Celeste Choate, an associate director at the Ann Arbor District Library, has been hired as executive director of the Urbana Free Library in Urbana, Illinois. She’ll start that position on April 1. From a press release issued by UFL: “When asked if she is ready to switch her allegiance from the University of Michigan Wolverines to the Illini, Choate laughed and said she is really looking forward to performances at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.” [Source]
Ann Arbor District Library board retreat (Feb. 3, 2014): For more than three hours, AADL trustees heard staff updates on industry trends, were briefed on challenges that the library faces – as well as opportunities – and discussed the kind of information and data that’s needed to prepare for AADL’s next strategic plan for 2015-2020.
Discussion during the retreat, held at AADL’s downtown location on South Fifth Avenue, often touched on issues specific to that area. Dealing with the chronically homeless is one of the biggest challenges there, AADL director Josie Parker told the board, because during the hours that it’s open, the library is the shelter of last resort for many people.
“We are not a social service agency, yet we act as a de facto one,” Parker said. “We have a lot to contribute to this conversation because of our experience over the last 15 years.” The board discussed the need to define the library’s advocacy role in general for issues that trustees think are important, though Parker noted that the first responsibility for both the AADL administration and the board is to advocate for the library.
Other challenges faced by AADL include urban development, changes in the education system, issues related to providing Internet access, and “blurred lines” – instances where AADL is providing services to people who don’t live within the district’s boundaries. Also related to work outside the library’s boundaries, Parker reported that she’s talking with other directors of district libraries in Washtenaw County about the possibility of doing a study on the economic development impact of libraries.
The retreat began with a review of AADL’s non-traditional collections, and items from those collections were on display in the meeting room. The library has circulated art prints for more than 30 years, but has been expanding into other areas more recently, including science kits, musical instruments, home tools and craft equipment.
Parker told the board that the public library’s mission – to distribute materials that support the reading, education and even entertainment of the public – isn’t limited to bound volumes. The items for AADL’s non-traditional collections aren’t generally available to rent elsewhere, and are usually expensive to buy, she noted. “What are the limits of sharing? That’s what we’re pushing on.”
The final portion of the retreat was facilitated by local consultant Sandra Greenstone, who has played a similar role at previous retreats. Trustees generated a list of questions that they’d like to answer to help inform their work on the next strategic plan. Many of the issues related to the downtown library, but there was no discussion about putting another ballot proposal before voters. In November 2012, voters defeated a bond proposal that would have funded a new downtown library.
How all of this fits into the next strategic plan is a work in progress. The board will be handling the next steps at the committee level, with an update expected at the board’s Feb. 17 meeting.
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Jan. 20, 2014): Acting in part on recommendations from last year’s communications audit by Allerton-Hill Consulting, the library board authorized budget adjustments totaling $118,000 at its first meeting of 2014.
Two of those items relate to communications and outreach: $63,000 to design, print and mail event postcards, newsletters and other items to all district residents; and $25,000 for a satisfaction survey of 500-600 library district residents, to be conducted by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA. The library previously did a survey in early 2012, in part to gauge public support for financing a new downtown library. The board later put a bond proposal on the November 2012 ballot to fund a new downtown building, but it failed to receive a majority of votes.
The new survey will be used to measure the public’s recognition of the products and services provided by AADL, their regard for AADL as a public institution in the region, and the avenues by which people obtain information about the library.
Results will be ready by this spring, and are expected to help inform the library’s next long-term strategic plan. Trustees have scheduled a retreat on Feb. 3 from 4-7 p.m. in the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown library, to begin discussions for updating the current strategic plan that runs through 2015.
Also on Jan. 20, trustees elected officers for the coming year. All votes were unanimous with no competing nominations. Prue Rosenthal was re-elected for a second one-year term as board president. Also re-elected for a second one-year term was Rebecca Head, as board secretary. Barbara Murphy was elected as vice president, and Jan Barney Newman was elected as treasurer. Newman had served as vice president in 2013.
The board also established special committees for communications and facilities, and made appointments to those as well as to standing committees for finance and policy.
Work of the policy committee was another item on the Jan. 20 agenda. The committee previously had discussed staff proposals to revise more than a dozen sections of the AADL policy manual. Discussion at the board meeting focused on policy changes to offer free library cards to non-resident students and staff at state-sanctioned schools within AADL’s district. Also highlighted were the library’s behavior rules, which board member Nancy Kaplan called generous and kind. AADL director Josie Parker noted that even though the current policy prohibits sleeping in the library, during the recent extreme cold no one is asked to leave when they are found sleeping. The board will vote on the proposed policy revisions at its February meeting.
The board heard from five speakers during public commentary, including thanks from local cartoonist and teaching artist Jerzy Drozd for services that the AADL provides for the youth of Ann Arbor. Since 2011, Drozd has hosted a podcast called Comics Are Great! that’s recorded in the AADL podcast studio. Drozd called it “The Dick Cavett Show for cartoonists.” Also during public commentary, Kathy Griswold again urged the board to videotape its meetings for broadcast, and to open its committee meetings to the public.
Display in the main lobby of the downtown library shows two finalists for public art at the new Blake Transit Center – Daniel Roache of Petoskey, Mich., and Robert Delgado of Los Angeles – and asks for public feedback. The proposals will be up through Feb. 3.
At its first meeting of 2014, trustees of the Ann Arbor District Library board elected new officers for the coming year. All votes at the Jan. 20, 2014 meeting were unanimous with no competing nominations.
Prue Rosenthal was re-elected to a second one-year term as board president. Also re-elected to a second one-year term was Rebecca Head, as board secretary. Barbara Murphy was elected as vice president, and Jan Barney Newman was elected as treasurer. Newman had served as vice president in 2013.
The board also voted to establish two special committees for 2014: a communications committee, and a facilities committee. The communications committee’s charge is “to consider the implementation of recommendations in the communications audit, and related issues.” The reference is …
At their Jan. 20, 2014 meeting, trustees of the Ann Arbor District Library discussed extensive revisions to the AADL policy manual, which covers a wide range of issues spanning overall library philosophy to circulation policies and rules of behavior for patrons. A vote to approve the policy updates will likely occur at the board’s February meeting.
The board’s policy committee had already reviewed the changes that were proposed by AADL staff and vetted by legal counsel. For each section, board members were provided with a copy of the current policy, a marked-up version showing deletions and additions, and a “clean” draft version of the updated text.
Revisions are proposed for the following sections of the policy handbook:
In three separate votes, trustees of the Ann Arbor District Library board approved budget adjustments for the current fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. The adjustments, which took place at the board’s Jan. 20, 2014 meeting, totaled $118,000.
The changes involve transfers from the library’s fund balance into the capital outlays budget, the library programming line item, and the purchased services line item:
- Increase the capital outlays budget by $30,000 to buy a delivery truck from Varsity Ford.
- Increase the library programming line item by $63,000 for costs related to the design, printing and mailing of event postcards and newsletters to all district residents. AADL director Josie Parker told the board that this is in direct response …
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Dec. 16, 2013): The board’s main action item was to accept the 2012-13 audit, which was briefly reviewed by Dave Fisher of the accounting firm Rehmann. It was a clean report, he said.
There was no discussion among board members on that item, though Fisher noted the audit had been discussed at the board’s budget and finance committee in November.
Also approved was a one-year lease extension with Green Road Associates for storage of newspaper archives. The library has leased the Plymouth Park facility – an office park owned by First Martin Corp. on Green Road, north of Plymouth – since January 2010. That’s when AADL took possession of the Ann Arbor News archives, a few months after the owners of that publication decided to cease operations. The library is digitizing the Ann Arbor News archives, along with material from other local newspapers, as part of a project called Old News.
Much of the meeting focused on two staff presentations: A report on library statistics for November in five categories (collections, users, visits, usage and participation); and an update on the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled (WLBPD).
One person, Donald Salberg, addressed the board during public commentary. Part of his remarks focused on the board’s decision – at its Nov. 11, 2013 meeting – to approve a tax-sharing agreement with Pittsfield Township and the State Street corridor improvement authority. He told trustees that they hadn’t identified any real benefit that the CIA would bring to the library.
At the end of the meeting, board president Prue Rosenthal read a statement that defended the board’s decision to participate in the CIA, outlining its benefits to the library and the broader community. She said that although the board vote had not been unanimous, she thought that all trustees were comfortable that the decision was made with a great deal of care.
At its Dec. 16, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board voted unanimously to approve a one-year lease extension with Green Road Associates for storage of newspaper archives. The annual rate of $38,500 is for a period beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
The library has leased the Plymouth Park facility – an office park owned by First Martin Corp. on Green Road, north of Plymouth – since January 2010. That’s when AADL took possession of the Ann Arbor News archives, a few months after the owners of that publication decided to cease operations. The original lease was for a two-year period at $38,000 annually. In November 2011, the board approved a one-year extension, also at the $38,000 annual rate. No …
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Nov. 11, 2013): In a 6-1 vote, AADL trustees approved a tax-sharing agreement for Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Nancy Kaplan cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she couldn’t support diverting dollars that taxpayers had intended for the library.
For taxing entities that participate, a portion of revenues from local taxes would be used to provide matching dollars to help secure federal funding for road improvements and other features along the State Street corridor. The CIA covers a stretch roughly between Ellsworth and Michigan Avenue.
Although other trustees indicated that they shared Kaplan’s concerns, they were persuaded to support the CIA for several different reasons. Margaret Leary said she appreciated the transparency and openness of township officials during this process. She noted that in contrast to some other TIF arrangements, the tax-sharing agreement with the CIA is clear, comprehensive and was developed in a collaborative way. [Her reference to other TIF arrangements was likely an allusion to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. See Chronicle coverage: "Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged"]
Leary also pointed out that the CIA will create a situation that could benefit the AADL, which operates a branch in Pittsfield Township. If the overall tax base increases because of improvements to the State Street corridor, she said, then tax revenues for AADL will increase too. Barbara Murphy added that the amount of AADL tax revenue that will be diverted to the CIA is relatively small – about $120,000 over 20 years – compared to some other taxing entities.
Two people addressed the board during public commentary about the CIA. Prior to the vote, Christina Lirones – a former Pittsfield Township official – urged the board to opt out. At the end of the meeting, Don Salberg said he was disappointed in the board’s decision. He had expected AADL to opt out.
In addition to Pittsfield Township and AADL, other taxing entities within the CIA are Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County parks & recreation, Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority (metroparks), Washtenaw Community College, and Saline District Library. At its Nov. 12 meeting, the Saline library board voted to opt out of the CIA. The metroparks board also decided to opt out, with a vote at its Nov. 14 morning meeting. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners and the county’s parks & recreation commission both voted in support of the CIA. WCC trustees have not yet made a decision.
Also during the Nov. 11 meeting, AADL director Josie Parker highlighted the fact that AADL had been awarded a five-star ranking by the Library Journal – the highest ranking awarded by the journal for library use in a community. AADL is the only library system in Michigan that achieved that level, and has been awarded this designation for five consecutive years. AADL is the only library in Michigan to ever achieve five stars.
And during committee reports, Nancy Kaplan noted that the communications committee has reviewed a report from Allerton-Hill Consulting. [.pdf of Allerton-Hill report] Some of the recommendations in the report include expanding the use of social media, publishing a quarterly newsletter to keep library patrons informed, and conducting a satisfaction survey to determine the priorities and public perception of the library, and to learn more about who is using the library, and why. The administration will now determine whether and how to implement the report’s recommendations.
During public commentary, Kathy Griswold urged the board to be more open and transparent, specifically by recording its meetings for broadcast.
In a 6-1 vote taken at its Nov. 11, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board voted to approve a tax-sharing agreement for Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Trustee Nancy Kaplan cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she couldn’t support diverting dollars that taxpayers had intended for the library.
Unless the governing body of a taxing jurisdiction opts out, the CIA will capture a percentage of taxes from each public entity that collects taxes within the CIA boundaries. The new authority is expected to help fund about $30 million in improvements on State Street over 20 years, roughly between Ellsworth Road and Michigan Avenue. The intent is to create a four-lane boulevard with a median, bike …
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 21, 2013): Expressing concerns over the possible addition of a downtown park on the city-owned Library Lot site – adjacent to the downtown library – AADL trustees discussed but took no formal action related to a recent recommendation of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission.
The idea for a new park was among several recommendations approved by the commission at its Oct. 15, 2013 meeting, to be forwarded to the city council for consideration. The AADL was specifically mentioned in the Library Lot recommendation: “In order to adequately address issues of safety and security, the Ann Arbor District Library must also be strongly represented in the planning process.”
AADL director Josie Parker stressed that neither she nor board president Prue Rosenthal had indicated that the library is in any way capable of advising the city regarding security and safety of a park. They had attended a meeting of the downtown park subcommittee, she said, and had related the library’s experiences regarding a range of security issues at the downtown building. Parker reported that so far in 2013, the library has made police requests to its downtown building on average every 3.5 days.
Trustees generally expressed caution and noted that many questions remained about whether a downtown park at that location would be viable, without adequate oversight and additional development. Parker planned to relay the board’s concerns to the park advisory commission.
Another major item of discussion at the Oct. 21 meeting related to Pittsfield Township’s proposed State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, and Dick Carlisle of Carlisle Wortman Associates were on hand to answer questions, as was CIA board member Claudia Kretschmer of Gym America. Trustees asked a range of questions, covering other financing options, the process for receiving federal funds, and the procedure for opting out of this new tax increment financing (TIF) authority.
If the board decides that AADL will opt out, a resolution would need to be passed. Taxing entities have a 60-day period in which to make an opt-out decision. That period began with an Oct. 9 public hearing held by the Pittsfield Township board, and will end in early December. The only AADL board meeting currently scheduled before then is on Nov. 11.
In its one main action item on Oct. 21, the board authorized a $40,000 adjustment to AADL’s 2013-14 budget to cover costs of repairs and testing of the downtown library roof. The adjustment transfers $40,000 from the library’s fund balance to the repair and maintenance line item. According to the most recent financial report, the library had a fund balance of $8.03 million as of Sept. 30, 2013.
During her director’s report, Parker highlighted some of the niche services that the library provides – such as hosting a Minecraft server and a recent Oculus Rift Hackathon. She said she wanted the board to think about the things that go beyond just lending books – services that are important to some but completely irrelevant to others. “The combination of it all is what makes the Ann Arbor District Library the amazing library system that we all know it is,” Parker said. “It’s the sum of all these parts, not one aspect or service.”
During committee reports, Nancy Kaplan noted that the communications committee hopes to receive a report later this month from Allerton-Hill Consulting to review. The consultants were hired earlier this year to conduct a communications audit for the library – a move that’s been criticized by some residents who believe the work is positioning AADL for another bond proposal to build a new downtown library.
For the first time in several months, no one spoke during public commentary at the board meeting.
The Ann Arbor District Library board authorized a $40,000 adjustment to AADL’s 2013-14 budget to cover costs of repairs and testing of the downtown library roof. The action took place at the board’s Oct. 21, 2013 meeting on a unanimous vote.
The adjustment transfers $40,000 from the library’s fund balance to the repair and maintenance line item. According to the most recent financial report, the library had a fund balance of $8.03 million as of Sept. 30, 2013. The line item for repairs and maintenance that was approved as part of the 2013-14 was $302,000 for the entire fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2013. The board approved the budget at its May 6, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of ...
A group that’s been meeting since early 2013 – to explore the possibilities for a new downtown park – delivered a set of recommendations to the Ann Arbor park advisory commission at its Oct. 15, 2013 meeting.
The eight recommendations of PAC’s downtown park subcommittee are wide-ranging, but include a site-specific recommendation to develop a new park/open space area on the top of the Library Lot underground parking structure. Now a surface parking lot, the site is owned by the city and is situated just north of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building. The recommendation calls for only a portion of the site to be used for a new park/open space, and stresses that AADL should be involved in …
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 16, 2013): Representatives from Pittsfield Township briefed AADL trustees about a proposed State Road corridor improvement authority (CIA) that would entail capturing a percentage of taxes from several local entities, including the Ann Arbor District Library.
Planning consultant Dick Carlisle and Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, described the new authority and the roughly $30 million in improvements it would fund between the I-94 interchange and Michigan Avenue. The intent is to create a four-lane boulevard with a median, bike lanes and pedestrian pathway.
The library’s Pittsfield branch is located in the township, and a portion of the AADL district is included in the northern part of the proposed CIA. Under the CIA’s tax increment financing plan, 50% of the increase in taxable value would be captured over a 20-year period to fund the CIA projects. The captured taxes would otherwise go to the entities that levy those taxes. Currently, AADL receives about $8,536 in taxes from taxpayers in the proposed CIA boundaries.
In responding to questions from trustees, Carlisle alluded to ongoing controversy related to the TIF capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. He said that’s why Pittsfield Township is offering to enter into specific agreements with each taxing jurisdiction “that will carefully spell out the limitations on what will actually occur here. So this way, there is no blank check. It is very specific that what we are saying here is exactly what we are going to do.”
A two-year disagreement has persisted over the way the Ann Arbor DDA calculates its TIF capture, which includes capture of AADL taxes. For the latest Chronicle coverage on this issue, see: “Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged.”
When the Ann Arbor DDA was formed in the early 1980s, the state enabling legislation for DDAs did not allow for taxing jurisdictions to opt out of participation. However, CIA legislation includes an opt-out provision. AADL and other taxing entities will have a 60-day period to make that decision. That period is expected to begin when the Pittsfield Township board holds a public hearing about the CIA proposal on Oct. 9.
Based on questions from AADL trustees, they may be skeptical about whether participating in the CIA would be a wise move for the library.
The CIA presentation was the library board’s main agenda item on Sept. 16. The board also reviewed data for the month of August in five categories: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. In addition, associate director Eli Neiburger presented highlights from the AADL summer game, which wrapped up last month.
During her director’s report, Josie Parker noted that AADL recently released an archive feature on the history of the Ann Arbor Garden Club. It’s part of a broader archiving effort on local history, which includes architecture, cooking, the Ann Arbor police department and several other organizations and topics. Parker said AADL staff would be pleased to talk to anyone who’s interested in archiving the history of other local organizations online.
Parker also told trustees that she’s been invited by the Journal of Library Administration to serve on its editorial board and to write a quarterly column. The journal has historically been limited to administration in academic and specialty libraries, but the new editor and review board wanted to add a public library administrator’s voice to the publication. “I’ve been invited to be that voice, and I’ve accepted,” Parker said.
Items raised during public commentary on Sept. 16 related to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the 2012 library bond campaign, as well as a plea to renovate the front entrance of the downtown library “from bunker chic to pedestrian friendly.” A topic mentioned at the AADL board’s Aug. 19, 2013 meeting was replacement of the front doors to the downtown library, and possibly undertaking broader renovations at the entrance.
At its most recent meeting on Sept. 16, 2013, the Ann Arbor city council again considered a revision to the ordinance regulating the tax increment finance (TIF) of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The council had given initial approval to the Chapter 7 changes nearly six months ago, on April 1, 2013. But at the Sept 16 meeting, the council again postponed a final vote on the revisions, this time until Oct. 21.
Other taxing jurisdictions besides the city of Ann Arbor – entities that also have a portion of their levied taxes captured by the DDA – have something at stake. Those units are Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Community College and the Ann Arbor District Library. The topic of other taxing jurisdictions’ interest in the Chapter 7 revisions has been raised at three public meetings since late August: (1) at an Aug. 26 meeting of a joint city council and DDA board committee; (2) at the Sept. 15 city council Sunday night caucus; and (3) at the Sept. 16 city council meeting.
Some councilmembers have speculated about the current view held by one of the other taxing jurisdictions in particular – the Ann Arbor District Library. AADL director Josie Parker wrote a letter to mayor John Hieftje in January 2012 outlining the library’s position on the matter at the time, something that has been widely reported. The Chronicle only recently became aware that a similar letter had been sent by Parker to the Ann Arbor DDA in August 2011.
Those letters articulate a view that’s consistent with op-eds published in The Chronicle on the topic – that the DDA owes more in repayments to the taxing jurisdictions than the DDA agreed it needed to pay back in May 2011. Further, the AADL’s position, as expressed in the two letters from Parker, is to reject the DDA’s most recent and current interpretation of the city ordinance – which was stated only after the DDA had already made repayments of excess TIF capture in 2011. Those repayments had been made to cover several prior years, because the required repayment had been “overlooked.”
The DDA’s subsequent interpretation was that the DDA did not owe the money it had returned in 2011. DDA officials maintain that as long as the DDA had debt obligations, it would also not owe any return of excess TIF to the other taxing jurisdictions in the future. Based on calculations by The Chronicle, the DDA’s current interpretation probably deprives AADL of roughly $55,000-$60,000 annually, compared to the kind of interpretation AADL gives the ordinance. That amount could increase, or decrease, in the future.
The position articulated in Parker’s August 2011 letter includes the statement: “The Library fully intends to enforce its rights for all past and future amounts owed to the Library as a result of excess TIF capture. However, the Library would prefer to resolve these issues without court involvement.”
Responding to a question in a telephone interview with The Chronicle on Sept. 19, 2013, Parker stated: “The position of the Ann Arbor District Library is still accurately reflected in those letters.”
That statement appears to resolve any uncertainty that might exist about the AADL’s current position. At the Sept. 15 Sunday night caucus, for example, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) had ventured that Parker’s letter to Hieftje might be appropriately regarded as a “snapshot in time” and might not reflect the AADL’s current position. And Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), during the Aug. 26 joint committee meeting, appeared to discount the current relevance of the letter to Hieftje by asking what year it had been sent.
However, about the AADL’s position on the DDA TIF capture taken in 2011, Parker stated this week: “It has not changed.”
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Aug. 19, 2013): A meeting with no major action items stretched into one of the longest sessions for the library board in recent years, with multiple presentations from staff and a briefing on the bike share program.
Heather Seyfarth of the Clean Energy Coalition described a new bike share program that CEC is managing, with a targeted launch of April 2014. One of the proposed bike stations could be located on library property at AADL’s downtown building, on South Fifth Avenue next to Library Lane. The library isn’t being asked to invest in the project, which is a partnership between CEC, the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and the city of Ann Arbor. However, locating a station on AADL property would require a formal agreement between the library and CEC.
Seyfarth noted that the program doesn’t yet have a name, and organizers plan to ask the public for suggestions. They had originally settled on GoBike, but that name is already trademarked by another organization.
Trustees were also updated by library staff on activities related to goals in the five-year strategic plan, from 2010-2015, and on the latest direct licensing agreements that the library has reached with authors and musicians. Regarding the licensing deals, AADL director Josie Parker pointed out that the library staff decided not to pursue some options that are available to libraries, such as Freading and Zinio. In those other approaches, there is a go-between handling the licensing deals with authors and artists. She noted that at this point, AADL is in the minority as it pursues direct licensing. Some of those deals are with local authors and organizations, including indie label Ghostly International and graphic novelist Jim Ottaviani.
Trustees also received a briefing on a new format for presenting AADL statistics in five categories: Collections, users, usage, visits and participation. Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, showed data in these categories using bar graphs and charts, and talked about the meaning behind the numbers. New information was also included in the report, like the value of the total AADL collection – estimated at $16.1 million, based on the replacement cost of all items in the AADL catalog.
In one of its few action items, the board approved three minor adjustments to the 2012-13 budget, for the prior fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. The adjustments totaled $11,000. Trustees also passed a resolution thanking Vicki Browne on her recent retirement. She had worked at the AADL since 1988.
During committee reports, Margaret Leary – chair of the facilities committee – noted that committee members had given Parker the go-ahead to get cost estimates for renovating the entry of the downtown library, including replacement of the front doors. It’s not yet clear if the project would require board approval.
Though not an agenda item, the library’s contract with Allerton-Hill Consulting emerged on several occasions during the meeting, including public commentary. Board president Prue Rosenthal also made a brief statement in response to public commentary at previous meetings. She stressed that “the board of the Ann Arbor District Library has done nothing illegal,” she said. “We are not in violation of the Michigan law.” Members of the Protect Our Libraries political action committee have questioned whether board’s committee meetings, which do not include a quorum of board members and are not open to the public, comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
At its Aug. 19, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board approved three minor adjustments to the 2012-13 budget, for the prior fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. The adjustments totaled $11,000.
Ken Nieman – AADL’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – had previously indicated that such adjustments would be necessary. At the board’s July 15, 2013 meeting, he told the board that three items were over budget for the year ending June 30: utilities, communications and software. The board made some budget adjustments at its June 17, 2013 meeting based on estimates that turned out to be too low. Nieman had said the board would be asked to make additional adjustments to the previous year’s …
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (July 15, 2013): For the second consecutive month, the AADL board held its meeting at one of the district’s four branches – this time at the Pittsfield branch on Oak Valley Drive.
Fifteen people spoke during public commentary, a much higher than usual number. About half of the speakers, including several children, were there to earn points in AADL’s summer game, and spoke about their appreciation for the library and for the game in particular. Codes, which can be used to collect points in the game, were given to anyone who showed up to the meeting or spoke at public commentary. Later in the meeting board members received a briefing on the game from Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, who talked about its role in encouraging kids to read and write during the summer months.
The board also was briefed on the recent Kids Read Comics convention, as well as new collections of non-traditional items – like home tools and microscopes.
In his financial report to the board, Ken Nieman, AADL’s associate director of finance, noted that library ended the year about $43,000 under budget for tax revenue. That amount includes $37,000 from tax refunds that AADL had to make to the county and various municipalities throughout the year, following decisions made by local tax tribunals. AADL had expected to make $75,000 of such refunds, but refunds totaled about $112,000 for the fiscal year, which ended June 30.
AADL director Josie Parker highlighted several staff accomplishments during her report to trustees, including news that an anonymous donor has given his classic video game collection to the library. The collection – which will be used for AADL events, but won’t be in circulation – includes cartridges and discs from the 1980s and ’90s, and a few game consoles.
Parker’s own achievement was highlighted by trustee Margaret Leary during the meeting: inclusion in a new collection of essays titled “Library 2020: Today’s Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow’s Library.”
During public commentary, Bob Rorke – a consultant working for the Protect Our Libraries political action committee – raised questions about AADL’s decision earlier this year to hire Allerton-Hill Consulting. Referencing excerpts from emails that Protect Our Libraries obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Rorke argued that the consulting contract is not a generic communications audit or project – but rather it’s political. He indicated that Allerton-Hill provides political advocacy for the passing of public financing issues, and asked the board to review this contract and determine whether it’s legal under Michigan law.
Public commentary also included thanks from Robb Wolfe, executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, for AADL’s ongoing support. Other topics raised by speakers touched on the condition of the downtown library, appreciation for events hosted by the library, and a report from the recent American Library Association conference.
The meeting also included a tribute to Karl Pohrt, who died earlier this month. Trustee Ed Surovell, an avid book collector, noted that many people knew Pohrt as the founder and owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop in downtown Ann Arbor. “But he was so much more than that,” Surovell said.
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (June 17, 2013): In a meeting held at the Traverwood branch, library trustees approved a contract to upgrade the Internet infrastructure for another branch – the Pittsfield location.
The $112,150 contract with Merit Network, a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor, would put the Pittsfield branch on par with high-speed connections throughout the rest of the AADL system. The branch had been described to the board as a “bandwidth backwater,” with about 2% of the Internet connectivity speed compared to other AADL locations. The project will be paid for with money from the library’s fund balance.
In other action, the board approved final budget adjustments for the fiscal year ending June 30 – a routine procedure.
In her director’s report, Josie Parker highlighted the launch of the library’s popular summer reading game, and announced that Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads is soliciting suggestions for its 2014 selection – a work of fiction. The theme is “A Very Good Read.”
During public commentary, Doug Jewett focused his remarks on the Michigan Open Meetings Act, especially as it relates to committee meetings. Bob Rorke discussed the results of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Protect Our Libraries political action committee, related to the AADL’s hiring of Allerton-Hill Consulting. Reading through the 634 pages of material the library had produced in response to the FOIA request had raised some concerns for Rorke, including questions about whether the library was using public monies for political purposes.
At its June 17, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board voted to make minor year-end adjustments to the budget for fiscal year 2012-13, which ends June 30. This is a standard action at the end of the fiscal year.
The adjustments entailed making the following transfers:
- $18,000 from capital outlays to the supplies line item.
- $15,000 from capital outlays to the utilities line item.
- $12,000 from repairs & maintenance to the communications line item.
- $4,000 from repairs & maintenance to the line item for other operating expenditures.
- $10,000 from the fund balance/restricted funds to the programming line item.
This brief was filed from the library’s Traverwood branch at Traverwood Drive and Huron Parkway, where the board held its June meeting. A more detailed report …
The Ann Arbor District Library board approved a $112,150 contract with the nonprofit Merit Network to build and maintain a connection from AADL’s Pittsfield branch to Merit’s existing high-speed network. The action took place at the board’s June 17, 2013 meeting.
The board had been briefed at its May 6, 2013 meeting by Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and production. He had described that location at 2359 Oak Valley Drive as a “bandwidth backwater,” with about 2% of the Internet connectivity speed compared to other AADL locations.
The resolution approved on June 17 included a transfer of $120,000 from the library’s fund balance to its communications line item in the FY 2013-14 budget. The board had passed its FY …
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (May 6, 2013): Reversing a slight tax increase that had been proposed in the draft budget, the AADL board approved a $12.3 million budget for fiscal 2013-14 with an unchanged tax rate of 1.55 mills. The library’s fiscal year begins July 1.
Nancy Kaplan, chair of the board’s budget & finance committee, said the committee met after the April 15, 2013 board meeting and discussed concerns that had been raised about the proposal to levy a slightly higher millage rate of 1.575 mills. She noted that administration had proposed cuts to allow the rate to remain unchanged.
The main reduction in expenses came from the materials line item, with nearly $100,000 saved by switching from RFID to bar code technology for handling circulation. AADL director Josie Parker stressed that the library is able to secure those savings without impacting the purchase of materials for its collection.
In addition to the budget, the board also approved a one-year extension on the space-use agreement with the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, which operates a used bookstore in the lower level of AADL’s downtown branch at 343 S. Fifth Ave. Proceeds of the store are given to the library.
The board was briefed on a proposal that they’ll be voting on next month to upgrade the fiber-optic infrastructure for the Pittsfield branch. Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and production, described that location at 2359 Oak Valley Drive as a “bandwidth backwater,” with about 2% of the Internet connectivity speed compared to other AADL locations. The recommendation is to hire the nonprofit Merit Network to build and maintain a connection from the branch to Merit’s existing high-speed network. The contract includes a one-time cost of $112,150 and ongoing annual costs of $2,625.
The May 6 session also included two statements from board president Prue Rosenthal, which she read aloud during the meeting. One was a letter from the board to Parker, following her annual evaluation. The board praised Parker’s work over the past year, including the recognition and leadership of Parker and her staff at the state, national and international levels. At Parker’s request, her salary was unchanged for the fourth consecutive year.
Rosenthal’s second statement, read early in the meeting, was in response to issues raised at previous meetings during public commentary about the board’s compliance with Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The board is scrupulous about adhering to the letter and spirit of the law, Rosenthal stated.
At the end of the meeting, resident David Diephuis responded to Rosenthal’s statement, urging the board to videotape its meetings and to allow the public to attend the board’s committee meetings. He noted that the board does meet the requirements of the OMA. “My question to you is what is allowed under the act,” he said. “I believe this community wants more than what’s required.”
The suggestion to videotape the monthly board meetings had been proposed two years ago by trustee Nancy Kaplan but had been supported by only one other board member, Barbara Murphy.
A videotaping of the meeting did occur for the first time on May 6, however. Skyline High junior David Kloiber set up two stationary cameras to record the proceedings. He had been hired by the Protect Our Libraries political action committee, which posted the video on YouTube.
The Ann Arbor District Library board has authorized its fiscal 2013-14 budget with a millage rate of 1.55 mills – unchanged from the current rate. The action took place at the board’s May 6, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of budget summary from AADL board meeting packet]
The $12.328 million budget assumes a 2.1% increase in tax revenues, based on an increase in property values. The approved budget and millage rate are slightly lower than the draft proposal presented at the AADL board’s April 15, 2013 meeting. At that time, trustee Ed Surovell argued strongly against even the slightest increase in the millage rate, which had been proposed at 1.575 mills. The library is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills, but …
A resolution to extend the Ann Arbor District Library’s space-use agreement with the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library for one year was unanimously approved at the AADL board’s May 6, 2013 meeting.
Friends of AADL operates a used bookstore in the lower level of AADL’s downtown branch at 343 S. Fifth Ave. Proceeds of the store – about $90,000 annually – are given to the library. [.pdf of current FAADL space-use agreement]
This brief was filed from the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown library at 343 S. Fifth. A more detailed report will follow: [link]
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (April 15, 2013): Two main topics were discussed at the April AADL board meeting: The draft budget for fiscal 2013-14, and a proposal for an ice-skating rink on the city-owned Library Lane parking lot, adjacent to the downtown library on South Fifth Avenue.
The $12.475 million proposed budget calls for levying the AADL’s tax at a rate of 1.575-mill – a small increase from the current 1.55-mill rate, but still below the amount that AADL is authorized to levy. [.pdf of draft 2013-14 budget]
Ken Nieman – AADL’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – told the board that the budget includes a 3% increase in the merit raise pool for full-time employees and an increase in hourly base rates for part-time workers. The administration wanted to make sure that the library’s lower-paying jobs start at more than $9 per hour. “It will help us attract people and hopefully also keep people as we compete against other businesses out there,” he said.
The board is expected to vote on the budget and set the millage rate on May 6, but several trustees made comments about the draft budget during the April 15 meeting. Ed Surovell argued strongly against even a small tax increase, and said he wouldn’t be voting for a budget that includes any increase to the millage. It’s estimated that the additional 0.025 mills would increase the amount of the library tax for homeowners by $2.50 per year, for a home that has a taxable value of $100,000. The increase is estimated to result in an additional $185,000 in tax revenues, compared to a 1.55-mill rate.
The April 15 meeting also included a presentation by Stewart Gordon and Alan Haber, who are advocating to put a temporary, artificial ice-skating rink at the northwest corner of the Library Lane parking lot. They asked the board to designate a liaison from the library, to facilitate communications as the project unfolds – they hope to construct and open it by Oct. 15. Several commissioners board members expressed skepticism about the proposal, stressing concerns over financing and security issues.
The board also heard from five people during public commentary. Topics included concerns over the hiring of Allerton-Hill Consulting, and thanks for support the library’s support of the ArborWiki and Old News projects.
At their April 15, 2013 meeting, Ann Arbor District Library trustees reviewed a draft budget for fiscal 2013-14, which calls for levying a 1.575-mill tax – a small increase from the current 1.55-mill rate, but still below the amount that AADL is authorized to levy. [.pdf of draft 2013-14 budget]
The AADL is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills, but the board has in recent years set the millage rate at lower levels.
The board is expected to vote on the budget and set the millage rate on May 6, but several trustees made comments about the draft budget during the April 15 meeting. Ed Surovell argued strongly against even a small tax increase, and said he wouldn’t be voting …
At its April 15, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council likely will take a final vote on changes to the local ordinance governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. On April 1, by a 7-3 vote, the council gave initial approval to the changes.
In the interim, the city council has undoubtedly received communications lobbying for and against these changes. Among those communications was a letter sent on April 12 – with signatures from representatives of eight different entities that have significant specific interests in downtown Ann Arbor: “We write to oppose the proposed ordinance amendment … [P]aramount is the proposed change to the current ordinance procedure for calculating potential rebates of higher than anticipated TIF revenues back to taxing units …”
One of the eight signatories is unique – for two reasons.
First, the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber is the only one of which The Ann Arbor Chronicle is a member.
Second, the chamber is unique among the eight because it’s the one that has the legal and public policy resources to arrive at a position based on the legal and public policy merits of the issue. But in this case, the chamber has chosen a view that seems only half-informed by legal and public policy analysis.
With access to legal talent like Doug McClure, a recent candidate for 22nd Circuit Court judge who is chair of the chamber’s public policy committee, I’d expect this regional chamber to support the kind of clear, solid, forward-looking legal foundation that the proposed ordinance amendments would provide for us as a regional community. That’s especially true given that so many people – for and against the ordinance changes – agree that the current ordinance language lacks clarity.
And the idea that the chamber would support whatever interpretation the DDA chooses to give the ordinance – in the DDA’s sole judgment, with millions of regional tax dollars at stake – is bizarre from a public policy point of view. It’s especially bizarre given that this purportedly regional chamber has access to regional public policy talent like Andy LaBarre. He’s the chamber’s vice president of government relations who’s a former staffer for Congressman John Dingell. LaBarre is also an elected representative serving on a regional governing body that has tax dollars at stake in this debate – the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.
But the chamber chose to glance past the legal and public policy issues, opting instead to allow personal, petty mayoral politics to cloud its collective thinking.
What’s even more incredible is that the chamber has chosen wording for its letter – which it then recruited the other entities to sign – that would actually point an alert reader to the relevant legal and public policy issues. If the chamber itself had taken the words in its own letter more seriously, perhaps that would have guided the organization to take a position in favor of the ordinance changes.
In this column, I’ll lay out an analysis of the wording that the chamber has chosen – “… which the DDA calculates using its judgment within the standards set by the ordinance” – and explain why those words point the way to supporting the ordinance changes.