The Ann Arbor Chronicle » Library of Michigan it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ann Arbor Library Board Briefed on Tax Issue Thu, 22 Sep 2011 14:28:46 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 19, 2011): Much of Monday’s 20-minute public meeting was spent discussing the possible repeal of the state’s personal property tax – a move that would take an estimated $637,000 out of the library’s roughly $12 million annual budget.

Ed Surovell, Rebecca Head

Ann Arbor District Library trustees Ed Surovell and Rebecca Head. (Photo by the writer.)

Josie Parker briefed the board during her director’s report, saying she wanted trustees to be aware of the issue and of its potential impact on the library’s finances. Legislation has been introduced, but it’s not yet clear whether lawmakers will decided to eliminate the tax completely or simply reduce it. Also unclear is what – if any – options would be available to taxing authorities to replace that lost revenue. Parker noted that when Pfizer closed its Ann Arbor operation several years ago, the library also took a hit. Pfizer had been the city’s largest taxpayer.

Parker’s report also included news about a lawsuit brought by Herrick District Library against the Library of Michigan. The state library has decided not to appeal an August court of appeals decision, which ruled in favor of Herrick’s position. Herrick had challenged new rules that would have changed how public libraries qualify for state aid. The changes were seen as a threat to local control, by taking away certain decision-making authority from local libraries. AADL was the only individual library in the state to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Herrick.

There was no board discussion about a potential response to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s excess tax capture decision. At issue is the interpretation of a city ordinance about tax increment finance (TIF) capture in the DDA’s downtown district. In July, the DDA board passed a resolution stating its opinion that the city’s ordinance does not require the DDA to return any money to taxing authorities in its TIF district – despite the fact that the DDA had already returned excess TIF revenue earlier this year.

The AADL is a taxing authority in the DDA’s TIF district and has been consulting with its legal counsel over the implications of that decision, as well as a possible response. Queried by The Chronicle after Monday’s meeting, Parker said the AADL has made no decision yet on the issue. [For background and analysis of the excess tax capture, see Chronicle columns: “Taxing Math Needs Another Look” and “TIF Capture is a Varsity Sport.”]

Director’s Report

AADL director Josie Parker told the board that it’s important to understand the implications of the possible elimination of the state’s personal property tax, which is being discussed by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and state legislators. The business tax is levied on non-permanent items like computers, industrial equipment and furniture. It contrasts with the state’s real property tax, which is levied on land and buildings.

The library has a dedicated millage, and would be among the taxing authorities affected by any reduction or elimination of the tax. The AADL is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills. Its current budget includes a levy of 1.55 mills, unchanged from the previous year.

If the tax were eliminated, the library would lose an estimated $637,000 in revenue, Parker said.

It’s possible that the tax could be phased out over a period of several years, or that other revenue sources would be proposed by the state to replace it. But with an estimated $1.2 billion in tax revenue loss statewide, Parker said it’s slowly dawning on communities that if the personal property tax is eliminated, it would likely mean a loss of services too – ranging from police and fire services, to libraries. That’s especially true for municipalities and other taxing entities where the personal property tax makes up a large share of their total revenues, Parker said – in some cases, as much as 50%. Some libraries in the state have told the Michigan Library Association that they’d have to close completely, she said.

Earlier this month, David Zin, chief economist for the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, issued a memo summarizing an analysis of the legislation – Senate Bill 34 and Senate Bill 142. He writes: “Individual local units’ reliance on personal property taxes varies significantly, with smaller and more rural local units generally less reliant on personal property taxes than more developed urban areas.” [.pdf of Zin's memo]

It’s a complicated issue, Parker said, but one that the board needs to be aware of.

At Monday’s meeting, trustee Ed Surovell acknowledged that there are problems with the tax, though he indicated it is not onerous. He said his accountant complains that the depreciation schedules are difficult – requiring, for example, that computers be depreciated over 10 years, which is far longer than the computer’s life cycle. His business, Edward Surovell Realtors, pays about $16,000 to $18,000 in personal property taxes, he said. Large manufacturers like GM, with factories in which the equipment is far more valuable than the buildings, would pay significantly more.

As a private citizen, Surovell said, he’s concerned about how the tax might be replaced. However, he said he didn’t think legislators will repeal it because they’re not smart enough to figure out how to replace it. If you don’t want to tax businesses, he added, you’ll have to tax citizens. “I don’t think the current legislature will want to do that.”

Parker reported that lobbyists are being told that taxes would have to be raised locally, to replace the state personal property tax. This might be done by raising the current caps on the amount that local taxing authorities can levy. Parker said there seems to be no real recognition that the communities hit hardest will have the least ability to impose higher taxes on residents.

Parker said there are voices in Lansing that are clearly comfortable with saying that no matter how much pain it causes, these steps are necessary to achieve their goals. In Ann Arbor, those opinions aren’t often heard, she said, but it’s important to know what people in other parts of the state – including legislators – are saying.

Barbara Murphy wondered what the intent was behind repealing the tax. Rebecca Head said the rationale being used is that the personal property tax is not conducive to job growth. Surovell expressed skepticism: “That’s a great statement because it’s not arguable – it’s not grounded on anything.”

Several groups have mobilized on the issue. The Michigan Library Association (MLA) has joined a raft of other organizations in the Replace Don’t Erase Personal Property Tax Coalition. Other groups in the coalition include the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union.

Parker is chair of the MLA’s legislative committee, which has made the issue its top priority, according to a statement on the association’s website.

On Sept. 20, the day after AADL’s board meeting, Governmental Consultant Services Inc. – the Lansing firm led by Kirk Profit that serves as a lobbyist for the MLA and other entities, including the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County – issued a legislative briefing that addressed this issue. The document, authored by GCSI staff Erik Hingst and Nell Kuhnmuench, was sent to the MLA’s legislative committee. From that briefing:

As we have discussed, Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) introduced Senate Bill 34 back in January that would eliminate the collection of Personal Property Taxes (PPT) in Michigan. Now that the Legislature has returned from the summer recess, the conversation regarding the outright repeal or phase out of PPT is beginning to escalate.

Clearly, the estimated $1 billion in projected revenue losses to local units of government would have a catastrophic impact on their operations and the state. While it would appear that the Administration is leaning toward replacing a portion of local revenues, an outright alternative dollar for dollar funding stream does not seem to be a priority for those advising the Governor.

The Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Townships Association and direct local units of government (through their respective Mayors and their elected and appointed officers) continue to call for a complete, constitutional replacement of any and all revenue. To date, neither the Senate nor the House has had any meaningful committee hearings on the issue. However, the likelihood of the legislature approving a replacement to be placed on the ballot would in our estimation be remote at this time.

The more likely scenario will be for the legislature to embrace the utilization of increased revenue the state estimates receiving from the replacement of the Michigan Business Tax with the new Corporate Income Tax and the elimination of a number of credits (advance manufacturing and the battery credits) that resulted from the adoption of the new corporate tax. The legislature could also establish a form of a local option for PPT through the expansion of local millage caps.

Regardless of the final product, the library community will have to be engaged in the conversation throughout the process. While the Association’s participation in the press conference calling for the replacement of revenue was an important first step, educating the members of the Senate and the House on the impact changes in this specific revenue stream will have on libraries will be critical! It will also be important for lawmakers to understand that District Libraries (and their specific, direct millages) will be in particular jeopardy.

We have begun our efforts on behalf of the Association with direct communication with Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley (the point person from the Administration on the issue) and his staff. Specifically, we have asked that they not forget District Libraries in particular when they draft their definition of “local units of government” so that they are equally eligible with other local units of government for whatever replacement revenue stream may be utilized.

We cannot stress enough the importance of the entire library community reaching out to their respective Senate and House members to emphasize the importance of replacing PPT revenue with a meaningful, reliable alternative!

Director’s Report: Herrick Lawsuit

Parker’s report also included news about a lawsuit brought by Herrick District Library against the Library of Michigan. The state librarian announced at a recent Library of Michigan board meeting that the state library won’t appeal a Court of Appeals decision, which was handed down in August and ruled in favor of Herrick. Rather than being appealed to the state Supreme Court, the lawsuit has ended, Parker said, and that’s good news. [.pdf of appeals court opinion]

By way of background, in 2008 the Library of Michigan announced new rules that would have changed how public libraries qualify for state aid. In 2009, Herrick District Library in Holland filed a lawsuit against the state library, challenging those new rules. Herrick argued that the state library has no authority to set these rules, and is taking away local control from district libraries.

From previous Chronicle coverage:

The lawsuit focused on rules requiring that a public library provide the same level of service to all areas it serves.

Libraries have the authority to contract with areas outside of its millage boundaries to provide varying levels of service. A contracting municipality, for example, could receive limited library services for its residents, and pay an amount lower than what’s levied by the library millage within the library district’s boundary. The new rules prohibit this approach – and if a library continued to provide contracted services at a lower level, it would not qualify for state aid.

Herrick’s lawsuit argues that the Library of Michigan and the state’s History, Arts and Library Department – which previously housed the state library but which has since been dissolved – lack statutory authority to set rules for determining how state aid is distributed to public libraries. The suit also argues that neither the state constitution nor the statutes that govern public libraries require that libraries deliver the same level of service to contracting jurisdictions. Finally, the lawsuit contends that because the new rules are vague and overly broad, they are unconstitutional.

At its December 2010 meeting, the AADL board voted to file an amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – brief in support of the Herrick library’s position. Parker has provided previous updates on this lawsuit, including the board’s meetings in March 2011 and April 2011.

At Monday’s meeting, Parker noted that while four library cooperatives filed briefs in support of Herrick’s position, AADL was the only individual library to do so. She said she was proud that the board had stepped up and understood the issues. It’s clearly an historical decision with broad implications for other government agencies as well, she said.

Now, state aid will be distributed to libraries in compliance with the court of appeals ruling. More information about that method is expected to be communicated to libraries in October, Parker said.

Because of uncertainty associated with the status of state aid, AADL’s budgets for the past few years – including the budget for the current fiscal year, which the board approved in May – have not included any anticipated revenues from state aid. The library’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. [.pdf of 2011-12 budget] However, the library has continued to receive some state aid. In fiscal 2010-11, the library recorded $$67,562 in state aid, including $45,180 earmarked for the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which AADL operates. That’s down from a total of $71,634 in FY 2009-10.

Finance Report

Ken Nieman – AADL’s associate director of finance, human resources and operations – gave a brief financial update during the meeting. Through the end of August, the library has received $7,060,073 in tax revenues, or about 63% of what’s budgeted for the fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.

The library’s unrestricted cash balance stands at $12,755,062.

Nieman noted that four line items are over budget: employee costs, purchased services, communications and postage. Those expenses are expected to come back in line with budgeted amounts by the end of the fiscal year. [.pdf of full finance report]

There were no comments or questions from board members about the report.

Board Meeting Date Change

The library board typically meets on the third Monday of each month. On the agenda for the Sept. 19 meeting was a resolution changing the meeting dates for October and November. In each case, the meetings were moved to the next day – Tuesday, Oct. 18 and Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Board members didn’t provide a reason for the change during the meeting. In a follow-up email to The Chronicle, board president Margaret Leary clarified that scheduling issues drove the decision – she would have been unable to attend the meetings on their regular dates, and asked that the meetings be shifted.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to change the meeting dates in October and November.

Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.

Next meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]

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Ann Arbor Library Weighs In On Lawsuit Wed, 22 Dec 2010 22:19:59 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Dec. 20, 2010): The AADL board spent much of their December meeting focused on a statewide issue with local implications: New rules issued by the Library of Michigan are being challenged in court. The board ultimately voted to file an amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – brief in support of the Herrick District Library in Holland, which filed suit against the state library. At stake are broader issues of local control, which officials at local public libraries believe would be eroded if the new rules are allowed. The new rules change how libraries qualify for state aid.

The board also got brief updates on plans to deal with the downtown library building and with the parking deal being negotiated between the city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Monday’s meeting wrapped up with a farewell to Carola Stearns, the outgoing board member whose term concludes at the end of the year.

Update on DDA/City Parking Deal

An item originally on Monday’s agenda allotted 30 minutes to a discussion of the parking contract between the city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. However, at the start of the meeting, board president Rebecca Head told the board they needed to postpone that discussion, saying it was premature at this point.

By way of background, at their November 2010 meeting, the board had voted to direct AADL director Josie Parker – in conjunction with the board’s treasurer and the budget and finance committee – to consult with legal counsel about the parking agreement, and to seek a legal opinion about how funds are being allocated that would otherwise be coming to the library. At issue is the potential for tax increment financing funds captured by the DDA from public entities, including the AADL, to be used to offset a parking fund deficit caused by striking a new parking deal with the city. [See Chronicle coverage: "Column: Impact of City-DDA Parking Deal"]

Later in the meeting, Prue Rosenthal – the board’s treasurer – reported that the budget and finance committee had met with attorney Bill Stapleton of the law firm Hooper Hathaway in Ann Arbor, to discuss the parking deal. [The budget and finance committee consists of Rosenthal, Ed Surovell and Barbara Murphy. Murphy was absent from the committee meeting and from Monday's board meeting, due to a death in the family.] Stapleton suggested that at this point, they should simply monitor the situation closely, Rosenthal reported.

Rosenthal also noted that Parker will be attending DDA meetings, to keep up on the progress of the parking agreement negotiations.

Update on Downtown Building Project

During her report from the board’s executive committee, Rebecca Head said the committee had a conversation about what to do with the downtown library building, and how the board might proceed on that project. The committee decided that the full board needs to resume that discussion next year.

In addition to Head, board treasurer Prue Rosental and vice president Jan Barney Newman serve on the executive committee. Rosenthal reported that the group talked about how they might approach the topic, and how they should present to the public what they ultimately decided to do. Newman noted that the plans they’d developed two years ago are already out of date.

The library board and administration had previously decided to tear down the existing downtown building and construct a new one at the same location. They aborted that project in late 2008, saying that economic conditions were a factor. Since then, the topic has emerged during discussions at several board meetings, but no action has been taken aside from authorizing repairs and equipment replacement for the building. [See Chronicle coverage: "Citing Economy, Board Halts Library Project" and "Board Renews Library Building Discussion"]

On Monday, Head noted that it’s up to the board to decide how to proceed, and to provide direction to the library administration about the next steps to take.

State Aid Lawsuit

Much of the discussion during Monday’s meeting focused on a lawsuit filed last year by Herrick District Library in Holland, Michigan, against the Library of Michigan over new rules for determining how a public library qualifies for state aid. The issue has broad implications for all public libraries statewide, and the AADL board was considering whether to file an amicus curiae brief – commonly known as a friend of the court brief – in support of the Herrick library’s position.

State Aid Lawsuit: Background, Presentation

AADL director Josie Parker began the discussion by giving board members some background on the situation. In 2009, the Library of Michigan issued new rules which changed the standards used to determine whether public libraries qualify for state aid. The rules were slated to take effect in October 2010 – the start of the state’s fiscal year. [.pdf file of 2010 Library of Michigan Certification Manual and State Aid to Public Libraries Grant Rules]

When the new rules were announced in draft form in 2008, directors of eight library cooperatives in the state – representing, through their memberships, many of the public libraries in Michigan – objected to the change. They contended that the Library of Michigan didn’t have the authority to set new rules on how libraries qualify for state aid, which is awarded by the state legislature. “It was a loud voice, and it went unheard,” Parker said.

In October 2009, the Herrick District Library filed a lawsuit in the Ottawa County Circuit Court, challenging the Library of Michigan’s authority to set these rules. The lawsuit focused on rules requiring that a public library provide the same level of service to all areas it serves.

Libraries have the authority to contract with areas outside of its millage boundaries to provide varying levels of service. A contracting municipality, for example, could receive limited library services for its residents, and pay an amount lower than what’s levied by the library millage within the library district’s boundary. The new rules prohibit this approach – and if a library continued to provide contracted services at a lower level, it would not qualify for state aid.

Herrick’s lawsuit argues that the Library of Michigan and the state’s History, Arts and Library Department – which previously housed the state library but which has since been dissolved – lack statutory authority to set rules for determining how state aid is distributed to public libraries. The suit also argues that neither the state constitution nor the statutes that govern public libraries require that libraries deliver the same level of service to contracting jurisdictions. Finally, the lawsuit contends that because the new rules are vague and overly broad, they are unconstitutional.

Parker told the AADL board that the lawsuit is challenging the new rules for the same reasons that the directors of the eight library cooperatives had objected to them – because the Library of Michigan has no authority to set the rules, and because the state library is taking away local control from district libraries.

On Sept. 9, 2010, Judge Calvin Bosman of the Ottawa County Circuit Court issued a ruling in the case, stating that the Library of Michigan lacked the authority to issue these new rules. The state library appealed the decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals, and filed a motion for stay – essentially asking that the lower court’s decision not take affect until the appeal is resolved. Parker said they learned earlier in the day that the motion for stay has been denied.

The lawsuit and the recent denial of the motion for stay throws state aid into limbo, Parker said. Libraries haven’t received aid for the state’s current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1 – although the money has been budgeted by the legislature. In the short term, it doesn’t affect AADL, Parker said – in general, state aid has been dwindling because of Michigan’s economic situation. Most recently, the legislature budgeted about $6 million in total aid to public libraries statewide.

Because of the state’s overall economy, AADL didn’t anticipate receiving state aid this year, so it won’t affect their current budget, Parker said. Nor does AADL have any contracts to provide services to other municipalities. But longer-term implications could be significant, she said.

Parker elaborated on that issue in a follow-up phone interview with The Chronicle, saying that the Library of Michigan’s actions could potentially erode local control. Constitutionally, libraries are governed by elected local boards and receive most of their funding from local millages. That local control is important because it gives each library flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the community it serves, she said.

William Perrone, an attorney with the law firm Dykema’s Lansing office, attended Monday’s meeting and also addressed the board. In addition to the issues that Parker had covered, Perrone noted another aspect of the rules change: It links – for the first time – the qualification for state aid to the receipt of penal fine revenue.

Libraries receive two sources of annual funding from the state: 1) state aid, and 2) penal fines. State aid, as required by statute, is an amount budgeted annually by the legislature, then divvied up among public libraries on a per-capita basis.

Separately, libraries also receive a portion of penal fines paid to the state’s criminal justice system each year. These payments are mandated by the state constitution and are administered by the county treasurer, who allocates the funds to libraries in the county on a per-capita formula – the state simply notifies the treasurer which libraries are eligible to receive these revenues.

In its most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2010, AADL received $251,308 in penal fine revenue. By comparison, that same year the library received $71,634 in state aid – more than half of that was allocated to fund the local Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which AADL administers. The AADL’s overall annual budget is just over $12 million.

State Aid Lawsuit: Amicus Curiae Brief

Perrone told the board that when the Herrick lawsuit is resolved, it will likely set a precedent on the issues being raised. It will determine whether the Library of Michigan has rule-making authority by inference, he said – the state has already conceded that rule-making authority isn’t laid out explicitly in state statues. If such authority is inferred, the next question is whether state aid rules can be a part of that authority – or whether state aid is the purview of the legislature.

Perrone explained that an amicus brief is a mechanism to show the court that the impact of the lawsuit is broader than its effect on the plaintiff. The AADL brief would address three issues, he said:

  • To support Herrick District Library regarding its position on state aid rules.
  • To say that these new rules run counter to the state’s public policy, created when the legislature set up the library system – that is, to object to taking away local decision-making authority and transferring that control to the state level, in essence creating a state library system.
  • To point out potential negative consequences if these new rules remain in place.

Perrone described several negative consequences that would result from these new rules. The effect would be to deny library services to those people who need them – the opposite of what the rules were meant to do, he said. Libraries that previously provided limited services at a lower rate – or at no charge – couldn’t afford to give contracting jurisdictions full service. So instead of losing their qualification for state aid, the district libraries likely would decide not to provide any contract service at all, he said.

Another potential consequence of failing to qualify for state aid is that libraries could also lose their charters. There’s a provision in Michigan’s library act that stipulates if a library fails to qualify for state aid, the state librarian can seek to dissolve the library. “That’s pretty draconian,” Perrone said.

Finally, the issue of tying the qualification for state aid with the qualification to receive state penal fines is significant, Perrone said. Revenue from penal fines constitutes a lot more money than does state aid, he said, and affects more libraries. That’s because all libraries in the state receive penal fine revenue, and there’s a larger pool of funding to distribute. In contrast, state aid is set by the legislature and is generally a smaller amount, available only to libraries that meet Library of Michigan qualifications.

These points would be made in a neutral tone in the amicus brief, Perrone assured the board, with the goal of conveying to the court that the new rules aren’t appropriate.

They’re working under a tight timeframe, he said. Herrick’s brief in response to the Library of Michigan’s appeal is due on Dec. 24. Amicus briefs are due 21 days after that – on Jan. 13. With the holidays, that tightens things up even more, he said. Dykema has already done some minimal research. They’ve talked to the legal counsel for Herrick, and Parker has talked to the library director there. Perrone said he believes they are prepared to meet the deadline for filing.

State Aid Lawsuit: Board Questions, Comments

Prue Rosenthal asked whether there was anything in the new rules mandating that contracting entities pay the full cost to receive full services. Perrone said that the state library act allows libraries to enter into these kinds of contracts, but there are no rules dictating what the contracts should entail. It was his understanding that municipalities outside the library district – usually townships – couldn’t afford to pay the full cost for complete services. [According to a Jan. 9, 2010 Grand Rapids Press article about the Herrick lawsuit, the townships under contract with Herrick reported that they'd have difficulty paying the full amount.]

In response to a question from Jan Barney Newman, Perrone said it would likely be several months before a ruling is made on the lawsuit – typically, a ruling is handed down six to 12 months after the briefs are filed, he said. Oral arguments might occur this summer.

Parker clarified for the board that AADL would not be entering the lawsuit. The amicus brief is simply designed to show the broader implications of the case.

Newman then asked whether any state aid would be awarded in the interim. That decision is up to the state library, Parker replied. In November, the state library issued a notice that payments would be held – they’ve stated it would take a year to modify their electronic system, which is now set up to conform to the new rules. State library officials have argued that they don’t have the staff resources to make the change – that was an argument for why the new rules need to go forward, Parker said.

Perrone noted that if the state library had been granted the stay it requested, they could have implemented the new rules. Now, they can’t. He contended that at this point, the state library can’t simply hold the funding until the case is resolved – it’s been allocated by the legislature. They’ve got to deal with it, he said, or potentially face another lawsuit.

Carola Stearns asked whether the municipalities that are contracting with district libraries are upset by the level of service they’re receiving. Perrone replied that the rule changes weren’t generated at the request of these contracting entities, and that the contracting entities didn’t litigate. His understanding is that it’s a state authority issue, not a quality-of-service issue. Parker added that it’s also a financial issue, from the perspective of both Herrick and the townships.

Rebecca Head noted that historically, the Library of Michigan at one point did have decision-making authority. Perrone said this was true when the state library was part of the legislative branch. But in 2001, the legislature transferred the Library of Michigan to the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, which had just been formed as part of the executive branch. As part of that transfer, legislators stripped out the section of the state statute that gave the Library of Michigan decision-making authority. The state library was later transferred again – in 2009 – to the Department of Education, but its decision-making authority wasn’t restored.

Newman noted that the state library could appeal to the legislature to restore its authority. That’s true, Perrone said. But what the state library is trying to do instead is a back-door approach to getting its authority back, he said.

Head reported that the board’s executive committee had been briefed by Perrone last week, and had agreed that it would be reasonable to move forward with an amicus brief. Margaret Leary said she fully supported filing the brief. AADL was in a position to do something in support of public libraries, and they should, she said.

Leary also had two questions: 1) Are other libraries also filing amicus briefs? and 2) What’s the position of the Michigan Library Association?

Parker couldn’t say definitively whether other libraries were also filing amicus briefs. The directors of library cooperatives in the state have been discussing it, she said, but she hasn’t heard whether they will file.

Parker said that unlike many other libraries, AADL has the resources and time to take leadership in this way. [Parker and the board have previously taken stands on other statewide issues, including a strong position in support of the Library of Michigan when it was at risk of being dismantled. See Chronicle coverage: "Board Briefed on Gutting of State Library"]

Many others are watching the situation, Parker said, adding that she thinks they’ll be representing a lot of people.

As for the Michigan Library Association, they haven’t taken a position, Parker said. Ed Surovell commented, “That in and of itself is a position.”

Parker noted that it’s difficult for her, because she’s chair of the MLA’s legislative committee. The MLA board hasn’t asked the legislative committee to comment – the issue has remained at the board level, she said. But the association isn’t filing an amicus brief.

As the board prepared to vote on a resolution to file the brief, Surovell said he needed to abstain. His position as a trustee for the Library of Michigan Foundation – a separate entity that raises money to support the state library’s special programs, services and collections – created a conflict for him, he said. “I do not, however, lack an opinion.”

Outcome: The board voted to approve a resolution directing AADL to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Herrick District Library’s lawsuit against the Library of Michigan. Ed Surovell abstained.

Financial Report

Ken Nieman, AADL’s associate director of finance, HR and operations, gave a brief report on the library’s finances. He noted that through the end of November, the library had received about 95% of its budgeted tax revenue, or nearly $11 million. They had about $13.8 million in cash on hand, and the items that were currently over budget – including employee benefits, software licenses and repairs/maintenance – are expected to come back in line before the end of their fiscal year on June 30, 2011.

Aside from one word change pointed out by treasurer Prue Rosenthal, there was no discussion among board members regarding this report.

Director’s Report

Josie Parker began her director’s report by noting that the library and its staff have received several instances of national recognition. Tim Grimes, AADL’s community relations and marketing manager, has been invited to be an advisor to the Tribeca Film Institute in applying for a grant to develop a six-part public series of lectures, documentary film screenings and other events. Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, is also involved. The series – titled “From Bluegrass to Broadway: A Film History of America’s Popular Music” – would cover a range of American musical traditions, including blues and gospel, jazz and hip-hop. Parker said that AADL and the New York Public Library are involved, because on a national level they’ve been two of the libraries that have taken new technologies seriously, as a tool to delivering programs and services.

Grimes has also been invited to help develop a new project for the National Endowment for the Humanities, tentatively titled “Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Worlds.” Grimes and others will meet next year to identify books and other resources that will ultimately be distributed to at least 1,000 public libraries nationwide, designed to spur discussion and programming about the Muslim culture.

Parker also noted that the book selected for the 2011 Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program is “Life Is So Good,” by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman. The book relates the story of how Dawson, who’s now deceased, learned to read when he was 98. “I think it’s time for an upbeat and positive read,” Parker said, “and this one will be.” Glaubman will attend the Jan. 22 kick-off. [The event runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 Huron River Drive. A complete list of events is on the AADL's website.]

Parker reported that AADL was selected as one of 20 sites for the traveling exhibition of “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World,” marking the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth. The exhibit will be in Ann Arbor from May 4 through July 11, 2011, and staff are developing programming for it.

Finally, she congratulated librarian Erin Helmrich, whose article “What Teens Want: What Librarians Can Learn from MTV” – originally published in an issue of Young Adult Library Services – will be included as a chapter in a 2011 publication of the Young Adult Library Services Assocation. Helmrich has also co-authored a book with former AADL librarian Elizabeth Schneider, titled “Create, Relate and Pop @ the Library: Services and Programs for Teens and Tweens.” That book will be published in March of 2011.

Farewell to Outgoing Board Member

At the end of Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution of appreciation to Carola Stearns, and presented her with the gift of an inscribed clock and gave her a round of applause. It marked the last meeting for Stearns, who lost the Nov. 2 election to Nancy Kaplan. Kaplan attended Monday’s meeting, and will officially take office in January.

Board members expressed gratitude for Stearns’ service. Prue Rosenthal noted that Stearns had kept the board on its toes, and Margaret Leary commented that Stearns had taught her to think more scientifically. She also pointed out that Stearns had agreed to accept a two-year appointment, knowing that she’d be in the public eye before running for election – that took courage, Leary said. [Stearns had been appointed to the board in mid-2008, following the resignation of former board member Jean King.]

Ed Surovell recalled that Stearns had been new to the board at a time when other board members had felt comfortable with the way they were doing things. “Carola reminded me of how strange it all seems” as a new board member, he said. She worked hard to catch up, he added, and in the process reminded the rest of them “what the real questions were.”

AADL director Josie Parker also thanked Stearns, saying that she brought an analytical perspective to the staff that was valuable. While they already took that approach to some extent, “now we do it automatically,” Parker said. “It makes us a much better library.”

Stearns, who had given more extensive remarks about her tenure at the board’s November meeting, thanked her colleagues for their support.

Present: Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Carola Stearns, Ed Surovell. Also: Josie Parker, AADL director.

Absent: Barbara Murphy

Next meeting: Regular board meetings are typically held on the third Monday of the month, with the public portion of the meeting starting at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor board room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The board’s next regular meeting is set for Monday, Jan. 17, 2011. [confirm date]

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Board Briefed on Gutting of State Library Tue, 16 Feb 2010 17:21:29 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Feb. 15, 2010): During her report to the board, AADL director Josie Parker delivered a scathing review of the state’s moves to downsize the Library of Michigan, laying out the implications for local patrons as well as for the state as a whole.

A memo dated Feb. 12, 2010 from the state Department of Education describes general plans to disperse the state library’s extensive collection. Parker noted that while the memo claims the state will support continued services, such as the popular Michigan eLibrary, there’s nothing that guarantees funding – and “without that, those resources are gone,” she said.

As part of an effort last year to balance the state’s budget,  Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued executive orders that abolished the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, of which the Library of Michigan is a part. The Library of Michigan was transferred to the state Department of Education, and that department was charged with downsizing operations. [See executive orders 2009-36 and 2009-43]

Many people fought hard against this move, Parker said. She praised the AADL board for taking a stand last year, characterizing the move as bold. The board unanimously passed a resolution in September of 2009 urging the state legislature to keep the Library of Michigan’s services and collections whole. The resolution also supported a $10 million level of funding for libraries – an amount needed to ensure matching federal funds – and asked the legislature to guarantee line-item funding for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. [.pdf file of board resolution]

In addition, the board had endorsed Parker’s earlier efforts to lobby for support of the state library. In an Aug. 28, 2009 post on her director’s blog, Parker laid out the implications for the proposed changes. An excerpt:

It is not clear how abolishing the department dedicated to promoting Michigan history and the arts, and supporting all libraries in Michigan will result in significant savings; the Governor has indicated that there is an unfunded plan to move the collections to repurpose the State Library building. Library services, when separated or isolated from a larger system, and placed in a bureaucratic environment, will wither.

How will this proposed plan affect you? The State Library administers the services of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. AADL is a sub-regional service provider and has been since February of this year. The plan as proposed moves the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped from the Library of Michigan to the Commission for the Blind. It is not clear if any funding will follow the move, and the Commission is facing the same cuts as all other state departments and agencies. If services from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped statewide are to remain stable and funded, the Governor, and our legislators, should be made aware that the proposed move is a threat to its existence.

The Library of Michigan also administers the group purchasing of databases that are made available to all libraries statewide for reduced costs. Any library cardholder or Michigan citizen with a valid driver’s license can access those databases from anywhere in the world. If the resources of the Library of Michigan are dispersed or eliminated, and if the State Aid to Libraries allocation is reduced, then access to these databases will disappear. Only the larger, most affluent communities will be able to consider locally funding these resources. Even at AADL, continuance of the currently available set of resources will not be possible.

In a follow-up post after Granholm amended the original executive order to retain the Library of Michigan by name, Parker thanks the governor and state legislators who had advocated for the library, but noted that funding remained an issue.

For example, the Feb. 12, 2010 memo states that the Library of Michigan will continue to administer the Michigan eLibrary, known as MeLCat, but it’s unclear whether there will be funding for that popular service. The statewide catalog system allows member libraries throughout Michigan, including AADL, to share materials. The service is primarily federally funded, but requires matching funds from the state – if the legislature cuts that funding, then the federal money can’t be tapped. AADL is both the largest MeLCat lender and largest borrower, with over 70,000 items going in and out annually.

Even though MeLCat and other the Library of Michigan services are supposed to continue, many of the physical collections will be dispersed. The Feb. 12, 2010 memo states that the Department of Education will work to identify “agencies or organizations within Michigan but outside of state government” to take over the genealogy collection and services, as well as the library’s regional federal depository program and federal documents collection. The library’s main general collection, Dewey collection and reference collections will be offered to other libraries in the state, according to the memo.

But there are few public libraries that have sufficient financial and staff resources to absorb these collections in their entirety, Parker said. The Ann Arbor library system could not take the collections, she said. Accessibility is also an issue – depending on which organization takes a particular collection or piece of a collection, the public might not be granted the kind of access they’ve had at the state library.

“This is really terrible,” Parker said about the changes, telling the board that she felt “punched.” She said it seems clear that the building in Lansing that housed the Library of Michigan collections “is wanted for some other purpose.”

Parker noted that libraries nationwide and across Michigan are struggling, citing specifically the recent news that the library system in Warren, Michigan, expects to close some of its branches. Though the Ann Arbor library is supported by a millage, Parker said that many rural libraries in Michigan rely on state funding to operate.

Board member Ed Surovell noted that he’s a trustee of the Library of Michigan Foundation, and that they now find themselves “a foundation without a purpose.” He said he shared the view that without the state library collections, “the rest will fall.”

Rebecca Head, AADL board president, echoed those concerns: “Unfortunately, I feel the worst is yet to come.”

Parker said she’s been asked if she’d be willing to testify before the state legislative appropriations committee, regarding funding for the Library of Michigan. She told the board she would testify, if called upon. If there’s a loss of state library services, she said, “our patrons will feel that directly.”

Strategic Planning Work Session

Monday’s board meeting was brief, but the group will reconvene on Thursday for a working session focused on strategic planning. It’s a continuation of a retreat the board held in September 2009. [See Chronicle coverage: "New Downtown Library? If, When and Where"]

At the board’s November 2009 meeting, board president Rebecca Head said that the development of strategic initiatives has focused on four areas: 1) the need for more space – and larger venues – in which to hold events, 2) the shift from print to non-print resources, and how to handle that transition, 3) how best to communicate with the public, and 4) how to make library accessible to variety of people in community.

Since then, library managers have been gathering input from staff to develop goals aimed at implementing the broader initiatives. At Thursday’s working session, which is open to the public, the board will review a draft of the strategic plan. The meeting will be facilitated by Sandra Greenstone, who also led the September 2009 retreat.

A final plan is expected to be brought to the board for a vote at their March 15 meeting.

Other Items

During Monday’s meeting, board president Rebecca Head noted that the agreement between the AADL board and the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library ends on May 19. The agreement can be renewed for a year at a time, with board approval. Head asked that the liaison committee, chaired by Margaret Leary, meet with representatives from the FAADL to talk about whether the agreement needs to be altered.

Head also noted that because of a recent change in the board’s election cycle, the board’s bylaws need to be revised to reflect the changes. She asked that the policy committee, led by Jan Barney Newman, make recommendations for the board to vote on at a future meeting.

Also related to the policy committee, AADL director Josie Parker said that the library staff will be working with its legal counsel and the committee to develop whistleblower and conflict-of-interest policies for AADL staff. These policies are part of new requirements by the IRS, Parker said, and will be brought to the board for approval.

During her director’s report, Parker noted the retirement of Judy Calhoun, who has worked at the library for 40 years. She thanked Calhoun for her service, and described her departure as a loss for the library.

Parker also briefed the board on what happens to materials that are taken out of circulation. Much of it goes to the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, which sells the material to raise funds for AADL. But books and other materials are also distributed to local schools, community centers, jails, and homeless shelters, she said. As an example, last weekend the Bryant Community Center held a book fair, with materials donated by the library.

Present: Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Carola Stearns, Ed Surovell. Also: Josie Parker, AADL director.

Absent: Barbara Murphy.

Next meetings: The library board will hold a working session for strategic planning on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010, beginning at 7 p.m. in conference room A, on the fourth floor of the AADL downtown building, 343 S. Fifth Ave. Regular board meetings are typically held on the third Monday of the month, with the public portion of the meeting starting at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor board room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The board’s next regular meeting is on Monday, March 15, 2010. [confirm date]

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