Stories indexed with the term ‘realia collection’

AADL Retreat: Prep for Next Strategic Plan

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.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A skeleton – wearing an Ann Arbor District Library T-shirt – was part of the non-traditional collections on display at the Feb. 3, 2014 AADL board retreat. (Photos by the writer.)

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. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Gets Feedback

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.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

One of the “yarn bombed” trees in front of the Pittsfield branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the board held its July 15, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

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. [Full Story]

Mammoth Molars, Other Realia at the AADL

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Jan. 16, 2012): A Michigan Radio report last month had indicated that the Ann Arbor library might start loaning out bicycles. AADL director Josie Parker assured the board that “we don’t circulate bicycles!” but said she wanted trustees to learn more about the kinds of realia collections that the library does circulate.

Celeste Choate

Celeste Choate, AADL associate director of services, collections and access, holds up a replica of a fossilized wooly mammoth tooth and a wooly mammoth model – items that are included in Science to Go kits available from the AADL. Choate was giving a presentation on the library's realia collections. (Photos by the writer.)

Among the most popular is AADL’s art print collection, which includes work by local artists, according to Celeste Choate, AADL associate director of services, collections and access. Meter readers to gauge the energy efficiency of home appliances and electronics are also popular.

Science to Go kits are the newest addition to AADL’s realia collection. Each kit focuses on a theme – prehistoric mammals, for example – and contains materials that include books, DVDs, Fandex educational cards, and objects like a replica of a fossilized wooly mammoth molar. The kits have only been available for about a month, but are all checked out, each with a long wait list. The realia collections are listed in “Unusual Stuff to Borrow” on AADL’s website.

Other agenda items for Monday’s meeting were less show and more tell. The board re-elected its current slate of officers for another year, with president Margaret Leary noting that the board faces several important decisions in the coming year – she indicated that continuity of leadership would help the board in that context. Though she did not mention it explicitly, Leary likely was alluding to plans discussed by the board in November to restart the process for determining the future of the AADL’s downtown location.

In a formal address at the start of Monday’s meeting, Leary reviewed the library’s accomplishments for 2011. Among other things, she mentioned the board’s decision to keep its millage rate down, while still balancing its budget. AADL’s millage rate for the current fiscal year is 1.55 mills – below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy. However, she cautioned that if the state eliminates the personal property tax and no replacement funding is found, the library would lose about $600,000 annually in revenues out of a $12 million budget.

Later in the meeting, the board was briefed by Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, on a draft terms-of-use policy for the library’s website. The decision to develop the policy was driven in large part because of issues related to the library’s digitization of the former Ann Arbor News archives – AADL will be putting a lot of material online for which it doesn’t hold the copyright. The board is expected to vote on the policy at its Feb. 20 meeting.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board voted to approve a two-year lease renewal with Westgate Enterprises LLC for the location of AADL’s branch at the Westgate Shopping Center, at Jackson and South Maple roads. The annual lease rate is $82,260, beginning Feb. 1. [Full Story]