Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Jan. 16, 2012): A Michigan Radio report last month had indicated that the Ann Arbor library might start loaning out bicycles. AADL director Josie Parker assured the board that “we don’t circulate bicycles!” but said she wanted trustees to learn more about the kinds of realia collections that the library does circulate.
Among the most popular is AADL’s art print collection, which includes work by local artists, according to Celeste Choate, AADL associate director of services, collections and access. Meter readers to gauge the energy efficiency of home appliances and electronics are also popular.
Science to Go kits are the newest addition to AADL’s realia collection. Each kit focuses on a theme – prehistoric mammals, for example – and contains materials that include books, DVDs, Fandex educational cards, and objects like a replica of a fossilized wooly mammoth molar. The kits have only been available for about a month, but are all checked out, each with a long wait list. The realia collections are listed in “Unusual Stuff to Borrow” on AADL’s website.
Other agenda items for Monday’s meeting were less show and more tell. The board re-elected its current slate of officers for another year, with president Margaret Leary noting that the board faces several important decisions in the coming year – she indicated that continuity of leadership would help the board in that context. Though she did not mention it explicitly, Leary likely was alluding to plans discussed by the board in November to restart the process for determining the future of the AADL’s downtown location.
In a formal address at the start of Monday’s meeting, Leary reviewed the library’s accomplishments for 2011. Among other things, she mentioned the board’s decision to keep its millage rate down, while still balancing its budget. AADL’s millage rate for the current fiscal year is 1.55 mills – below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy. However, she cautioned that if the state eliminates the personal property tax and no replacement funding is found, the library would lose about $600,000 annually in revenues out of a $12 million budget.
Later in the meeting, the board was briefed by Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, on a draft terms-of-use policy for the library’s website. The decision to develop the policy was driven in large part because of issues related to the library’s digitization of the former Ann Arbor News archives – AADL will be putting a lot of material online for which it doesn’t hold the copyright. The board is expected to vote on the policy at its Feb. 20 meeting.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board voted to approve a two-year lease renewal with Westgate Enterprises LLC for the location of AADL’s branch at the Westgate Shopping Center, at Jackson and South Maple roads. The annual lease rate is $82,260, beginning Feb. 1.
Election of Officers & President’s Remarks
In the meeting’s first action item, the board re-elected its slate of officers for 2012. The board’s president for a second one-year term is Margaret Leary. Other officers re-elected were Prue Rosenthal (vice president), Barbara Murphy (treasurer) and Jan Barney Newman (secretary). There were no competing nominations, and all the votes were unanimous. Board member Rebecca Head was absent.
Following the election, Leary commented that it’s a good thing to have the same officers in place because the board faces important decisions in the coming year, and it’s nice to have a smooth transition. She indicated her preference to keep the committee membership unchanged as well, but asked board members to contact her if they’re interested in changing committee assignments.
Outcome: The board unanimously re-elected its previous slate of officers. Later, in a separate vote, the board also unanimously approved its 2012 schedule of meeting dates, and will continue to meet on the third Monday of each month.
Before the election, Leary addressed the board, saying it was important to pay attention to what the board and the library accomplished in 2011. She noted that in November, AADL received the Library Journal’s five-star rating for the fourth year, and was the only Michigan library to achieve five stars – the highest possible rating.
In October, board member Ed Surovell had received the Michigan Library Association’s Trustee Citation of Merit, Leary continued. It was awarded for his contributions in promoting library cooperation, working toward state legislation and funding that benefits libraries, and for outstanding work in developing local library services. She read from a statement issued by the MLA: ”One of his contributions has been to push his fellow trustees to break new ground architecturally and programmatically, and to understand the political, financial, historical, and strategic factors when considering a decision, whether the decision is large or small.”
Directing her comment to Surovell, Leary said: “Ed, I hope you’ll continue to push us in that direction.”
Among other awards, Leary cited the four ADDYs for marketing and promotional materials that AADL received in 2011, including a gold award for materials related to AADL’s summer reading program. The awards are given by the Ann Arbor Ad Club.
Leary also highlighted the recognition of associate director Eli Neiburger, named by Library Journal as one of its 2011 Movers & Shakers, in the category of tech leaders.
The Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library have continued their generous support of AADL, Leary said, especially for the summer reading program. In May, the library and FAADL renewed the space use agreement that allows FAADL to operate a bookstore in the lower level of the downtown library building. In June, FAADL’s annual meeting was hosted at the site that the library leases for its digitization project of the former Ann Arbor News archives, she noted. And while the AADL and FAADL are separate organizations, they are building increasingly tight symbiotic relationships that benefit both groups, she said.
In July, Leary noted, AADL director Josie Parker addressed the Ann Arbor city council, a report that included data on the impact of the library’s Fifth Avenue location on the downtown. Parker will continue to participate in discussions at the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority regarding downtown development, Leary said. Parker’s involvement helps the AADL board understand those issues, she said, and Parker has a lot to contribute to the DDA discussions.
Leary listed several examples of AADL involvement in national and international projects during the year. Tim Grimes, AADL’s community relations and marketing manager, helped develop a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)-funded project titled “Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Worlds.” That effort resulted in AADL being selected as one of six libraries chosen to serve as focus groups for the project. Also, Grimes and Neiburger are advisors on another NEH-funded project: “From Bluegrass to Broadway: A Film History of America’s Popular Music.”
Parker was also involved in national and international projects. Leary cited Parker’s participation, by invitation, in a small working group that helped launch the Digital Public Library of America project. Parker was also invited to serve on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s public access technology benchmarks program, and was asked to speak at the second UNESCO Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries, held in June 2011 in Milan, Italy with the theme “The Book Tomorrow: The Future of the Written Word.”
The board’s own education about library services continued during 2011, Leary said, with presentations from staff on eBooks in April, the Old News project in October, and the Play@AADL game in November.
Regarding the library’s finances, Leary said AADL continues to be a fiscal success – levying less of the millage than it’s authorized to use, running a balanced budget, and getting a clean audit. In May, the board adopted its $12 million budget for fiscal 2011-2012, which kept AADL’s millage rate unchanged at 1.55 mills – below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy.
Leary gave an example that she said showed how the library is remaining fiscally responsible and alert. In 2004, the library changed the vendor it uses to collect overdue fines. The library’s return on investment for that service is over $7 for every dollar it pays the collection company, she noted. Since 2004, about $600,000 in cash has been recovered, plus more than $100,000 in materials.
The year ended with the board approving labor agreements with two unions representing library staff, Leary reported.
Looking ahead, Leary pointed to the possibility that the state would eliminate the personal property tax, which she said would have a very negative effect on the library. If no replacement funding were found, eliminating the PPT would result in a loss of about $600,000 annually to AADL, she said – or about 5% of its budget.
Leary concluded her remarks by thanking Parker and her husband Robert Parker for their generous financial contribution to the library.[Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, Parker indicated that the contribution – an undisclosed amount – was made in honor of the board and is designated for the Marcy Westerman Fund, which supports youth programs.]
Parker responded briefly, thanking the board on behalf of the administration and staff.
Westgate Lease Renewal
The board approved a two-year lease renewal with Westgate Enterprises LLC for the location of AADL’s branch at the Westgate Shopping Center, at Jackson and South Maple roads. The annual lease rate is $82,260, beginning Feb. 1. That’s unchanged from the current rate, according to AADL director Josie Parker. The new agreement also includes two one-year renewal options.
Known as the West Branch, the 5,900-square-foot library branch has been open there since 1977. It’s the only branch of AADL that operates in leased space.
Margaret Leary clarified with library staff that the lease renewal options mean that if both the owner and the library agree, the lease could remain in place at this rate for a total of four years. AADL director Josie Parker said this is the same agreement the library has had with Westgate for the previous two leasing periods.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the lease renewal at for the branch at Westgate.
AADL director Josie Parker’s report focused on upcoming participation by library staff at professional events.
Erin Helmrich, a teen services librarian at AADL, is chair of the American Library Association committee that selects the Michael L. Printz award, given for excellence in young adult literature. It’s an award on par with the ALA’s Newbery Medal and Caldecott Medal awards, Parker said, and the selection committee is a prestigious group. Helmrich is traveling to Dallas this week for the award’s final selection process.
In February, Eli Neiburger – AADL’s associate director of IT and product development – will represent AADL and the U.S. at an upcoming conference in Australia, Parker said. He’ll be giving a presentation on information technology and digital access in public libraries. [Neiburger later clarified for The Chronicle that he'll be giving the talk at VALA, a group originally known as the Victorian Association for Library Automation, which is now an independent nonprofit that conducts tech education and support conferences. He'll also be speaking at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney. Neiburger noted that expenses for these professional trips are paid for by the conference organizers, not AADL.]
In March, Celeste Choate – associate director of services, collections and access – and DeAnn Doll, manager of human resources, will be speaking at the Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia. They’ll be on a panel about the development of the next generation of librarians, and talking about a partnership between AADL and the University of Michigan’s School of Information. The library recruits UM students twice a year to fill public library associate (PLA) positions.
Parker said she wanted the board to know that library staff are out there in many ways and many places.
Ken Nieman – AADL associate director of finance, HR and operations – noted that because the board didn’t meet in December, the Jan. 16 meeting packet included financial reports from both November and December. [The board held a special meeting on Dec. 8 to approve labor agreements, but canceled its regular Dec. 15 meeting.]
Nieman focused his brief report on the December financial statement. [.pdf of December 2011 financials] The library’s unrestricted cash balance was about $13 million, and AADL has received about 96% of its budgeted tax receipts. Three items that are over budget are expected to come back in line with the budget by the end of the fiscal year, he said. [AADL's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The over-budget items are in communications, software licenses and postage.]
Nieman noted that $44,168 in the line item for grants/memorials reflects a donation from the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library.
Board members had no questions regarding the financial report.
Website Terms-of-Use Policy
Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, briefed board members about a proposed website terms-of-use policy that the board is expected to vote on at its Feb. 20 meeting. [.pdf of draft terms-of-use policy]
AADL director Josie Parker introduced the topic by saying that the need for such a policy reflects the success of the library’s online services. She noted that the policy has been reviewed by the board’s policy committee and the library’s legal counsel.
Neiburger described the policy as a fairly standard attribute of corporate websites. It defines the legal relationship between the website’s users and its owner, and is put in place in case there is any problem regarding the website’s use or content.
Users won’t need to click on an “Accept” button to agree to the terms. Recent case law has indicated that if a link to the terms-of-use policy is included in a website’s footer, by simply using the site you are agreeing to be bound by those terms, Neiburger said. The library retains the right to revise the terms, he noted – the document is not set in stone.
However, the site does include material that is protected by copyright – such as digitized content from the former Ann Arbor News archives. The AADL policy states that the onus is on the user to obtain permission from the copyright holder to use this kind of material.
Other sections of the policy cover guidelines for user-generated content; how copyright complaints will be handled; the policy for website registration, accounts and passwords; issues related to points awarded by the library for its summer reading game and other activities; spamming; external site links; termination of use; disclaimers; and indemnity.
Website Terms-of-Use Policy: Board Questions
Margaret Leary asked whether any aspects of the policy might be considered controversial or unique. Neiburger replied that it’s fairly unique for a library to put its website content into the Creative Commons, and that the item related to library points was also unique because the point-system approach is relatively unique. Also the fact that the policy is brief and clear is somewhat unusual, he said.
Leary asked whether it’s typical for a library to have this kind of policy. It’s typical for corporate sites and large libraries to have a terms-of-use policy, Neiburger said. The decision to develop one for AADL was driven in large part because of issues related to the library’s digitization of the former Ann Arbor News archives, he said, since AADL will be putting a lot of material online for which it doesn’t hold the copyright. Neiburger said that the policy being reviewed by the board differed only slightly from the draft that was prepared by the library’s legal counsel.
Jan Barney Newman, who chairs the board’s policy committee, said the committee was fascinated by the policy’s scope and felt it was important to “get ahead of the game” in implementing this kind of policy. The board anticipates voting on the policy at its Feb. 20 meeting.
AADL Realia Collections
AADL director Josie Parker introduced this agenda item by saying it was prompted by conversations regarding a recent Michigan Radio report on bicycle rentals, which indicated that AADL might start a bike-sharing program. In that context, she felt that the staff should share with the board the types of realia items that the library does circulate, adding “and we don’t circulate bicycles!”
The presentation was given by Celeste Choate, AADL associate director of services, collections and access. Choate noted that the most popular realia collection is the art print collection, which the library has been circulating for over 20 years. Over 500 prints are circulating, and new prints are added every year. Typically 80-90% of that collection is checked out, she said. Each item can be checked out for an eight-week period.
In the past couple of years, the focus has been on acquiring work by local artists, Choate said. It’s possible to search the collection by artist name or the name of the print, or patrons can browse thumbnail images of the prints online.
Another realia collection – of energy meter readers – began with a partnership with the city of Ann Arbor. The city originally gave the library 10 meter readers to distribute, enabling residents to check the amount of energy used by different home appliances. The city later added to the collection to bring the total to 19 meter readers. Most recently, 10 outlet energy meter readers – which resemble a power strip – were added to the collection. [As of Jan. 17, all of the new outlet meter readers were checked out, with 56 holds placed on the items.]
Choate said that in the context of the library’s strategic plan, staff began thinking about how they could increase current realia collections – the art prints and energy meter readers – as well as adding different items that would address the library’s strategic goals of serving the needs of educators and students.
She highlighted some of the newest additions to the collection, including Brain Quest and Fandex educational cards. The 22 Fandex sets include information on dinosaurs, painters, birds, Washington D.C., Africa, the Civil War and a range of other topics. There are 20 Brain Quest sets available, on topics ranging from math and reading basics to general quizzes that “challenge the mind.”
The library also recently added new Science To Go kits to its realia collection. The kits are an outgrowth of Stories to Go kits that were started several years ago with funding from Pfizer, Choate said.
Each Science to Go kit has a theme – prehistoric mammals, for example – with supporting materials that include books, DVDs, Fandex cards, and objects like a replica of a fossilized wooly mammoth tooth and a small-scale model of a wooly mammoth.
Seven topics are available, with two identical kits per topic. They’ve proven to be popular – all kits are checked out, with multiple holds on each, Choate said.
AADL Realia Collections: Board Questions
Jan Barney Newman asked if the AADL staff puts together the science kits. Yes, Choate said. For example, AADL librarian Jody Harnish compiled the materials used in the life cycles kit, which includes examples – preserved in lucite blocks – of bean germination, dragonfly development and other life cycles. Those materials were purchased separately, but Harnish decided what should be included in the kit. AADL director Josie Parker noted that Harnish was also the librarian who designed the popular exhibit of Cecropia moth caterpillars this summer. Kids and families would return to the Traverwood branch multiple times to watch the caterpillars grow through their life cycle, she said.
In response to a question about how the items in the kits are tracked, Choate said that each kit contains a tag that lists all of the items in the kit.
Prue Rosenthal said she was curious about the art prints. What kind of people check out the prints – are they primarily students? Choate replied that a range of people are interested in the prints, including students but also families and businesses. Newman noted that the art print collection was started by the Ladies Library Association.
Barbara Murphy asked about the renewal policy. Choate explained that art prints can’t be renewed, but they circulate for a longer period – eight weeks. Generally, though, there’s no limit to renewals unless other patrons have reserved the item.
Margaret Leary asked Choate to comment on what kinds of realia collections work well for the library, and what might not work. One criteria would be what users want to borrow, for example. Leary ventured that another criteria might be whether the library’s existing infrastructure would support circulation of the collection. However, Leary speculated that some items – like lawnmowers, for instance – wouldn’t be something the library would want to circulate.
Cost is one factor, Choate replied, including how often someone might purchase the item themselves, or how often they might use it. Is it a high-cost item that someone might want to try first, before they buy it – or need to use only one time?
Another factor is how easily the library can move the item through its existing circulation system, including how many copies the library would need and how much space would be required for storage. It sounds mundane, Choate said, but the library isn’t equipped, for example, to provide lawnmower storage. Parker added other factors, including maintenance, parts replacement and how often items are broken.
As for circulation infrastructure, Choate said the goal is that it won’t take longer to check out realia than it does to check out a book or DVD. That’s why the library isn’t circulating chemistry sets, she joked.
Leary said that an item’s potential to do harm might be another consideration, in the context of liability to the library.
Nancy Kaplan asked whether the Science to Go kits are being requested by educators. Choate said the kits have been available starting only about a month ago, so she’s not sure that many teachers know about them yet. One kit per topic is located at the downtown branch, and the second copies of the kits are distributed throughout the branches. For the Brain Quest and Fandex cards, one set of each is available at each branch.
Several board members praised the staff’s efforts, and the board gave Choate a round of applause.
Closed Session Set
At the end of each monthly meeting, the AADL board typically votes to schedule a closed session at its next month’s meeting. On Monday, board members voted to hold a closed session at its Feb. 20 meeting for the purpose of getting the opinion of legal counsel.
Present: Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.
Absent: Rebecca Head
Next meeting: Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]
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