Committee Formed Against Library Millage

The Washtenaw County clerk’s office has confirmed the filing – on Sept. 13, 2012 – of a ballot question committee Protect Our Libraries. The group opposes the ballot proposal that the Ann Arbor District Library is asking voters to approve on Nov. 6. The AADL is requesting that voters approve $65 million in bonds for construction of a new downtown library building on its current site at 343 S. Fifth Ave.

Listed as treasurer of the group is Kathy Griswold, a former Ann Arbor Public Schools board member. She also served as campaign manager for Sumi Kailasapathy’s Ward 1 Ann Arbor city council Democratic primary election campaign, which Kailasapathy won on Aug. 7. The URL for the group will be, but was purchased just last week and does not yet have content.

A campaign committee to support the library’s proposal was formed in the summer. Called  Our New Downtown Library, the committee is being chaired by Ellie Serras. For more background about the library’s bond proposal, see Chronicle coverage: “Library Bond Move Toward Nov. 6 Ballot.”


  1. September 17, 2012 at 11:04 am | permalink

    It’s interesting that they’re calling themselves “Protect Our Libraries”, seems to me that spending to improve and expand the downtown library shows not only a commitment to protect it, but increase it’s relevancy to the community.

  2. By Betsy Jackson
    September 17, 2012 at 11:20 am | permalink

    I find it sad that opposing forces feel a need to invoke fear and loss as a means for making their point. Mr. Baker’s right; the bond proposal IS a proposal for protecting the relevance of the public library in Ann Arbor life by making sure that the downtown library is meeting the needs of the public now and into the future. The “pro” bond campaign uses only positive, community-building messages. Too bad the opposition works from a base of fear…

  3. September 17, 2012 at 11:42 am | permalink

    Just a quibble with the headline: It should read “Bond Proposal”, not “Millage”.

    As a former Library Board member (2000-2008) I oppose the millage and am supporting the “no” campaign. The total cost to taxpayers will be about $130 million because the Library has to pay interest on the money it will be borrowing if this proposal passes.

    I don’t think this large cost is worth it for the majority of taxpayers. Most of the things the Library says would be possible in a new building involve what is called “programming” – a 400-seat auditorium, meeting spaces, a cafe, and a media lab. I don’t think these items are part of the “main mission” of the Libary: circulation of books and materials, and provision of Internet access. Only a minority will use these new facilities.

    During 2007-2008, the Board had extensive discussions about a proposed replacement Downtown Library, and authorized some preliminary design work. After I left the Board, it wisely decided to stop work on the project because of the Great Recession. That recession is still with us. Many households are still on the financial edge.

    So I do not think it is appropriate to proceed with this project. I urge a “no” vote on November 6.

  4. September 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm | permalink

    I’d have a quibble with your “main mission” of libraries Dave; they are much more than just book warehouses. The mission of a public library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. “Programming” is a huge aspect of that.

    Also, since you acknowledge that internet access is part of the main mission, and the current building was designed and built before the internet was even a concept, I hope you’ll at least concede that the usage and implementation of libraries has changed, and will forever be changing, but the mission has always been to inspire the pursuit of knowledge.

  5. By Alan Goldsmith
    September 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm | permalink

    Land is ‘too expensive’ for a new west side library branch but it’s not ‘too expensive’ to tear down a recently constructed building for a new one. Got it.

  6. September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm | permalink

    We love our West Branch. It is convenient and accessible.

  7. September 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm | permalink

    Alan, what is your definition of “recently constructed”? The downtown library was built in 1958, West Branch opened in 1977.

  8. By George Hammond
    September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm | permalink

    So “Protect Our Libraries” is really “don’t replace our 54 year old main branch building”? What obnoxious doublethink.

  9. By Alan Goldsmith
    September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm | permalink

    A portion was built in 1957, the rest in 1990. And the West Branch is a clothes closet, in rented space and tucked into a strip mall. The Library used the argument that land cost to much to replace the West Branch. This isn’t about hating books and libraries. It’s about wise use of limited taxpayer resources and demanding accountability, both of which seem to me in a limited amount from local institutions.

  10. By Tom Whitaker
    September 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm | permalink

    How much would a renovation cost? I hear the estimate for that was half the cost of new. If an auditorium is really necessary, why not build it on the back side, which is currently a sloped parking lot for staff? Or how about partnering with UM, whose many classrooms and auditoriums sit largely empty in the evening and on weekends?

    How does throwing a serviceable building into the landfill “advance knowledge or strengthen the community”–especially when the building was designed by a noted Michigan architect? Fifty-four years is the blink of an eye compared to the age of so many other buildings in cities that value them.

    Whatever happened to sustainability, reduce-reuse-recycle, saving energy, reducing landfill input, etc., etc.? I don’t even know this town anymore. Building after building, house after house, gone and replaced with cheapness and ugliness, or vacant lots.

    Finally, and this is a serious question: What will become of the dozens of homeless that currently use the library as a day shelter? Is the library board simply going to tear down the building and not even consider the impact on the homeless community or in turn, the city as a whole?

  11. By Steve Bean
    September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    @10: Cheers, Tom.

  12. September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm | permalink

    Tom, the current building is not serviceable, that is part of the point. Three stages of building and expansion (all pre-internet, computers, and Americans with Disability Act) have left it an unsustainable mess of infrastructure.

    There is a video tour of the ‘under belly’ of the library that shows just how inefficient the current library building is. [video]

    And last I’d heard, renovations would cost over 85% of what a new building would require.

  13. By John Floyd
    September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm | permalink

    Not sure I get the connection between a library, and an in-house conference center. Assuming there is not sufficient space in town for public meetings (e.g., the three high school auditoriums, the five middle school auditoriums, either of the two spaces at the Michigan Theater, church halls and sanctuaries, council chambers – and has anyone noticed that there is a public university in Ann Arbor?), what makes the library building the place for a civic conference center?

    The extensiveness of the conference facility gives the impression of a back-door attempt to build a tax-supported conference center, the kind that faced community opposition when it was attempted next door. As an occasional user of the downtown library, the case for the obsolescence of the current facility is non-obvious. I have not heard of a strong argument for this new “Library” that is not built around the conference center. If a reader of this column can present such an argument (i.e., one NOT relying on a new conference facility as its main, or even a merely important, driver), I would be pleased to read it. Frankly, housing computer servers seems more closely related to a library’s true function than building a conference center, but I have not heard of a server room for the new “Library”.

    Trying to link a conference center with a new library enables the tactic of calling those who oppose a tax-subsidized conference center, “Book Burners”, which seems to be the direction in which comments on this site are heading. This tactic does not help build the case for a new library, and it is unhelpful for the healing our injured and degraded civic culture.

    Similarly, while I appreciate that the library has been used as a warming center for the homeless, this seems no more like a core mission of a library than the building and operation of a tax-subsidized civic conference center. If we need a warming center, why not build one that can better serve that constituency’s needs (sleep, rest rooms, showers, laundry, food, a semblance of order, mental health services, social services, etc.) vs. a facility built around around books, research, and information.

    The university holds many conferences; they generally are not at their libraries. Many places in Ann Arbor offer mental health or social services on one kind or another: they generally do not house general-interest libraries. Why are we linking these three unrelated functions to the same structure?

  14. By SteveP
    September 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm | permalink

    For the internet use age downtown, I like this concept the NY public library uses for reserving a computer – [link] Can we look at something similar to this instead of just having a new library with a ton of computer sprawl?

  15. By Marvin Face
    September 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm | permalink

    I’ll predict that the bond proposal passes pretty easily but I’ll agree with points others have already made. I agree with Peter’s definition of mission. Libraries are increasingly becoming places to learn in multiple ways so if they need auditoria, multi-purpose rooms, space for bums to cruise internet porn, etc. that’s fine.

    I agree with Tom that it seems a terrible waste to demolish a building that seems to have much life left in it. I believe they say that the most sustainable building is the one that is never built. However, I have no love of Alden Dow, whether he is a “noted Michigan Architect” or not. All his buildings in Ann Arbor (think Fleming Admin Bldg at UM, old City Hall, Library Main Branch) have major functionality flaws which could be forgiven if they contributed aesthetic quality, which they don’t.

    I agree with Dave Cahill (oof!) that material and book circulation is the main mission.

    What if they were to renovate the building to place all their wanted improvements within it, had a great new kids/young adults section, and gross internet area and a really nice big area to pick up requested material? Then the rest of the material could be housed in a cheap remote warehouse. I don’t believe, other than my kids, I have ever looked for a book on the shelves. Internet request is where it’s at.

  16. September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm | permalink

    John, I really don’t understand where the conflation of a conference center and this library building has come from. No where in any plan has a conference center been schemed. The auditorium that the plans call for is to be used for library events (of which there are many). In fact, the plans for a new library building were under way in 2008, *before* talk of any downtown conference center was every concocted.

    Also no where in the plans for a new library building is anything regarding a homeless shelter. So again, I’m not sure where you’re getting that.

    It’s not a convention center. It’s not a homeless shelter. Period.

  17. By glenn thompson
    September 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm | permalink

    I have to go with Mr. Cahill and others on this one.

    Let’s remember approximately one half of the present library was built in the 1990′s. The rest was extensively remodeled at same time. We are talking about demolishing a building that is mostly 20 years old. Think how enjoyable Main Street would be if we demolished all the buildings even 100 years old and replaced them with new buildings like the Municipal center and its public art. Can the citizens of Ann Arbor afford the taxes to keep replacing public buildings that are only a few decades old? How old is your house?

    The proposed new building is is not about embracing electronic media and the internet, in fact it is the opposite. It is about a large auditorium when more and more conferences are now electronic web casts. The library director and the board of directors have refused to even cablecast their board meetings even though the board room is the best audio and camera wired public room in Ann Arbor. The current computer room is a disgrace, while much greater and better space is dedicated to storage of obsolete tapes and old paper backs. This is avoiding and ignoring technology, not embracing it. A new building with the same people in charge will not change this.

    The building model with large a large auditorium and meeting rooms is more a conference center than a library. A conference center that the private sector would not build on the lot next to the library without public subsidy because it was not profitable. A conference center that the public was unwilling to pay taxes to build, so now it our library wants to build the same facilities under tax disguised as a library bond proposal.

    Remember, building a new library will require demolishing the existing building. The downtown library will not exist for a year or more. Will the patrons return, or will they discover the internet at home or at the branch libraries? Money spent for auditoriums used a few times a year will diminish children’s programs and other traditional library programs. I believe the opposition is correct in their slogan “Protect our Library”.

  18. By Tom Whitaker
    September 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm | permalink

    OK, Peter, let’s go with your figure of renovation costing 85% of new. That’s a $9,750,000 savings (or almost $20 million with interest). I’m good with that, but I suspect the actual cost is even less than that. Why would any responsible public official not want to save the taxpayers $20 million?

    And I’m sorry to say that the library is indeed a homeless day shelter, whether anyone likes it or not. When it closes for demolition, or a comprehensive renovation, those people will be looking for a place to go. I don’t think this should necessarily influence the decision on what to do with the library, but it’s an elephant in the room that shouldn’t be ignored and another potential cost that will need to come from one ‘bucket’ or another.

  19. By John Floyd
    September 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm | permalink

    @16Mr. Baker

    The “conflation of a conference center and this library building” come from two sources:

    1) the nature and size of the the conference center that the library board proposes to build (“The extensiveness of the conference facility gives the impression of a back-door attempt to build a tax-supported conference center”); and

    2) the letter from Valiant Partners to Steven Rapundalo, [link], which references the proposed “library” as an annex to their proposal. Note also that the letter states that “The need for a downtown conference center has been in discussion for more than 40 years” [see the second paragraph]. This pre-dates 2008.

    Again, I am waiting for an argument in favor of a new “Library” that does not hinge on the conference center it includes. I would also like to hear why existing meeting spaces are inadequate for the community meetings that now take place, and why only the “Library” can be the place where community meetings take place.

  20. September 17, 2012 at 9:33 pm | permalink

    Tom, it has never been part of the mission of the Library to be a day shelter. Several years ago, when I was still on the Library Board, we had to start hiring security people to control the homeless and their ilk. They are not in the Library to use its services, and they tend to get into fights with each other when they bring their conflicts inside the building.

  21. By abc
    September 18, 2012 at 7:34 am | permalink


    What they say is that the most sustainable building is the one that IS ALREADY built.

  22. September 18, 2012 at 8:22 am | permalink

    Again, a 400-seat auditorium does NOT a convention center make.

  23. By Tom Whitaker
    September 18, 2012 at 9:55 am | permalink

    I never said it SHOULD be a shelter, or that the library should be forced to take on this role in the community. But the fact is, it serves as a de facto shelter now, like many libraries in other cities. These people will be displaced to some other location(s) during construction and will likely return to any new or renovated facility. Where will they go? There was a similar lack of foresight when the City tore down the Y and it cost us a lot of money and the housing units there have never been replaced, which is probably also contributing to the library’s burden.

  24. By Rod Johnson
    September 18, 2012 at 11:00 am | permalink

    We should be looking for opportunities like this. :-|

  25. By A2Person
    September 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm | permalink

    Rod, while that looks like a great use of wasted space, it does not take the place of a great downtown library. A vibrant, bustling downtown library (like ours) brings people to the area and adds tremendously to our downtown. I am there probably weekly, and once I’m there at the library, I inevitably stop at various other downtown businesses for various reasons. I’m still torn about replacing the building (mostly because I fear a glass-heavy vacuous space without the wonderful emphasis on BOOKS that our current downtown branch has), but I would not support a giant library out by the highway somewhere. Yuck.

  26. By retiredlibrarian
    September 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm | permalink

    The huge amount demolition waste, ‘recycled’ or not, bothers me as does the lack of any plan or program specifics. While it may sound old school, the lack of any mention of books–those BiO Optic Knowledge devices is also of concern.

  27. By Rod Johnson
    September 18, 2012 at 11:01 pm | permalink

    Sorry, I kept my face too straight there. It’s actually a wonderful thing for a fairly poor town like McAllen, but it wouldn’t fly here. For one thing, can you imagine having to heat it?

  28. By Donald Harrison
    September 19, 2012 at 11:56 am | permalink

    There will be a LOT of books if the downtown library is rebuilt. AADL leadership is on record as saying they will have books for as long as they can buy them and people want them. But libraries are also evolving into more than just books and the AADL is at the forefront of this conversation.

    The AADL has not presented designs/specifics about a new downtown library, as the voters have not said to build it yet. That would have wasted time and money. If we voters say “make do” for another decade, the AADL will find ways to continue band-aiding the downtown facility to get the most from a structure that’s outdated and reached capacity.

    I think Ann Arbor citizens expect excellence from our City, our cultural institutions and each other. We don’t live here to be part of an average community. It’s time to invest in a central library designed for the 21st century.

  29. September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm | permalink

    It’s my understanding that if this is passed, the main library will be torn down and unavailable for a period of 3-5 years???!!!

  30. By Mary Morgan
    September 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm | permalink

    Re. “..the main library will be torn down and unavailable for a period of 3-5 years???!!!”

    At one of the public forums held this summer, AADL director Josie Parker laid out the possible timeline. This is from The Chronicle’s report previewing the board vote that put the bond proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot:

    At the June 9 public forum, AADL director Josie Parker had laid out a possible timeline for a downtown building project. The board would need to engage an architect and construction management firm, and start talking about what the building would look like, how big it would be, and what would go in it. Developing a schematic design could take about 18 months.

    During that time, the library would secure temporary locations at other sites to continue the downtown library’s operations and services, and the existing building would be demolished. Based on the AADL’s experience building other branches, Parker estimated it would take another 18-24 months to build the new structure. The entire process could take four to five years, depending on how long the design phase takes, and on the weather, which is a big factor in Michigan, she said.

    Parker told the June 9 forum attendees that the library would try to keep as much programming as possible, but most of the downtown collection would be stored off-site. Patrons could request items via the AADL website, and pick up materials at any of the other branches. So the library would be moving more materials throughout the system, she said, which will be a huge logistical challenge, but the staff would handle it.

  31. September 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm | permalink

    When I ran (or perhaps I should say filed) for the AADL board in 2010, one of my major positions was in opposition to building a new library building. I have not seen any information that has caused me to change my mind.

    One of the major reasons for my opposition is the shift from emphasis on collections (not just books, but other media and now even objects) to activities. The auditorium is just one aspect of that.

    I just received the postcard urging my vote. It literally does not mention books (though it does mention a reading room). It cites “changing technology and media needs”, which seems to be a pointer toward online and digital media, though not with any specificity.And from what is reported here, much of the collection will even be relatively inaccessible for years.

    In many centuries of library history, the conservation and availability of books has been the main purpose of libraries. Now we can supplement that with many forms of digital media. But collections and access to a broad range of published work is the essential core of why we want to have a library.

    The “new library” seems to be focused on some other vision, especially aimed at group activities and even training programs. Perhaps that is why some opponents have evoked the conference center ghost.

    Comment #28 said,

    “I think Ann Arbor citizens expect excellence from our City, our cultural institutions and each other. We don’t live here to be part of an average community. It’s time to invest in a central library designed for the 21st century.”

    There are a number of “dog whistles” here. Excellence. Not average. 21st century. But they seem to relate to some other vision (perhaps business development?) than making books and related media available to the broadest population.

  32. September 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm | permalink has been running a poll asking people whether or not they supported the proposed library bond issue. As of yesterday, when the poll was off’s front page, there had been 1300 votes cast.

    40% said yes.

    43% said no.

    This is an “opt-in” poll and is likely to attract people who are opinion leaders. So at the point the bond proposal is in serious trouble.

    Plus, with a Marvin Face – Dave Cahill alliance not in favor of the proposal, it is plainly doomed.

  33. By Donald Harrison
    September 21, 2012 at 12:24 am | permalink

    I think that many people in the greater Ann Arbor area care about living in a community with high standards of excellence. I don’t know about “dog whistles” but as an independent artist in Ann Arbor, I know the value of having great shared resources. The AADL is a fantastic provider of info, archives, artworks, events, media, tools (energy meters, telescopes, music instruments) and, yes, tens of thousands of books. A new downtown facility would enable greater access to the books and physical archives, to having enough bathrooms and comfortable facilities, to accommodating increased demands for electricity, technology and spaces to serve 600,000+ visitors per year.

  34. By Donna Estabrook
    September 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm | permalink

    Whether we have a new library building or not, a public library is public space and is open to EVERYONE. If you were homeless, where would you choose to go in bad/cold/hot weather? There is the bus station waiting room, or a cafe if you can scrape up enough money for an (expensive)coffee. I would choose the library. The security staff are there to deal with those whose behavior is not acceptable – and these are not always homeless people. No, a day shelter is not a reason for building a library but a library is a defacto day shelter because it is a public space. I don’t think that the topic of homeless people in the library has any bearing on the issue of building/not building a new facility.

  35. By Jeff Crockett
    September 22, 2012 at 9:57 am | permalink

    I take issue with Mr. Cahill’s premise that the “main mission” of the Libary is to circulate books and materials and provide Internet access. In my opinion, and we can debate this, it represents an older view of what the library used to represent. Through that lens, I understand why many may object to rebuilding the library.

    I would argue that the mission of the library should be to provide universal access to information in multiple formats to a diverse community which includes people with disabilities who have difficulty accessing information in conventional ways.

    After 37 years in special education, during which I specialized in Assistive Technology, I have seen how technology and the principle of universal design of architecture can sigificantly reduce the challenge of people with disabilities to get access to information that most of us take for granted. Many of these folks don’t have access at home and depend on the library to get access to information in a format that is friendly to them. If some of you were to spend just one day experiencing what some of the folks go through, I would expect that the cost of building a modern, universally designed libary building would become less important. Many of us love Ann Arbor because of the diversity within our community. Passing the bond proposal to build a new library that demonstratively supports diversity may encourage other communities to do the same.

  36. September 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | permalink

    Jeff, I was also concerned about access to people with disabilities in the existing library. I asked Josie Parker about this online (twice), and she could not come up with any serious problems.

  37. By Jeff Crockett
    September 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm | permalink

    David, I am pleased that we share a concern about library access for people with disabilities. It’s a significant, complicated issue. For example, a quick Google search brought the following links outlining guidelines for library access for people with disabilities:

    [link 1]
    [link 2]
    [link 3]

    My concern was raised when I recently heard Josie speak at a bond information gathering. Aside from the problem she raised about the patchwork of heating equipment that doesn’t “talk” to one another, she indicated that the elevator is not large enough to suitable accommodate wheel chairs and people who assist disabled individuals.

    But, as described in the internet links, equitable access is far more complicated than that. From my experience with universal design in education, I do know that it is very difficult if not impossible to adequately retrofit an older building with universally designed features.

    Of course, what is missing from this discussion are the voices of the disabled people who have used the library for years and those who would like to but can’t due to insufficient facilities. I would like to hear from them.

    So, for me, it gets down to this. We have an opportunity to create a state of the art facility that accommodates people with disabilities. I would rather risk spending a little more to build a new facility with the latest accessibility design features than to retrofit an older building with a half baked design that provides only token access.

  38. September 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm | permalink

    I heard that Josie conceded that the elevator is large enough to accommodate wheelchairs. She didn’t post that as a concern of hers on line.

    I would much rather spend a reasonable amount improving accessibility in the existing library than spend $130 million on a replacement building.

  39. September 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm | permalink

    The Downtown Library is the most under utilized branch in the AADL system. While it gets the most users it should be evaluated on a use per sq. ft basis—just as businesses use a sales per sq. ft metric.

    The Downtown Library is over 113,000 sq. ft. but I’ll assume only 60,000 is available for patron use ( anything more and the below numbers will look worse, less and we’re really talking about a Administration Bldg.) Because no other information is available I’ll also assume the entire sq. footage of the other branches are available for patron usage. With those assumptions we get the following data:

    West Branch.......40.7
    Mallets Creek.....23.1
    Downtown.......... 9.6
    West Branch.......75.3
    Mallets Creek.....57.6
    Mallets Creek.....2548
    West Branch.......2473

    The DOWNTOWN LIBRARY had declines in these three areas from FY2011 to FY2012

    Down 2.4 % in visits
    Down 7.9 % in items circulated
    Down 10.4 % in workstation usage

    One area where the Library system has had increased numbers is PROGRAM ATTENDANCE, but as David Cahill pointed out this a pretty small minority. In FY2012 program attendance accounted for only 4.8 % of total visits to all branches.

    While the Library has reported 26,000 visitors to 500 programs/events at the Downtown Library in FY2011 that’s only 52 visitors per event, which to me, doesn’t seem to make the case for a 400+ seat auditorium.

    I believe some renovation is needed at the Downtown Library, but the above numbers question the need for a brand new facility. Rather, if investment is to be made it should probably be in the AADL branch system.

  40. By Rod Johnson
    September 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm | permalink

    Mr. Diephus’ numbers come from a period when the Library Lot construction made it difficult to park and unpleasant to get to the main library at all. It would be interesting to the the same numbers for the last several years, starting before construction.

  41. By David Diephuis
    September 24, 2012 at 11:42 pm | permalink

    @40 Mr. Rod Johnson….

    Interestingly, the Downtown Library’s recent peak of visits occurred in FY2010, almost 650,000 visits, a year in which the Library Lot was closed for 10 months of the FY. Construction may have had some impact on visits as they were down by almost 75,000 by FY2012.

    But here’s some data for FY2009, the first year for the Traverwood branch and prior to the closing of the Library Lot, and later, the closing of 5th Avenue. My assumptions about square footage are constant with my previous post.

    West Branch............38.7
    Mallets ...............21.1
    West Branch............65.4

    I don’t have information about the number of workstations at each Library for 2009 to calculate a per station use.

    While the numbers are a little better for the Downtown Library, I don’t think they contradict my contention that the Downtown Library is the least utilized library in the system on a per square foot basis.

  42. By Rod Johnson
    September 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the update.

  43. By A2Person
    September 25, 2012 at 9:38 am | permalink

    I’m not sure what the point is of the circulation and visits per square foot argument. The downtown branch is obviously bigger because it has the vast bulk of the collection. People can request books at various branches, and they are brought from downtown. But if you want to browse a topic, downtown is obviously the place to look. It also has the Friends bookstore, more meeting spaces, etc. I don’t find the argument particularly compelling.

  44. By David Diephuis
    September 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | permalink


    1) The AADL”s own facts and figures info sheet says that the Downtown Library has 56% of total items available for checkout. I would not consider that the “vast bulk” of the collection. If you take into account the square footage of the various branches in the system, 56% for Downtown is an average to low figure.

    2) One of the points being made in support of the Library millage is that the Downtown Library is heavily used, near capacity, and numbers like 600,000 visitors or 30% of total internet sessions, etc. are being used to support that claim. But as the data shows, if you take into account the space available for “customers”, the Downtown Library is, by far, the least busy in the system.

    3)EVEN IF a large number of items are being brought from downtown to the branches isn’t that indicative that people prefer doing their “business” at the branches? For me, that’s one of my underlying points—-people appear to love the Branch Libraries, they visit and use them with a much greater frequency than the Downtown library. Since branches seem to be where the action is, I think they should be the first focus of any future capital investment.

  45. September 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm | permalink

    David -

    I don’t find the circulation per square foot numbers compelling. If I did, then I’d be advocating for library kiosks scattered throughout the city where one person in a drive-through hands out books on hold and takes book returns. Just think of the circ per square foot you could get if you minimized the square footage of the library.

  46. By David Diephuis
    September 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm | permalink


    Actually, your kiosk idea sounds kinda cool—except for the drive thru part and the attendant. But wouldn’t if great if there were library kiosks similar to those red DVD dispensers, where, within easy walkling distance you could pick up reserved library material with a swipe of the library card and drop off returns?

    By evaluating the available data I’m trying to understand where library patrons prefer to get materials and services. What is the efficacy of each branch in providing those materials and services? While items circulated per sq ft may not, by itself, be the most compelling datapoint, in concert with the other figures there is an indication to me that people prefer going to the branches rather than the Downtown Library.

    Are there metrics you would suggest using in evaluating the relative usage and effectiveness of the AADL’s branches, including downtown?

  47. By Steve Bean
    September 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm | permalink

    @45: (Wow, 45 already) Ed, the Pittsfield branch is “testing out a new service” in which outdoor lockers allow for after-hours pickup of pre-checked-out, reserved materials. The kiosks you suggest wouldn’t even need to be staffed. Potentially, public school buildings (public, widely dispersed, and within walking distance for many AADL district residents) could have a small space added on to serve that purpose, possibly in conjunction with their own school libraries.

  48. By Lyn Davidge
    September 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm | permalink

    Believe it or not, I’ve heard of drive-thru book pickups in (an)other public library(libraries). I’ll try to find the link again.

  49. By A2Person
    September 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm | permalink

    Ugh. I love the downtown branch. I am not at all crazy about the West branch (I’m between the two). When I want to browse on a topic, help my kid with research, check out the music selections, find something new to be inspired by, etc etc…. I go downtown. Having a large, busy downtown library is a huge boost to the quality of life in A2, IMHO. Kiosks? Yuck.

  50. September 25, 2012 at 10:12 pm | permalink

    Yes, the downtown library is a treasure. It still has the reference desk and many special sections. What I like about the West Branch is its convenience for checking out materials in the course of my daily rounds. (Going downtown requires either a complicated bus schedule or ever more expensive parking.) If I had any specialized task at all, I’d definitely go downtown. But I use the AADL’s excellent online catalog and reservation system for the everyday items I want to check out, and the West Branch fits in nicely between Nicola’s, Barry Bagels, Mast Shoes, and Kroger.

  51. By Steve Bean
    September 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm | permalink

    @46: “While items circulated per sq ft may not, by itself, be the most compelling datapoint, in concert with the other figures there is an indication to me that people prefer going to the branches rather than the Downtown Library.”

    That would be *some* people, not all, and whether it’s a matter of preference, simple convenience (e.g., proximity), or something else is unclear. You’re generalizing beyond usefulness, David.

  52. By Emily Puckett Rodgers
    September 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm | permalink

    I just opened the latest issue of Library Journal and the cover article starts with: “From collecting in an era of scarce resources to curation in an era of overabundant ones, some libraries are moving to incorporate co-creation…”. Libraries, whether we realize it or not, are about serving the longstanding AND emergent needs of their communities. AADL has been a consistent leader in the public library world, providing access to a range of collections (music instruments, housing the library for the blind and physically disabled, etc.) and developing effective, targeted services. I’m fully in support of a new building to serve as the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, especially as a citizen who uses the West branch and the downtown branch on a weekly basis.

  53. By John Floyd
    September 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm | permalink

    The “Evolving library” line of thinking gives me the impression that we have a board in search of a mission, e.g. “People don’t read books any more, so we will go into the business of providing meeting space.”

    You can update an awful lot of mechanicals, and install a lot of fiber optic cable, for $10 million or so. As others have pointed out, the full cost of the library will not be the $65 million construction cost, but the $130 million of construction plus interest.

    If the library board believes that its mission is becoming obsolete, that sounds more like an argument for scaling back, not doubling down to enter a new line of business that is, in the end, really not at all related to providing books and periodicals, in what ever form.