Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 24, 2012): The public session of Monday’s library board meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Although just six weeks remain before the Nov. 6 election – when voters will weigh in on a $65 million bond proposal for a new downtown library – that issue received scant mention.
But the bond proposal could be seen as the backdrop for a report by AADL director Josie Parker, who provided an update of the district’s five-year strategic plan, which the board adopted in 2010. Parker distributed a copy of the plan that highlighted achievements from the most recent fiscal year. “Our reach in the community is deep and it’s wide,” she said. “The strategic plan is our evidence.” [.pdf of highlighted strategic plan]
Board president Margaret Leary noted that as the community’s attention is rightly focused on the bond proposal, the goal of renovating or replacing the downtown building is only one item in the strategic plan. There are seven pages of actions that the library is taking, she said.
At last month’s board meeting Ellie Serras, chair of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee, spoke during public commentary to brief the board on actions of that pro-bond group. And since then, two other efforts – to oppose the proposal – have emerged. A group called Protect Our Libraries was formed earlier this month. Its treasurer is Kathy Griswold, a former member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board.
And Douglas Jewett, who had attended an August forum for potential AADL board candidates, filed paperwork on Sept. 25 for the Save the Ann Arbor Library ballot question committee. He did not file to run for the board. He previously had secured a sidewalk vendor permit on Aug. 20 for space in front of the downtown library at 343 S. Fifth. He uses the space to lobby against demolition of the current building, citing its architectural significance. The original portion of the building was designed by Alden B. Dow.
At the candidate forum, Jewett had praised the library, calling it the center of Ann Arbor. Four non-partisan board seats on the Nov. 6 ballot will be contested by five candidates: the four incumbents – Prue Rosenthal, Margaret Leary, Nancy Kaplan and Rebecca Head – as well as Lyn Davidge, who attended the Sept. 24 board meeting.
The positions will be elected by voters in Ann Arbor and portions of seven townships that are covered by the library’s district, in Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior. Those are the same boundaries served by the Ann Arbor Public Schools, with the exception of Northfield Township. The four-year terms begin Jan. 1, 2013.
Josie Parker began her director’s report by highlighting a newsletter distributed by the National Library Service. A section titled “Best Practices from the Network: Spreading the Word about NLS” featured tips from Terry Soave, AADL’s manager of outreach and neighborhood services, about getting coverage for the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which is operated by AADL and serves over 400 people. [Celeste Choate, associate director of services, collections and access, had briefed the board in August about a recent satisfaction survey for WLBPD patrons.]
The National Library Service had reached out to AADL to be featured in its newsletter, Parker said, even though the library has only administered the WLBPD for three years. The newsletter listed a dozen items of advice from Soave about how to promote programs or services. The WLBPD had been covered in a June 2012 e-newsletter of the Homewatch Caregivers of Ann Arbor.
The board gave Soave and her staff a round of applause.
Parker also pointed to a handout of the district’s five-year strategic plan – actions that had occurred in the past fiscal year were highlighted in yellow. [.pdf of highlighted strategic plan]
The document shows how active the AADL staff has been in addressing all elements of the strategic plan, Parker said. ”Our reach in the community is deep and it’s wide,” she said. “The strategic plan is our evidence.”
She noted that some things might seem small, but in fact have broader implications. One example was securing the right to make the movie “Grown in Detroit” available for online streaming by AADL cardholders. It shows how AADL is working to bring different kinds of media to the public, in avenues that aren’t traditional, she said. [Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, had described some of these initiatives in more detail during a presentation at the board's Aug. 20, 2012 meeting.]
Here’s a sampling of strategic-plan actions that were accomplished during the past fiscal year:
- Added all branches to the possible pickup locations for Art Prints.
- Developed and launched Science to Go kit collection in late 2011.
- Launched telescope collection for beginning users and hobbyists.
- Hosted a meeting of area ESL [English as a second language] service providers and educators in order to exchange information and promote AADL resources.
- Launched oldnews.aadl.org with over 100,000 local newspaper articles in October 2011.
- Developed a new sensory play event for children with autism.
- Developed an extremely popular event on funding for non-profits that was repeated several times due to demand.
- Provided a panel discussion on the homelessness issue in Washtenaw County in conjunction with the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. AADL also videotaped the event and as of June 27 (a little over 5 months after the event took place) the video has been viewed over 1,000 times.
- Placed withdrawn AADL materials with homeless students via AAPS Homeless Liaison.
- Partnered with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital to provide storytelling at regularly scheduled events for patients and their families.
- Added collecting samples of each track into music cataloging workflow for inclusion in the catalog.
- Secured a grant from American Library Association and National Endowment for the Humanities to act as a focus group for book selection for the NEH Muslim Journeys Project.
- Conducted a WLBPD Patron Satisfaction Survey. (37% of WLBPD patrons responded.)
- Host a local listserv for Library Biz Connect, a group comprised of small business and entrepreneur-related support service-providers and libraries that shares information about their respective programs and resources; and, also partners on programming.
Margaret Leary, the board’s president, highlighted a couple of initiatives that she said reflect AADL’s work with the Ann Arbor Public Schools: (1) partnering with Mack School to teach fifth graders how to capture and record family stories, using traditional and modern techniques, including podcasting; and (2) partnering with AAPS, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the VA Hospital to develop and deliver Valentine’s cards made by local kids to hospital patients.
Leary noted that the community’s attention is focused on the bond proposal, which is important. But that’s just a single goal under one of six strategic initiatives. There are seven pages of other activities that the library is pursuing too, she said.
Finance & Facilities Reports
As he does each month, Ken Nieman – AADL associate director of finance, HR and operations – gave a brief financial update to the board. [.pdf of finance report]
He noted a sharp increase in AADL’s unrestricted cash balance – from $8.132 million in July to $13.295 million by the end of August. This reflects the receipt of proceeds from the July tax bills. As of Aug. 30, the AADL had received 64% of its budgeted tax revenues for the fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2013.
Five items were over budget, but are expected to come back in line with budgeted amounts by the end of the fiscal year, Nieman said. Those line items include employment costs, utilities, communications, and library programming and grant expenses.
In all, Nieman concluded, August was business as usual.
Later in the meeting, board member Barbara Murphy gave an update from the board’s budget and finance committee. She noted that a financial audit is currently underway, and will be presented to the board in November.
Prue Rosenthal reported from the special facilities committee, on which she, Ed Surovell and Nancy Kaplan serve. Speaking in very general terms, she said the committee had met and discussed the state of the downtown building, what can be done about it and how to move forward.
Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.
Next meeting: Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]
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