Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 15, 2012): In their last meeting before the Nov. 6 election, board members got an update about the campaign to support AADL’s bond proposal for a new downtown library.
That update came from Ellie Serras, who leads the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee. She had briefed the board previously at its Aug. 20 meeting. If approved by voters on Nov. 6, the $65 million, 30-year bond proposal will fund the demolition of the existing library at 343 S. Fifth and the construction of a new building on that same site.
Speaking during public commentary, Serras catalogued the number of yard signs, buttons, postcard mailings, meetings and other efforts of the campaign. She described the campaign as being built on trust and confidence, “not rumor and innuendo,” and said the new library will be an expression of the community’s core values of education and equal access for all. Serras received a round of applause from board members after her remarks.
The other item tangentially related to the bond proposal was the uncharacteristic absence of AADL director Josie Parker from the meeting. Board president Margaret Leary reported that Parker was attending two separate township meetings that night to talk about the bond proposal. For the most part, the AADL district mirrors the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. In addition to the city of Ann Arbor, the district includes parts of the townships of Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior.
In addition to the bond proposal, there are four seats on the AADL board that are on the Nov. 6 ballot. Four incumbents – Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal – are running for re-election. The fifth candidate is Lyn Davidge, who attended the Oct. 15 meeting but did not speak during public commentary. For Chronicle coverage of a recent League of Women Voters forum on this race, see “Library Board Candidates Compete for 4 Seats.” While the four incumbents support the bond proposal, Davidge does not believe it’s the right project at this time.
During the Oct. 15 meeting, the board also got a brief report on library finances. And Leary notified the board that Parker has been appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Commission for Blind Persons, an advisory group for state programs and services. The AADL administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled.
Update on Campaign for Bond Proposal
By way of background, there are now four campaign committees related to the AADL bond proposal. The Our New Downtown Library committee was the first to form, and supports the effort to build a new library.
The other three committees oppose the new library project. A group called Protect Our Libraries formed in September with Kathy Griswold, a former member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board, serving as treasurer. Douglas Jewett formed a committee called Save the Ann Arbor Library. He is opposed to demolishing the existing building, which he views as architecturally significant. The original portion of the building was designed by Alden B. Dow.
A third committee – called “LOL=Love Our Library” – filed earlier this month. Its treasurer is Sheila Rice, who is also a board member for the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library. FAADL supports the bond proposal.
During public commentary at the AADL board’s Oct. 15 meeting, Ellie Serras of the Our New Downtown Library committee described the group’s support as diverse and widespread, with over 100 contributors. [The committee's first financial statement covered the period through July 20, with $7,500 raised – including $5,000 from Serras. The deadline for the next financial statement is Oct. 26.]
Serras pointed to 30 testimonials from community leaders that are posted on the campaign website. She reported that 500 small yard signs have been distributed, and 25 large signs will be put up soon. Over 35,000 postcards have been mailed, and another 10,000 will be sent out in the next two weeks. Three hundred campaign buttons have been given out, and the committee has reordered more.
Members of the campaign have attended 14 events, done two radio interviews, and written opinion pieces for local media. More events are planned, she said, and volunteers are eager to add more to their calendar. Advertising is being placed in the local media, and volunteers are working at the Ann Arbor farmers market to talk to people about the proposal.
This campaign is built on confidence and trust, Serras said, ”not rumor and innuendo.” Data that’s been collected by library staff – described by Serras as “astute” – make arguments for the proposal all the more powerful and persuasive. It’s clear that the downtown library is booming and that it can’t accommodate the community’s needs, she said. She said the new library will be an expression of the community’s core values: education and equal access to everyone. It will be an exciting place, she said, where ideas collide and and innovation explodes.
Serras commended the board for its leadership in putting this initiative forward at this time. She said it was an honor for her to be part of an advocacy group for this great institution.
Update on Campaign for Bond Proposal: Board Response
Board members gave Serras a round of applause after her remarks.
Nancy Kaplan asked how people might contact the committee to get involved. Serras directed people to the campaign’s website, noting that you can post a comment or email her directly. The campaign can arrange for someone to attend a meeting or meet with people individually, she said.
Board president Margaret Leary noted that none of the board committees had met since last month’s meeting, so there was nothing to report.
She observed that AADL director Josie Parker was absent, and reported that Parker was meeting with groups in two townships that same evening to talk about the Nov. 6 bond proposal.
Leary also reported that Parker had recently been appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Commission for Blind Persons, an advisory group for state programs and services. The AADL administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled.
From the press release announcing the appointments: “Under her leadership, the Ann Arbor District Library and Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled have received local and national recognition for adopting new technologies which provide special services to a broader population, including K-12 students.”
Leary said the appointment is an honor for Parker and AADL, reflecting her commitment to high-quality service and AADL’s willingness to take on the WLBPD when Washtenaw County government decided they could no longer administer it due to budget cuts. The county board of commissioners approved eliminating support for the WLBPD in late 2008, estimating it would save the county about $500,000 by transferring services to the AADL.
Ken Nieman – AADL associate director of finance, HR and operations – gave a brief financial update to the board. [.pdf of finance report] He noted that through the end of September, the library has received 77% of its budgeted tax receipts – or $8.646 million. AADL’s fund balance stood at $8.035 million as of Sept. 30.
Four items were over budget, he said, but are expected to come back in line with budgeted amounts by the end of the fiscal year. Those line items are utilities, communications, library programming and grant expenses, and a line item for “other operating expenses.”
Board members had no questions for Nieman about the financial report.
Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell.
Next meeting: Monday, Nov. 19, 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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