public – to go beyond the staff, board and the Downtown Development Authority. Hopefully the discussion will be reopened in the new year, she said, and will include input from citizens about what it should look like and what services to offer. She said they need to understand what the building doesn’t have now – it’s not meeting the needs of the disability community, for example. She restated that the discussion should be reopened now.

Armentrout on the Downtown Library Building

Armentrout said the library board was very wise in calling off the project, and that it’s unusual that anybody can stop and take a deep breath and hold up on something they’ve invested so much time on. Our economic circumstances haven’t improved since then, she said, and she thinks that as a country and a city we’re facing a very uncertain economic future for years to come. She said she wouldn’t currently support planning to build a new library downtown. She would support renovation instead, and making the current building as good as it can be. This topic has already come up, she noted, citing the building’s chiller that recently needed to be replaced. “We’ll have more of those,” she said.

Murphy on the Downtown Library Building

Murphy said this issue of whether to build or renovate will come up quite soon. The board did have a very public process last time, she said – it was not limited to the board, administration and DDA. The process included outside consultants and a large number of focus groups, she said. Based on that, they came to the conclusion to build. Then they decided to halt that project when the bottom fell out of the economy, she said. Given the amount of time that’s passed, Murphy said, they need to look at it again. They might not need to repeat everything they did before, but they will have to update some things. She said she’s looking forward to finding out how the community feels. “I hope that we can have a library that’s worthy of the 21st century,” she said.

Newman on the Downtown Library Building

Newman said that Murphy touched on an important point. They aren’t building or renovating for the moment – it’s for the future. They have to keep the library great for now, but make it right for tomorrow. It’s a little hard to know what tomorrow is, she added, given what’s happening in the publishing industry and the technology that’s impacting the disbursement of knowledge. They’ll have to look at the plans again, she said. The cost of maintaining an old building is a factor as well, she noted. They’ve had a lot of expenses in replacing elevators, air handlers and a cooler. They have to evaluate where they are now, she said, and how that impacts the decisions they’ll make.

Surovell on the Downtown Library Building

The decision to terminate the building project was based on a national financial crisis in November 2008, Surovell said. The decision was made based on the reality that bonds in Michigan could not be sold, he said. At that moment, it was a wise move to stop. Parts of the downtown building are 58 years old, he noted, which is older than the Carnegie Library building was when it was abandoned for the current building. Many parts of the current building are in deplorable condition, he said, and during the board’s review of the building they discovered that the cost of renovation and replacement were pretty much the same. At that time, they chose to rebuild. Surovell said he believes they are likely to make the same decision again, but it will have to be reviewed.

Library Lot Development

Question: Recognizing that the library doesn’t own the Library Lot underground parking structure next door to the downtown library building, how could the site be developed in a way that would enhance the library?

Barbara Murphy

Barbara Murphy

Murphy on Library Lot Development

It’s clear that we need parking, Murphy said, and that’s being built underground. It’s also clear that whatever is built next door to the library has to enhance the whole street, not just the library. Whether it’s a park or a hotel or something else, she said, it’s most important that it be kept up and run by people who are cooperative and who can work well with the library – people who understand how important it is for the library to have a safe, comfortable area for their patrons. “I’m not sure what I want next door,” Murphy said, acknowledging that there’s a lot of controversy in the community about it. “Whatever it is, it’s got to be something we can work with.”

Newman on Library Lot Development

Newman said that Murphy’s answer was very good. “We are not in change charge of that project,” she said, nor do they have a say in it. “A skunkworks could go in there next door, for all we know.” But whatever is done, it has to be maintained by another entity. It can’t be up to the library to plan the activities of a park, she said, or to deal with problems created by whatever is there. She said they are very interested in a development that would enliven the street and the downtown, and that would bring a healthy commercial development to the town.

Surovell on Library Lot Development

Surovell reiterated that the library does not own the lot. “What would I like to see there personally? A frozen custard stand, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he quipped. He noted that it’s the largest block in the city of Ann Arbor, and only one business on it collects sales tax. It should be vibrant and help the entire city, he said, and shouldn’t be looked at as just what’s good for the library. What’s good for the city will also be good for the library. City officials seem to be struggling with the issue, he said, but as a library trustee, he’s not been inclined to comment on the city’s business. He said he hopes the city makes a good decision that will be good for Ann Arbor.

Armentrout on Library Lot Development

Armentrout said that although the library doesn’t have a say, it is considered a stakeholder. As a stakeholder, the library has an interest in what happens in that entire area, she said. The library and other stakeholders should be involved in discussing the whole configuration of the area – the Blake Transit Center is also being rebuilt, she noted. The library board would want to see how that affects their patrons. Personally, she said she favors a civic open space on the site that would have active uses, such as events and opportunities for theatrical use. Armentrout also envisioned passive uses there, so that library users could read a book under a tree, if they wished.

Kaplan on Library Lot Development

It’s true that the library doesn’t own the land, Kaplan said, but they do have input about what goes there – for example, Library Lane and how the building can be accessed from the parking deck. She said they need a robust discussion, with input from the community as to what they would feel comfortable with. This is their library – what would they like to see in the neighborhood? She said she favors something that’s open and friendly and very welcoming, as the library will be facing whatever goes on that lot.

Digital Technology

Question: How do you see the library of the future interfacing with print-on-demand products, like Kindle, and other digital products? What services do you see the library of the future offering to its patrons?

Kaplan on Digital Technology

Kaplan said the library is on target with the databases and technology it already offers. The staff is working very hard at that, and as a board member, she’d support it too. There’s a director in charge of technology, she noted, who is doing a fine job. [Eli Neiburger is AADL associate director of IT and production.] She’s sure they will keep up with technology. Kaplan noted that there’s a cost to keeping up databases and other technology, so the library will need sufficient funding to do all that they’d like to do.

Jan Barney Newman

Jan Barney Newman

Newman on Digital Technology

Newman said the library has a “very technologically astute” director of technology. As it becomes possible to do more, she said she’s sure they will. A lot of things they can’t predict, she added. The library’s mission is to disseminate knowledge to the community. Whatever the technology or method, they will continue to do so, she said. It’s very important to stay alive to those options, which the current administration does, Newman said. “I’m more of a Luddite than probably a lot of people in the community,” she said, “but I’m very sure we’ll keep up with the technology and the ability to serve the public in that way.”

Surovell on Digital Technology

Surovell noted that the University of Michigan has a machine that will print on demand any book that you want. But the question of books on demand – whether they be electronic or printed – is only part of the question, and in many ways it’s a red herring, he said. The library provides so much more to the community, he said. “Ask yourself whether you’d want to live in a place that didn’t have a library, of any description.” It isn’t whether you can get books on demand or whether books will be replaced, he said. The library is the center of education for the entire community, not just for those in school or for seniors or a limited number of groups. There’s an enormous range of people studying, reading, and participating at the library, Surovell said, and there are art exhibits and a whole world of cultural excitement there. “To ask just about books is a mistake.”

Armentrout on Digital Technology

Armentrout said she listened to the AADL director, Josie Parker, make a presentation earlier in the day via streaming video, and heard her say that Amazon won’t let them have Kindle, “so I guess Kindle’s out.” [Amazon's Kindle is a device for reading electronic books and other digital products.] The library’s collections, and the distribution of those collections to the public, is their core business, she said. That’s why libraries were created. She said she would like the library to retain its collection, to the extent that it’s practical. She has great confidence that the library is already planning to move in correspondence to the technology, as it changes. But technology shouldn’t lead the changes, she added – it should accommodate them.

Murphy on Digital Technology

Libraries are so much more than just books, Murphy said. It’s the librarians themselves. The staff of the library has a role in working with patrons of all ages. They teach people how to find information and how to determine if it’s reliable. You can find anything on the web, she noted, but the library has lists of sites that have been vetted. There are things besides books, she said, such as story times, teen events, and speakers. The library has turned into more of a community resource and community center, Murphy said, than just a place to pick up a book. Whatever happens to printed media – and she hopes it will still be around – Murphy said the library and librarians have a lot more to offer.

Privatization of Libraries

Question: A private company in Maryland has taken over public libraries in many cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. What’s your opinion about privatizing libraries? Do you foresee privatizing any library services – and if so, what?

Ed Surovell

Ed Surovell

Surovell on Privatization of Libraries

Saying he’d answer the last question first, Surovell said that answer is no. He doesn’t foresee a privatization of services as they directly affect the public. But he noted that many of the library’s services are already privatized, such as the sourcing and selection of many materials. Privatizing a library system isn’t within reason for Ann Arbor, but it might be for some communities, where resources are scarce and where for various reasons they haven’t been able to maintain a library. There are many municipalities in Michigan that have shut their libraries. “Is a privately operated library better than the library in Troy that doesn’t exist? Yes,” he said. Surovell said he’s sure that won’t happen in Ann Arbor, which has a “wonderful, vibrant, economically healthful system.”

Armentrout on Privatization of Libraries

First of all, no to privatization, Armentrout said. But it would be unlikely to happen in Ann Arbor, she added, because we’re fortunate to have a perpetual millage for the library system. In fact, the current board hasn’t chosen to use the entire amount that’s available, she noted. In some states and other parts of Michigan, Armentrout said, there isn’t a district library millage as Ann Arbor has. So a lot of decisions about privatization are probably driven by funding. For example, if municipalities are funding the library out of their general fund, it could lead to drastic measures, like privatizing. “But I see no reason to meddle with a very good system that we already have,” she said.

Murphy on Privatization of Libraries

It’s not clear what privatization means, Murphy began, noting that she had read the New York Times article to which the question referred. Like Surovell, she noted that some things are already privatized, such as payroll and certain mailings. The real issue, she said, is that they retain control of the content and operation of the library. If privatization means turning it over to a company and that people would have to pay to use the library, then no, of course not, she said. But it’s a different story if you look at things like payroll services or putting labels on books. To say that privatization is good or bad is almost meaningless, Murphy said. You have to define what it means. But largely, she added, she’s against it.

Newman on Privatization of Libraries

Newman said she doesn’t think this issue is a factor for Ann Arbor’s library system. Ann Arbor has a perpetual millage that accommodates the library’s needs, and a very efficient administration that’s operating even with reduced revenues and keeping a fully employed staff with no layoffs. There’s no way a private firm could come in and do a better job, she said. Newman said the New York Times article was very interesting, and that this is a very current question. The library administration has to be fast in adapting to change, Newman said – that’s one thing the board should be very appreciative of.

Kaplan on Privatization of Libraries

Kaplan said she appreciates the outsourcing of peripheral things, which are not core to the library’s mission, but she would be against privatizing anything that’s core to the mission. “We want public ownership of the materials, so if privatizing means giving up ownership, I’d be against it,” she said. She noted the system’s perpetual millage, and said that the library and its director have managed very well and been very frugal. There should be no reason that such a dire circumstance, like privatization, should occur, she said.


Question: In the last two or three years, the downtown library has added security personnel. Are you happy with that decision? Do you feel that it’s interfered with the privacy of patrons? Do you foresee the need for security at any of the other branches? [AADL director Josie Parker, who attended the forum as an audience member, later clarified that there has been security at the downtown branch for at least a decade, and that there's been no increase in security in recent years.]

Kaplan on Security

Kaplan said she’d have to support what the board and director had done – there must have been a reason, she said, because she knows that privacy is a key issue and that the library and the director attend to that. So there must have been incidents or issues that concerned the patrons, and that those concerns were conveyed to the library. Kaplan said she would not be against increased security, if they feel it’s needed. And if they feel security is needed at the branches, then there is probably a reason. And even if it’s implemented, that doesn’t mean it will always be there. It would probably come up for review, she said.

Armentrout on Security

Armentrout said she hadn’t been aware of the library instituting more security, but she’s sure it was for a very good reason. She would support the decision that had been made. She said she doubted that there’s the same issue with branch libraries. Downtown has a different urban population, she noted.

Murphy on Security

Murphy said that, in her experience as a patron and board member, the security personnel in the library are wonderful – they don’t invade the privacy of patrons. They help people when there’s a problem. They enforce the library’s rules, whether it’s talking too loudly or sleeping or spilling a drink. They’re there because there are rules to enforce. She said she didn’t understand the question about invading people’s privacy. If security has increased, she said, she would point out that the library’s collections have increased, the number of patrons has increased, and programs at night have increased. They’ve also added the Library for Blind and Physically Disabled. Any additional staffing is in order to keep up with these increases, she said.

Newman on Security

Newman said she was not sure exactly when an increase in security occurred – it seems to have been there a long time, she noted. There has been an increase in security in all public buildings, she said, so it’s part of that same precaution. She hasn’t received any complaints about it invading personal freedoms or liberties. A lot of structural things have changed because of security issues, she noted. The stacks aren’t as high as they used to be because the staff needs visibility throughout the room, for example.

Surovell on Security

The security is there because the needs are there, Surovell said. The library is an inviting place for displays of temper, “which are not infrequent, I’m sorry to say.” In the winter, the library is warm, he said, and in the summer it’s dry. The library attracts people with their own agendas. Most public libraries have these issues, he said. Ann Arbor has big city crime, he added. There have been drug problems at times, as well as acts of violence – patron against patron, or sometimes against employees. Security is necessary and appropriate, he concluded.

Noise in Libraries

Question: In the past, libraries were places of silence and whispers, but they’re much noisier now. Is that a problem? What’s the solution to accommodate the needs of all patrons?

Murphy on Noise in Libraries

Libraries, and especially branch libraries, serve the population surrounding them, Murphy observed. The Pittsfield branch has lots of children from the surrounding subdivisions and tends to be noisier. The downtown building tends to be the quietest. Noise levels change because the times change, she said. They are no longer places just to read books. They are now places where you learn computing, take art classes, or to go story time. They’ve built each new branch with a quiet reading room, and in the newest branch, they’ve put the children’s room at the far end of the library, apart from the quiet reading area. Across the system, patrons can find whatever noise level they want, she said. They try to keep the noise level appropriate, she said – they don’t want people screaming, for example.

Newman on Noise in Libraries

Newman said she thinks the noise level is very healthy, because it reflects enthusiasm. They have a lot of young people using the library – for example, junior high kids come to play computer games, and they’re not going to be quiet. But they’ll be in a place that won’t disturb others who want quiet, she said. That’s part of the vibrancy of what’s offered to the whole public. The library has to respond to the community, Newman said, and they accommodate the needs of those who want quiet, as well as those who want activity.

Surovell on Noise in Libraries

Just as the saying goes, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” Surovell said, “so it is not your parents’ library.” People who wonder about the loss of quiet are thinking of a library that’s in the past. A library is not a place for quiet contemplation and books anymore, he said. It is supported by all citizens and there’s vibrant, sometimes raucous activity. They’ve had rock bands, band wars, games sometimes so rackety that they have to be out in the parking lot. A library is where things happen, he said, and sometimes it’s noisy. They try to put the children’s area apart from the reading room, he said, but sometimes they merge.

Armentrout on Noise in Libraries

It’s already been mentioned that the solution is to separate uses and users, Armentrout said. She said she thinks some parts should remain quiet enough so that people can access materials and do research. But in the Malletts Creek library, for example, there are individual rooms that people can use to study or hold tutorials, so it sounds as though efforts have already been made to separate users, putting the quiet uses in one area and the more interactive uses in another. That seems like a good solution, she said.

Kaplan on Noise in Libraries

The libraries seem to be divided quite well, Kaplan said, so that you can find a quiet area – even for those who want to come and read a book or do knitting by the fireplace. There needs to be a quiet area, she said, and the libraries all seem to have it. Especially in the downtown branch, there are plenty of quiet areas, as you ascend the floors. The library can accommodate both the noisy and the quiet, Kaplan said, and everybody can find their place to be comfortable.

Challenges and Strengths

Question: What are the primary challenges that the library will face in the next four years, and what strengths do you bring to the board?

Kaplan on Challenges and Strengths

The challenges are interwined between giving the services the library wants to give, Kaplan said, and having the financial resources to do that. The library needs the funds to do all it wants to do. Regarding her strengths, Kaplan said she has run a department, so she’s had to deal with a budget. She also cited experiences working with people in the library and said she understands the needs of its many users. So from understanding the many needs of the library, combined with the financial needs, “I think that I can be of help,” she said.

Newman on Challenges and Strengths

The library has to have the funds to do what needs to be done, Newman said. The needs are great, because they may have to deal with the declining building, which will have to be renovated or replaced. She said she’s very interested in providing services to the community. She said she’s a former teacher and a former business owner, so she’s had the experience of managing funds and teaching children. She’s very excited about what the library can do on both of those fronts, given declining revenues. Newman said she’s not sure she’s particularly crucial to the library, because its administration is very capable. “But I’m very excited to be part of the decisions that will be made.”

Surovell on Challenges and Strengths

Surovell said the issues over the next four years are, first of all, the stability of revenues. Revenues have been declining and will continue to decline, and he said he’s in a position to understand that. Another issue is to finish the process of re-examining the main branch. But most of all, the main challenge is to maintain the vibrancy and stability of the existing staff, he said, to support the direction that the library’s been taking, and to maintain its agility in a rapidly developing world of intellectual and cultural change, in a community with dozens of languages, many different populations, and a continuing turnover of patrons – to make certain that the Ann Arbor District Library remains the Ann Arbor District Library.

Armentrout on Challenges and Strengths

Clearly, Armentrout said, the fate and resolution of how to deal with the downtown library is going to be a central issue. Related to that, another issue is how to navigate the next few years, given all the construction in the area, and how to maintain the functions of a library in the context of what’s happening in that end of town. She also expects there will be some discussion of how to maintain the library’s collections of books and other materials. Her understanding is that demand on those is already so great that there’s some talk of shortening the period of time that materials can be kept out. She said she has a breadth of experience in different kinds of government and would emphasize public input. Armentrout also said she understands that the board is not an operational board – it’s a policy board.

Murphy on Challenges and Strengths

Murphy said that to build on Armentrout’s statement, as a policy board, their most important task is to hire a director and make sure that things run smoothly, and to oversee the budget. She said she thinks they did a very good job in hiring a director. She believes her experience on the board over the last two terms is very valuable for her next term. There is a long learning curve in understanding how the library works, how the budget works, how the millage works. She noted that she was present during the building of two branches, and has learned about the library’s facilities. It’s been fun to learn, Murphy said, and now that she’s learned it, she wants to continue to share that knowledge with the board and the library. Before retiring, her previous experience was in finance, personnel, organizational development and information technology (IT). Understanding IT especially, and where technology is going in the future, will be crucial to the library, she said.

Closing Statements

Each candidate was given two minutes for a closing statement.

Kaplan’s Closing Statement

Kaplan described herself as an enthusiastic supporter of the Ann Arbor District Library. She’d be a link between the library and the community. “I will advocate for the library and be the voice of the community,” she said. Her ideas for the library include enhancing communication and interaction between the board and the public. She’d advocate for televising board meetings and providing drive-up book depositories. She said she’d promote creating advisory committees to represent the diverse community, including seniors, young parents, teens, and those with disabilities. The goal is to have active dialogues among the community, the board, director and staff on the vision for the library and its evolving role.

They’d also benefit from an open dialogue about the aging Fifth Avenue library and what to do about this building – renovation or rebuilding. The benefits and risks should involve a robust discussion with the public, Kaplan said. The public should also be involved in the library’s vision for its neighborhood, she said. What are good neighbors for the library? “The well-being of the Ann Arbor District Library is essential to our democracy and our creative future,” Kaplan said. She said she’d be an advocate for the library and would work collaboratively with district residents to develop a vision for the library as a community center for multi-faceted learning, interaction and personal growth. She referred voters to her website for more information, and thanked the League of Women Voters for hosting the forum.

Newman’s Closing Statement

Newman said she ran for the library board four years ago because she’d been involved with the library a long time, even when it was part of the Ann Arbor public school system – she had been an ex-officio member of the library board because of her participation in the Ladies’ Library Association, which was a precursor to the current library. Since being on the board, she said she’s learned so much about how the library operates and all that it offers. It’s become very important to her to stay with it. She said it’s a matter of the continuity she can provide, along with her incumbent colleagues.

To that end, she said, she wanted to mention Carola Stearns, who’s running for a two-year term. Stearns is a geologist, Newman said, who’s taking a group of geologists on a trip to the Grand Canyon’s Supai Gorge. The trip was long-planned. Stearns is a makes a lot of contributions as a board member, Newman said, and a good advocate for the library. Newman said she’d like to see the library continue in the direction it’s going – while staying open to new directions. The other issue is the maintenance and husbandry of the downtown library, she said, which will be a challenge. They need to be aware of the needs of the community, and of the special needs of the neighborhood. The library offers a vibrancy to the downtown community, she said.

Murphy’s Closing Statement

Murphy said she agreed with Newman and reiterated her comments about Stearns, saying Stearns was a good board member and always asked very cogent questions. Her forced absence shouldn’t mean that her name isn’t heard. For her own part, Murphy said she thinks she’s been a contributing member of the library board as well, and has worked hard on the committee that helped develop the library’s strategic plan. It’s been a pleasure to watch as it’s been implemented.

The library’s biggest problem in some ways will be its growth, Murphy said. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, they had 9 million checkouts and renewals. That shows how many people like and use the library, and that’s going to increase as more people turn to the library for things other than books. She said she would like to continue to see how to achieve growth, given the financial situation that the library faces. The downtown building will be an issue – the library has become a community center, and its rooms are filled to overflowing. Another thing they’ll need to look at is how to accommodate larger groups for lectures, theater pieces and classes. All of these things she finds very exciting, Murphy said. She’d like to continue working on them, “and I hope that I have your vote to do so.”

Surovell’s Closing Statement

Surovell said that during the 14 years he’s been a library trustee, a study was done that led to the decision to replace and expand their facilities. Three new libraries have been constructed, services have been dramatically expanded, and the library is now open on Sundays – it’s open 74 hours a week, he said. One year, the Ann Arbor District Library was library of the year for the entire United States. It’s a record of which he’s personally proud, but he’s most proud of the staff and the director, “those people who have made the Ann Arbor District Library an internationally known facility, and a leader in public library service, wherever libraries are known.” His hope is that he’ll be able to continue to contribute his past experience to the future of the library.

Armentrout’s Closing Statement

Armentrout said she believes libraries are the foundation of a democratic society, and she would like to see the library continue its successful outreach to all members of the community. There are many things to be proud of in the library. It’s well-managed, and has moved forward on many important fronts. The library assumed responsibility for the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled when the county stopped supporting it. As a part-time writer, she said, she especially appreciates the library’s archiving of local history.

The library has been an essential anchor to the downtown and to the civic life of our city, Armentrout said. It’s encourageing encouraging that the library has been able to do all this within a prudent budget. She said she’s glad that the main library will remain at the downtown location, though she also enjoys the convenience of her local branch. She doesn’t support a new downtown library building, and would prefer to see it renovated and repaired. The library has been identified as a stakeholder for the Library Lot site, and she said she does not support building a hotel and conference center there. She appreciates the library’s efforts to move forward with changes in technology and publishing approaches, but she also thinks a high priority should be placed on maintenance of a wide collection of books and materials. There’s a lot of demand for that, and it’s what most people think of when they think “library,” she said.


  1. By sally m
    October 5, 2010 at 10:45 am | permalink

    Typo patrol! Newman: should be “we are not in charge of…” and Armentrout’s closing statement, “encouraging” mispelled. There may be more–I skimmed. But thanks for these thorough accounts. I’d rather have them with a few typos.

  2. By fridgeman
    October 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm | permalink

    “But he noted that many of the library’s services are already privatized, such as the sourcing and selection of many materials.”

    What?!? I sure hope he is talking about office supplies, not books and other library materials.

    When I use the “suggest a title” feature on the AADL website, does this send my request to a company somewhere, and ?is not taken care of by local AADL staff

  3. By Stephen Landes
    October 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm | permalink

    Interesting summary — thanks to the Chronicle for this.

    As to replacing or renovating the library building: why not sell the building site to whoever is going to develop the top of the new parking structure and then rent space in the new building for the library? A larger footprint might be very attractive to a developer; the library as a key tenant would have some say in the design of the building; library funds would not be used for construction and ownership of a building.

  4. October 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm | permalink

    Surovell says “the cost of renovation and replacement were pretty much the same” but the numbers in the Providence study are $14.3 million for renovation or $63 million for replacement.