Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Aug. 20, 2012): With no major action items on the agenda, highlights of this week’s AADL board meeting related to the effort to build a new downtown library: (1) a presentation on trends for public libraries, including digital media and non-traditional collections, and (2) an update from the bond proposal campaign committee.
Ellie Serras, chair of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee, spoke during public commentary to brief the board on actions of that group. It was formed earlier this year to support a $65 million, 30-year bond proposal that the board voted to put on the Nov. 6 ballot. Serras described the committee’s outreach efforts, including its website, Twitter account (@OurNewLibrary), Facebook group, promotional mailing, yard signs, and meetings with individuals and groups in the community.
Committee members are committed to this project and they want everyone to know how important it is, she said. ”It’s a life changer.”
In the context of the proposed building project, AADL director Josie Parker told the board that library staff are being asked about the relevancy of public libraries, so she thought it was appropriate to address that question at a formal board meeting by looking at changes that public libraries are facing. Associate director Eli Neiburger described how the library is responding to changes in the publishing industry regarding digital content. Currently, publishers are fairly restrictive in allowing public libraries to access digital content for patrons. So the Ann Arbor library has started negotiating licensing deals directly with creators – including filmmakers of the 2009 “Grown in Detroit” documentary, and the author of the graphic novel “Poopy Claws” – to allow AADL patrons to access those works through online streaming and limitless downloads, respectively.
Associate director Celeste Choate described the library’s non-media, non-traditional collections, which include art prints, energy meter readers, Science to Go kits, telescopes and electronic musical “tools.” The full list of collections is on the “Unusual Stuff to Borrow” page of AADL’s website. Additional collections are in the works, including art tools and kits for science experiments.
Though Neiburger described storage needs for digital media as trivial – he could keep 200,000 copies of “Poopy Claws” on his cell phone, if he were so inclined – the needs for non-traditional physical items are more challenging. The library’s tracking/circulation software is well-suited to adapt, because that system doesn’t care about size, he said. “But the shelf sure does.” It was an implicit reference to some of the arguments put forward in the board’s decision to pursue a new downtown building.
Also during the Aug. 20 meeting, Choate reported on a recent satisfaction survey for patrons of the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which is operated by AADL and serves over 400 people. The library received high marks from those who responded to the survey, she said. [.pdf of survey results]