Ann Arbor Library Bond Proposal Defeated

Two items on the Nov. 6 ballot related to the Ann Arbor District Library: a $65 million bond proposal for construction of a new downtown library, and the election of four positions on the AADL board of trustees.

The $65 million, 30-year bond proposal was rejected, gaining support from 33,604 voters (44.83%), with 41,359 votes (55.17%) cast against it. Support inside the city of Ann Arbor was slightly stronger, with 46.4% voting for the proposal compared with 41.2% voting for it outside the city. 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.

The funds would have paid for the demolition of the existing library at 343 S. Fifth and the construction of a new building on that same site. Four campaign committees had formed, including three that opposed the project: Protect Our Libraries, Save the Ann Arbor Library and LOL=Love Our Library. The Our New Downtown Library campaign led by Ellie Serras supported the proposal.

In the nonpartisan AADL board elections, five candidates contested four open seats for four-year terms. The top four vote-getters were all incumbents: Nancy Kaplan (30,508 votes – 23.14%); Margaret Leary (28,060 votes – 21.29%); Rebecca Head (26,827 votes – 20.35%); and Pru Rosenthal (23,498 votes – 17.82%). Challenger Lyn Davidge received 21,670 votes (16.44%). Outside the city of Ann Arbor, Davidge and Rosenthal finished in nearly a dead heat, with Davidge receiving 6,800 votes compared to 6,839 for Rosenthal.

The board has said that the current downtown building needs major repairs. Options they’ll likely consider include placing another proposal on a future ballot to pay for renovations or a scaled-back project. The AADL board’s next meeting is on Monday, Nov. 19.


  1. By sheila rice
    November 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | permalink

    Had the library board asked for a modest (say, .25mil) sinking bond/infrastructure millage for a period of ten years, it would have won in a heartbeat. Many people who voted NO agree that there are library infrastructure improvements that are needed.

    The bond issue as proposed, however, morphed into a referendum for concepts that are not popular–400 seat auditorium, media production facilities, child play area, i.e. ‘community center’ elements. More traditional library programs are highly valued still.

    Hopefully, this rejection will give the library board pause about how to proceed next. Many NO voters like myself “LOL – Love Our Library”

  2. November 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | permalink

    Sheila is spot on. I am an ardent LOLer but not sold that it is the library that should provide large meeting space and media production services for downtown.

  3. By Eric Boyd
    November 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm | permalink

    I ended up voting for the millage, but with deep reservations. I suspect some of my concerns were held by others. I would really, really like to see the library board address these issues as they make plans going forward.

    1) NO PLAN
    I get that the board didn’t want to spend money on a plan without a funding source, but the voters didn’t really want to commit money without a plan.

    I get that there are problems with the land ownership, but the library board really didn’t seem to put much effort into working with AAPS to figure out how to keep the library open while building a new building. One would think some sort of land swap between the library, city, and school district could have been figured out that didn’t involve closing down the library while 2 empty parking lots sit literally across the street. Some common sense would go a long way here.

    I get the importance of libraries as a great equalizer in our society. I get the fact that usage is (currently) increasing. But, I can’t tell if that’s a short-term blip as we move to a Kindle-only world or a long-term increasing need. In other words, if we’re going to have to pay for the building for 30 years, where’s the analysis of the role of the library (as a physical building) for 30 years. We can all see that physical bookstores are vanishing and that marginal cost of copying an electronic document is $0. How do libraries fit in that changing environment?

  4. By JK
    November 8, 2012 at 11:16 am | permalink

    Kindles and iPads are not short term. The next digital revolution that replaces these devices will only encompass their function and more. Many public libraries already offer digital content through Amazon, why doesn’t our five star library offer it?

    Seeing the Redbox digital media vending machine at the local CVS reminded me that for some portion of Library use, something similar could serve books, DVDs, and CDs by request and people could browsecredit returned to the machine until it was picked up or deemed a highly popular item. A public computer kiosk plus such a machine could serve as a mini branch in more remote areas with minimal staffing, cost, and infrastructure. It’s a different more decentralized model that better fits granting access to outlying communities.

  5. By JK
    November 8, 2012 at 11:18 am | permalink

    Sorry that should say “browse media returned to the machine.” Hyperactive autocorrection.