Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (June 16, 2014): The main action item for this month’s meeting was approval of a contract with O’Neal Construction Inc. for construction management of the downtown library’s front entrance renovations.
Months in the works, the project involves adding new doors and a redesigned facade facing South Fifth Avenue, along with changes to address accessibility issues. O’Neal will bring back a proposal for a guaranteed maximum cost for the work, which the board will be asked to approve at its July 21 meeting. Construction is expected to begin after the art fairs in late July.
The board was also briefed on the start of the annual summer game, which launched on June 13. The board meeting was held at the Traverwood branch, with a game code for 500 points for those who attended. Very few people attended the meeting, however, and no one spoke during the two opportunities for public commentary.
The board got its usual updates on finances, events and library statistics. Trustees also approved resolutions of thanks for three outgoing members of the Friends of the AADL board: Pat McDonald, Mary Kay Cotter and Fred Meyer.
During the meeting, Parker announced that Eli Neiburger has been promoted to deputy director. He received a round of applause from the board. He has previously served as AADL’s associate director of IT and product development.
Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, Parker said Neiburger will be responsible for all departments other than finance, facilities and human resources. AADL has an active search underway for a chief financial officer, who will have responsibility for those three areas.
The change follows the departure of three key staff positions earlier this year. Ken Nieman, former associate director of finance, HR and operations, left in May for a job as CFO at the public library in Sonomo County, California. Former human resources manager DeAnn Doll, who’d been with AADL for about 15 years, also left in May – she’s now director of human resources for Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida. And Celeste Choate – AADL’s former associate director of services, collections and access – was hired as executive director of the Urbana Free Library in Urbana, Illinois. She started that new job in April.
At the end of the June 16 meeting, board president Prue Rosenthal praised Parker and Neiburger for the extra work they’ve taken on during these transitions, and for making the changes seem seamless to patrons and the board.
Construction Management Contract
A resolution was on the June 16 agenda to authorize the hiring of O’Neal Construction Inc. to provide construction management services for the downtown library’s front entrance renovation.
This action follows authorization at the board’s May 19, 2014 meeting for AADL director Josie Parker to negotiate with the Ann Arbor firm for this work. It’s the next step in a process that began several months ago, with construction to begin this summer. The project stems from the need to replace the entrance doors.
At the board’s April 21, 2014 meeting, the board had authorized Parker to hire a construction manager for the project. At that meeting, trustees also allocated $18,580 from the fund balance to pay InForm Studio for construction documents. InForm Studio, the architecture firm that previously designed AADL’s Traverwood branch, gave an update on the process at that same meeting.
The existing teal porcelain panels that wrap around the downtown building’s front facade, part of architect Alden Dow’s original design from the mid-1950s, will be replaced with a “concrete skin” panel. The entrance will continue to be oriented to South Fifth Avenue, with new doors into the building. Leading from the front of the building into the vestibule will be two balanced double doors, which will be easier to open than the existing entry, and a single automatic door. A matching set of these doors will lead from the vestibule to the interior of the building. A heated sidewalk is proposed along the exterior edge of the steps.
The new design also will address accessibility concerns that have been raised by the public.
The overall project is expected to cost about $250,000. The work will likely begin in late July, after the Ann Arbor art fairs.
Construction Management Contract: Board Discussion
Margaret Leary, chair of the facilities committee, reported that board members had received copies of the contract, which had been reviewed by AADL’s legal counsel.
AADL director Josie Parker said that staff is finalizing design details with the architects, and the final design will be reviewed by the facilities committee.
Parker also reminded trustees that the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has agreed to pay for sidewalk replacement in front of the downtown library. [At its June 4, 2014 meeting, the DDA board approved up to $125,000 for the redesign and reconstruction of the public sidewalk in front of the downtown library at 343 South Fifth Avenue. The project will eliminate the step up immediately adjacent from the curb, which was installed as a result of the streetscape changes the DDA undertook during construction of the Library Lane underground parking garage in 2012.]
To ensure that the sidewalk and the front entrance work is coordinated, it will be handled as one project, Parker said. As construction manager, O’Neal will oversee the entire project, but will create separate invoices for the work that’s the responsibility of the DDA. The public sidewalk work will be bid out separately. “This way, it’s clear to everyone what the library paid for and what the DDA paid for, so there’d be no question about it,” she said.
Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, Parker confirmed that the contract does not yet include a dollar amount for the work. It specifies that O’Neal will be preparing a guaranteed maximum price proposal, consisting of an estimate for the cost of work as well as contingencies and the construction manager’s fee, which will be 10% of the cost of work. Parker expects to bring a proposed budget for the project to the board’s July meeting, for board approval.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved hiring O’Neal Construction for construction management services.
Summer Reading Game
The library’s popular summer game – its twist on the traditional summer reading program that most libraries conduct nationwide – kicked off on Friday, June 13. Within an hour of that announcement, “kids were all over the libraries looking for codes,” AADL director Josie Parker told the board.
In addition to earning points for traditional activities like reading a book, the game includes tasks that are done online, like tagging an item in AADL’s catalog or commenting on a blog post. Later this summer, points can be traded in for merchandise that will be available at AADL’s online store.
People can log on, sign up and earn points for completing tasks like checking out a book or other item (50 points), tagging an item in the AADL catalog (10 points), writing reviews (50 points), or posting a comment (50 points). One point per page or minute is awarded for reading, watching, or listening to media, with a 100-point bonus for finishing an item. You can get between 200-500 points for attending an AADL event – including board meetings – where you’ll be given a code that allows you to redeem the points and earn “badges.”
Parker noted that a recent newsletter mailed to district residents included an item about a “chickens” code in her office, which can result in 2,000 points. “All one must do is to come upstairs to my office, look under a piece of paper, and find the code for the chickens.” A lot of people have done that since Friday, she reported. It’s fun for her, Parker said, because she gets to talk to people who might never otherwise come to the downtown library’s fourth floor, where her office is located.
Noting that the library’s first newsletter was recently mailed to district residents, AADL director Josie Parker said the fact that people are coming to her office to look for the “chickens” code – which was mentioned in the newsletter – means that “it has not just hit the recycle bin in all households, which is what we fear usually with paper.”
Regarding her other activities over the past month, Parker told the board that she was invited to attend an event hosted by Home of New Vision. The May 29 event, held at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, was called “Heroin in Our Backyard: The Deadly Cost of Misconception, Silence, and Shame.” It included the screening of “The Anonymous People,” a documentary film about the 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction.
Parker described it as a collaborative effort that was spearheaded by judges and physicians in this community, who’ve been concerned about the use of opiates and how the community responds – or doesn’t – to that problem. [Parker addressed the Ann Arbor city council on this issue, in the context of the council's March 17, 2014 deliberations on the use of the city-owned Library Lane site, which is adjacent to the downtown library. Read her comments here and here, as part of The Chronicle's live updates filed during that meeting.]
Parker said that because of statements she’s made publicly, and the reaction to those statements, she’s been invited to participate in these kinds of events. “The library is being called out by service providers in the community as doing a very good thing by naming a problem that they’ve spent years trying to draw attention to, to no avail. And now, people are interested.”
Board president Prue Rosenthal remarked on how amazing the response has been to Parker’s commentary. “It’s as if nobody knew about it until [Parker mentioned it].” Parker replied that a lot of people have been working very hard on this issue for a long time. “We are helping them help this situation,” she said.
In other news, Parker reported that the library staff and board have been invited to the July 7 open house for the new Blake Transit Center, located across from the downtown library on South Fifth Avenue. She noted that the orientation of bus traffic will change – the buses will be coming out of the center onto Fifth Avenue, rather than turning into the center from Fifth Avenue as they’ve done in the past.
She also mentioned that AADL will be at Top of the Park each Sunday evening during the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, sponsoring Kids Rock @ TOP.
Eli Neiburger, AADL’s deputy director, presented the May 2014 financial report at the June 16 meeting. [.pdf of finance report]
Through May 31, the library has received 98.4% of its budgeted tax revenue, or $11.254 million, for the fiscal year. There was a $523,529 operating surplus through May 31. The library had $9.528 million in unrestricted cash at the end of May, with a fund balance of $8.001 million, down from $8.433 million a month ago.
The same four line items – purchased services, software, copier expenses, and supplies – are over budget as they’ve been for several months, but are expected to be under budget by the end of AADL’s fiscal year on June 30. Purchased services are slightly over budget because the library paid for a survey in March. Software reflects a $66,000 purchase made every July for a library automation system, and copier expenses include a semi-annual payment made each September. Several supply purchases were made in May to carry through until the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Neiburger noted that the board will be asked to approve budget adjustments at its July meeting, transferring funds from one line item to another as needed to reconcile the current fiscal year’s budget. This is an adjustment that’s made annually. The most common cause is that the library budgets for capital expenditures, but items that cost under $1,000 each are not considered capital expenditures. So in many cases, the adjustments involve transferring money from the capital expenditures fund into other funds.
Overall, AADL is on track to finish the fiscal year with a surplus.
Outcome: The board does not vote on the finance report, but did vote unanimously to approve the monthly disbursements, which are part of the board packet.
The board is provided with monthly library statistics in five categories: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. The data is compared to year-ago figures, when available. The information for May 2014 was presented by Eli Neiburger, AADL’s deputy director.
Here are some highlights from Neiburger’s commentary:
- Collections: Most collections are growing slightly, though the magazine collection is down due to “annual weeding.” Neiburger noted that last month, Overdrive – a business that provides electronic books to public libraries, which AADL accesses through its membership in the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services – wasn’t able to provide data, but that problem has been fixed. There are 32,787 e-books available through Overdrive, up 17.4% compared to a year ago.
- Users: The number of people who use the public’s computers has increased 6.6% compared to a year ago. The total number of borrowers is up 8.3% to 122,513. There was a 13.7% increase in new cardholders, although typically May is a slow month in that category. The only thing he could attribute it to is the newsletter that was mailed out that month. AADL Josie Parker confirmed that this was a contributing factor, saying someone had called about renewing his card after getting the newsletter. Related to thwarting spambots, Neiburger reported recent success in stopping spambots from creating new user accounts. The library is using “Honey Pot,” a hidden field on the application form. Spambots don’t know that it’s hidden, so they fill it out. But humans can’t see it, so they don’t fill in that field. “Score one for AADL, at least at this moment,” he said. “I’m sure the robots will be back.”
- Visits: The Traverwood branch continues to see a strong door count, up 19.2% compared to a year ago. Door counts for other locations are down, though Neiburger noted that there are some “holes in the data” – the downtown library’s device for counting visitors was broken for a couple of days in May, for example. They’re looking at some new door count technology. He explained that the busier you get, the less accurate the door counts are.
- Usage: Checkouts were lower this May because of good weather, especially on Saturdays. Neiburger noted that checkouts typically drop if the weather is very bad or very good.
- Participation: Event attendance overall was up 6.4%, much of that due to Visions 2014, a vendor fair held on May 14 at Washtenaw Community College for people who are blind and physically handicapped.
Neiburger also gave highlights of some “Top Tweets” that mentioned @aadl during May, including one that showed a picture of a woman with her five-day-old baby, getting a library card for him. “That’s a rite of passage for many Ann Arborites, to get their first card – long before they hit Zingerman’s for the first time,” he quipped.
Another Tweet was from Dave Roman (@yaytime), who has helped organize the awards ceremony for the annual Kids Read Comics. It’s called the Kids Comics Revolution Awards, which will be held this year on Sunday, June 22. “Violin Monster will be helping us out,” Neiburger said.
Barbara Murphy noted that Dug Song is a nationally known tech entrepreneur. [Most recently, he founded the Ann Arbor firm Duo Security.] Prue Rosenthal reported that he’s married to Linh Song, the new executive director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation.
The board has seven committees: communications, budget and finance, facilities, policy, director’s evaluation, executive, and strategic plan. Because membership on each committee consists of only three trustees, which is fewer than a quorum of the board, the meetings are not required to be open to the public under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The board has the option of making its committee meetings open to the public, but has chosen not to do so.
On June 16, the only committee report came from Margaret Leary, chair of the facilities committee. She reported that the committee – including Leary, Ed Surovell and Jan Barney Newman – met on June 2 and received an update on several items. The most important item was a proposed contract with O’Neal Construction for construction management services, she said.
The committee was also updated on work to install a new elevator at the downtown library, Leary said, adding that AADL director Josie Parker had provided a lot of information about that. Parker has been working closely with patrons and Friends of the AADL to make sure that people can get where they need to get safely, Leary said. Some of that work might result in short-term closures of the library, but it’s unclear if and when that might happen.
Board president Prue Rosenthal remarked on how incredible it is to have a four-story hole under the library, where the elevator shaft is located. Parker quipped: “Not the one we wanted!” The reference was likely to a proposed new downtown library, which a majority of voters turned down in 2012 by defeating a ballot initiative that would have funded it.
Other facilities-related items included upcoming renovations at the Westgate branch, Leary said.
Resolutions of Thanks
The June 16 agenda included resolutions of thanks to Pat McDonald, Mary Kay Cotter and Fred Meyer for their service on the board of the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library. The nonprofit operates a bookstore at the downtown library, with proceeds given to AADL.
Margaret Leary said these three individuals have done a remarkable job of making FAADL much more efficient and workable, and turned it into a much better organization. It took an enormous amount of work and has benefited the library tremendously, she noted, “to the tune of about $100,000 every year.” The AADL board is really grateful for their work, she said.
Prue Rosenthal noted that she, Leary and Jan Barney Newman had been involved when concerns emerged about FAADL, and McDonald, Cotter and Meyer had worked hard to turn things around.
By way of background, in 2006, the FAADL shop was temporarily closed when it was discovered that the group had lost its nonprofit status in 2003 and hadn’t been audited in several years. According to an Ann Arbor News report at the time, there was no indication that the 53-year-old organization had misspent money or mismanaged its finances.
Meyer, Cotter and McDonald, who has served as FAADL president, are leaving the FAADL board, but are expected to stay involved with the group. AADL director Josie Parker noted that the FAADL board bylaws stipulate a term limit of six years. Parker said that McDonald in particular has worked hard to raise awareness of the Friends generally, beyond the bookshop.
Outcome: In three separate votes, all resolutions of thanks were unanimously approved.
Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell.
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