Ann Arbor District Library annual board meeting (Jan. 17, 2011): The library board’s first meeting of 2011 served as the board’s “annual meeting.” It kicked off with a swearing-in for four board members – including three incumbents – who won their elections on Nov. 2. The ceremony was officiated by Judge Elizabeth “Libby” Hines of the 15th District Court.
The seven-member board also elected new officers – there were no competing nominations, and all votes were unanimous. Margaret Leary, who has previously served as president, was again elected to that office, replacing trustee Rebecca Head. In her final remarks as president before new officers were elected, Head gave an overview of the past 18 months, citing both challenges and accomplishments during that period.
The board also heard some details about AADL director Josie Parker’s involvement in the Digital Public Library of America initiative. Parker has been invited to be part of a small working group that will help launch the project, which is spearheaded by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Paul Courant, dean of libraries for the University of Michigan, is also involved.
Swearing In, Election of Officers, Year Review
The meeting began with the swearing in of four board members elected on Nov. 2: Nancy Kaplan, a first-time board member, and incumbents Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman and Ed Surovell. The brief ceremony was conducted by Elizabeth Hines, a judge in the 15th District Court. Before starting, Hines told the board members that the library is an invaluable community asset, and that it was an honor for her to swear in those who’d be helping guide it.
[Before the meeting started, Hines told The Chronicle that the court will be closed on Tuesday after moving to the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron. The court will resume its normal schedule on Wednesday.]
After the swearing-in ceremony, Rebecca Head, the board’s outgoing president, gave a recap of events that have occurred since the board’s last annual meeting, in July 2009. Annual meetings had previously been held each July, she noted, but last year the board changed its bylaws to stay in sync with the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education election schedule – elections were moved from May to November. Under the revised bylaws, board members’ terms start in November instead of July, and the board’s annual meeting was moved from July to the first meeting of each new calendar year.
Over the past 18 months, the library has seen some grave changes, Head said, both locally and at the state level. She noted that, due to budget concerns, the state dissolved the Michigan History, Arts and Library Department, where the Library of Michigan was previously housed – the state library is now part of the Dept. of Education. [More recently, at their December 2010 meeting, the board had voted on another issue related to the state library. They agreed to file an amicus curiae – or "friend of the court" – brief in support of the Herrick District Library in Holland, which filed suit against the state library. At stake are broader issues of local control, which officials at local public libraries believe would be eroded if the new rules are allowed. The new rules change how libraries qualify for state aid.]
Head also cited accomplishments achieved by the library, giving kudos to the staff for taking over operation of the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which until 2009 was operated by the county government. She also applauded staff for their programming initiatives, including Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads.
Head reflected on the last retreat the board had held, in September 2009, to begin working on new strategic plan. After additional work over the following months, including a February 2010 working session, the board adopted the five-year strategic plan in March 2010 – “and it’s a great plan, I say modestly,” she quipped.
As part of the strategic plan process, the board has discussed whether to construct a new downtown library building, Head noted. [They had tabled a building project in late 2008, citing the economic downturn. The issue has been raised several times since then.] The library has had to pay for several major repairs at the current building, Head observed – she described the building as “crumbling.” She said she expects they’ll take up the issue again in the coming months.
Other highlights include monitoring progress on the Library Lot, which Head noted is a misnomer – it’s adjacent to the library, but is owned by the city, not the AADL. The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is building an underground parking structure there, and city officials are entertaining proposals for development atop the structure.
Head also observed that the board had passed a balanced budget, while at the same time reducing the millage it levies to 1.55 mills. Their auditor had given them a clean bill of health, in terms of the library’s fiscal strength and processes, she said. It was important to note that the nonprofit Friends of the AADL also got a clean audit, she added – that was gratifying to the board, she said, as they’ve worked to build a stronger relationship with the FAADL.
Finally, Head said she’d been remiss at the December board meeting in not thanking AADL director Josie Parker and Parker’s husband, Robert, for a “generous gift” they’d made to the library. The amount was undisclosed – Parker later clarified for The Chronicle that the donation was made in honor of the board, and is an undesignated contribution to the library’s general fund.
After Head’s remarks, Parker gave her a bouquet of red roses from the staff, and a hug.
Board members then nominated and elected a new slate of officers, with no competing nominations. The new officers are Margaret Leary, president; Prue Rosenthal, vice president; Barbara Murphy, treasurer; and Jan Barney Newman, secretary.
Leary moved to the seat next to Parker at the board table, and began her duties as president – by presiding over the remainder of the meeting.
Glen Modell was the only speaker during time set aside for public commentary. Saying he is a 35-year employee of the library, Modell told the board that he was there for his annual comment regarding the audit. He did not elaborate, but noted that his areas of concern were on pages 23 and 25 of the audit. He then welcomed the board’s newest member, Nancy Kaplan, and said he’d prepared a packet of information for her regarding a long-running conversation he’d been having with the AADL administration and board. He did not elaborate on the topic of that conversation.
When asked by The Chronicle after the meeting about the issues he’d raised, Modell said he preferred not to provide additional details, and referred questions to the administration and board. Board president Margaret Leary and AADL director Josie Parker said Modell would like the library to provide benefits to its temporary employees – known as “casual” workers – who work 19 hours or less a week. The audit issues he raised related to that, in that the audit does not take into account potential liabilities for providing such benefits.
Ken Nieman, associate director of finance, human resources and operations, gave a brief financial update to the board. As of Dec. 31, the system’s unrestricted cash balance was $12.69 million, down from $13.81 million in November. The AADL has received 95% of its budgeted tax receipts, or $10.79 million. The library had an operating surplus of $294,138 through year’s end, and $7.8 million remains in the fund balance.
There are five items currently over budget, he noted. All but one – employee benefits – are expected to come back in line by the end of the fiscal year, June 30. He said they’ve been implementing cost-saving measures to bring benefits back in line with the budgeted amount, but they might have to adjust that line item later in the year. The increased expenses relate to a jump in healthcare costs as of July 1, 2010. Fiscal year-to-date, employee benefits are $55,669 over budget.
Board members had no questions or comments regarding the financial report.
Parker did not initially elaborate on the written report that she’d provided in the board packet. [.pdf file of director's report.]
However, new board president Margaret Leary commented on one aspect of the report, saying it was exciting to see Parker involved in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) effort, which she noted had received national press. [The initiative was featured in a New York Times article earlier this month.] Leary said she wasn’t at all surprised that Parker had been invited to participate, and was very proud.
Parker then elaborated, saying she was among about 30 people nationwide who’d be part of a working group to address planning issues for the proposed digital library. The DPLA is an initiative of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The working group will meet in early March to discuss the project’s scope, cost, architecture and administration. According to a press release from the center, the DPLA steering committee – a separate group – includes Paul Courant, dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.
Parker told the board that she’ll be focusing on copyright issues. She noted that the national archivist, David Ferriero, will be hosting a DPLA plenary meeting in June that she expects to participate in as well. The work will be “mentally extremely challenging,” she said, adding that as director of a mid-sized library, she was honored to be involved, and flattered.
Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.
Next meeting: Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]