Ann Arbor Library Board OKs 2011-12 Budget

Also: Resolution to broadcast board meetings is defeated

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (May 16, 2011): With little discussion, the library board approved their $12.034 million budget for fiscal year 2011-12 on Monday night, reflecting a 2% revenue decrease from this year. The budget keeps AADL’s millage rate unchanged at 1.55 mills – well below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy.

Ann Arbor District Library Friends Book Shop sign

A sign directing patrons to the Ann Arbor District Library Friends Book Shop, operated by the nonprofit Friends of the AADL in the lower level of the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. (Photos by the writer.)

Also on Monday, trustees voted down a proposal to videotape monthly board meetings for broadcast. Nancy Kaplan raised the issue at last month’s meeting, and brought forward a formal resolution this month. It was defeated on a 2-4 vote, with support only from Kaplan and Barbara Murphy. No trustees spoke about their reasons for voting against it.

Last month, library staff cited limited resources and quality control as reasons for not videotaping the public meetings, which typically last less than an hour. The governing bodies of most public entities that receive tax dollars from Ann Arbor residents videotape their meetings. Besides the library, the few governing bodies that do not videotape their meetings are the University of Michigan board of regents and Washtenaw Community College board of trustees.

In other action, board chair Margaret Leary reported on the board’s annual evaluation of AADL director Josie Parker. Leary read aloud a letter to Parker that effusively praised her leadership and the library’s success, but noted that because of economic conditions, she would not be receiving a raise in the coming year.

Trustees also had praise for the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, and unanimously authorized a one-year extension on the space use agreement that allows FAADL to operate its bookstore in the downtown library’s lower level. Proceeds from the store support the library.

2011-12 Budget and Financial Update

The board passed three resolutions related to the budget at Monday’s meeting, in a series of unanimous votes with little discussion. No one spoke during a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2011-12 budget, beginning July 1, 2011. [pdf file of FY2011-12 budget]

Though the board is allowed to levy up to 1.92 mills, the $12.034 million budget is based on tax revenues from a 1.55 mill levy, which the board authorized in a separate vote. [In 2009, the board had lowered its millage rate from 1.92 mills to the current rate of 1.55 mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s state equalized value, or SEV.] A third resolution adopted the budget as a line item budget and set a policy on disbursements, which the board passes annually. All single disbursements over $28,000 must receive board approval.

Major expenditures include $5.684 million for salaries and wages, $1.51 million for employee benefits and $1.85 million for materials. The $12.034 million budget represents a 2% drop from the current fiscal year’s budget of $12.299 million.

At the board’s April 25, 2011 meeting, AADL staff were still working out details of resolving a roughly $40,000 deficit for the year. On Monday, Ken Nieman, associate director of finance, human resources and operations, told the board staff had decided to take that amount out of employment-related expenditures, which he said typically come in under budget. No layoffs or cuts to salaries or benefits were involved.

Outcome: The AADL board unanimously passed three resolutions to adopt the 2011-12 budget and set the millage rate at 1.55 mills.

Earlier in the meeting, Nieman made a brief report on the year-to-date finances for fiscal 2010-11. He noted that four line items were still over budget – programming, maintenance, legal and employee benefits. While programming and maintenance were expected to fall back in line by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, Nieman said it now seemed likely that both legal expenses and employee benefits would be over budget.

Extra expenses for employee benefits are related to increased health care costs – year to date, that line item is $49,901 over budget.

Legal expenses relate to four issues: Research on tax increment financing (TIF) for both the Washtenaw Avenue corridor project and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, labor negotiations, and preparation of an amicus brief in a Herrick District Library lawsuit against the Library of Michigan. Year to date, legal expenses are $12,386 over budget.

Nieman also reported that AADL received an additional $15,000 in state aid – AADL had received $30,000 in March, and expects to get additional state funds by fiscal year’s end. [.pdf of April 2011 financial report]

Janitorial Contracts

The board was asked to approve new contracts for janitorial services at the district’s five library buildings. Current contracts – with Pioneer Janitorial and ServiceMaster – expire on June 30.

Ken Nieman, associate director of finance, human resources and operations, described how staff had handled the contracting process. They had sent out a request for proposals to cover services for the next three years, and had asked that bids be given separately for each of the five buildings. They received responses from five companies.

After checking references and evaluating the bids, Nieman said staff were recommending one-year contracts – with options to renew for two additional years – with Pioneer Janitorial and R.N.A. Janitorial. Pioneer would handle the downtown building ($90,483 for year 1, $92,303 for year 2 and $94,149 for year 3); West branch ($10,501 for year 1, $11,026 for year 2 and $11,467 for year 3); and the Pittsfield branch ($21,021 for year 1, $21,452 for year 2 and $21,774 for year 3). R.N.A. would service Traverwood ($16,392 for all three years) and Mallets ($16,908 for all three years).

Outcome: The board unanimously approved contracts for janitorial services with Pioneer Janitorial and R.N.A. Janitorial.

Broadcasting AADL Meetings

At Monday’s meeting the board was asked to consider a resolution to begin videotaping its meetings for broadcast. Nancy Kaplan, the board’s newest member, had proposed the idea at the board’s April 25, 2011 meeting. At that same meeting, AADL staff told the board that limited resources and quality control issues were the reasons why they hadn’t chosen to videotape the meetings to date.

Barbara Murphy, Nancy Kaplan, Prue Rosenthal

From left: AADL board members Barbara Murphy, Nancy Kaplan and Prue Rosenthal. Kaplan presented a resolution to broadcast board meetings, which garnered votes only from her and Murphy.

Before the vote, Kaplan reminded the board of her reasons for requesting that meetings be broadcast. She said she understood why the library staff had chosen not to do it in the past, but she saw it as a service to the community. With all the changes that will be coming at the library – including new services like electronic books and digital music – it’s a nice way for the community to hear about these things, she said. And as far as she knew, all boards that are getting tax revenue from the community are recorded for broadcast. [Last year, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority began broadcasting its meetings from the same room where the AADL board holds its monthly meetings. The year before that, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority began video taping its meetings. Videotaped meetings are available online through Community Television Network's Video on Demand service. ]

“For those reasons, I see it as a public service and hope you’ll support it,” Kaplan said.

No other board members commented on the issue.

Outcome: The resolution was defeated by a 2-4 vote, with support only from Nancy Kaplan and Barbara Murphy. Trustees Rebecca Head, Jan Barney Newman, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal voted against it. Ed Surovell was absent.

Friends of the AADL Space Use Agreement

Another item on the board’s agenda was a resolution for 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. Proceeds from the store – $100,000 this year alone – benefit the library. The previous agreement, originally signed in 2009, was set to expire on May 18. [.pdf file of FAADL space use agreement]

Several board members praised the FAADL. Board president Margaret Leary said she attended the nonprofit’s luncheon last week honoring volunteers, and that it was great to see so many loyal long-time and new volunteers.

Jan Barney Newman mentioned that FAADL will have a booth at the “nonprofit alley” during this year’s Ann Arbor art fairs, which run from July 20-23. The cost of the booth is being paid for by an anonymous donor, she said, and FAADL volunteers will be promoting the library’s summer reading program. She said the nonprofit is determined to increase its fundraising and membership. “It is a joy to see what they’ve accomplished and what they continue to have ambitions for,” Newman said.

AADL director Josie Parker reminded the board that the Friends would be holding their annual meeting on June 5 at the building where The Ann Arbor News archives are stored, as an incentive for members to attend. [In January of 2010, the library took possession of the archives of The News, which closed in July 2009. See Chronicle coverage: "Library Nears Deal on Newspaper Archives." AADL staff is processing the more than one million items in that collection, now stored in an office park on Green Road.]

Parker also noted that FAADL would be holding a membership drive, coordinating with the library’s summer reading program. She said it’s the first time in her memory that the nonprofit has held such a drive.

In response to a query from Nancy Kaplan, Parker said the library would be adding a link on its “Who We Are” page directly to the FAADL website. The link that already exists on the library’s “Support AADL” page will remain, she said.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved a one-year extension on the space use agreement with the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Director’s Report

During Monday’s meeting, AADL director Josie Parker made some additions to her written director’s report. [.pdf file of May 2011 director's report] She thanked board members Nancy Kaplan and Ed Surovell for attending the May 5 opening reception of the Ben Franklin exhibit that’s currently on display at AADL’s downtown location. She also noted that the library has received a lot of good press – even internationally – regarding its deal with the digital music publisher Magnatune. The board had been briefed on that deal at its April 25, 2011 meeting.

Parker also reported that materials for AADL’s 2010 “Make It Happen” summer reading program had won best of show from the American Library Association. The work was designed by Heidi Woodward Sheffield of The Exclamation Point. In addition, AADL won three honorable mentions in its budget category, including an award for a Reading to Me CD that’s distributed to families with infants, featuring stories and music performed by AADL staff. Parker gave credit to Sheffield as well as Tim Grimes, the district’s community relations and marketing manager, and Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, and their staffs.

Director’s Evaluation

The board had met in executive session earlier in the evening to discuss Josie Parker’s annual evaluation. During the public portion of the meeting, board president Margaret Leary said it was a real pleasure and honor to read the letter that she had delivered to Parker, on behalf of the board. [.pdf of evaluation letter]

Margaret Leary, Josie Parker

From left: AADL trustee Jan Barney Newman, board president Margaret Leary, and AADL director Josie Parker.

Leary read the two-page letter aloud, praising Parker’s financial management skills, administrative capabilities, and leadership within the AADL, the community and the library profession at the state, national and international levels. The letter refers to Parker as “the perfect director for AADL,” but notes that despite her superb work, there will be no change in her compensation. “Your work has earned a raise,” the letter states, “but the economic situation does not allow one.”

Parker earns $143,115 – her salary has been unchanged since 2008. Every year since then she has recommended that the board keep her salary at that level, rather than award a raise.

In responding to her evaluation, Parker said it was important to remember that one person does not run an organization like AADL – there were many who contribute to its success. All staff are being evaluated at this time of year, she said, and it’s one of her pleasures to get to read the documentation for those evaluations, including employees’ self-evaluations. Staff members are proud of their work, she said. They help keep the library safe and clean, she said, doing things like clearing the sidewalk and keeping the library open during one of the worst winters.

Parker said that some of the most demanding jobs, other than janitorial, are handled by people at the information desks and circulation desks – you never know who’ll walk up or what they’ll request, she noted, but you have to respond up to AADL’s standards. Many of these employees are people that aren’t well-known, she said, but their work is essential to the library.

Parker also said that after nine years in this job, she never takes the work of elected officials for granted – she admires and respects it, she said, and is grateful to the board for all they do.

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

Absent: Ed Surovell

Next meeting: Monday, June 20, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]


  1. By Jennifer Hall
    May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am | permalink

    I’m disappointed that the board did not support Nancy Kaplan’s resolution regarding televising board meetings. One of the core missions of the library system is the provision of information to the public. Seeing the board conduct it’s business and creating a visual archive of these discussions should be as important to the public as any item or service the library adds to its collection. I hope the board charges their mind.

  2. By Eric
    May 18, 2011 at 10:54 am | permalink

    Personally I think it is time to shut down the main library. Always bums and crazies there, cannot relax at all, afraid to go the bathroom. So much noise from computers and loud talking and cell phones that cannot think or concentrate. The technical books are all generations out of date. Who needs it?

  3. May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am | permalink

    Thanks to Nancy Kaplan and Barbara Murphy for supporting a more open library board. Apparently some members do not feel the need to be visible to the public.

  4. May 18, 2011 at 11:46 am | permalink

    I’m surprised and disappointed at the failure of Kaplan’s open-government resolution. I was on the Library Board for two terms. The Board is one of those rare government groups that really has nothing to hide.

    So why not broadcast the meetings?

  5. By Rod Johnson
    May 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm | permalink

    Eric, all the people who like it there “need” it. Hopefylly we won’t have to shut it down just because you don’t like it. I’m sure you’d be welcome at the branches. Personally, I find the new branches to be architecturally impressive but a little off-putting somehow, sterile. (And the aluminum furniture at Traverwood…serious comfort fail.)

  6. By Donna Estabrook
    May 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm | permalink

    Eric, the library is a public building so everyone who is a member of the public, which is everyone, can be there. There are posted rules of behavior. If you think that someone is violating these rules you can speak to a staff member. If you want a quiet place to relax and concentrate try the 3rd floor. It is usually calm and quiet there – not to mention the beautiful art books that live up there.

    Rod – I second the comments about the branches.

  7. By Rod Johnson
    May 19, 2011 at 12:14 am | permalink

    I do like the fireplace room at Pittsfield, I should say. I was reading in there the other day and looked down out the window and a muskrat was staring back up at me, That was cool.

    The new Dexter library, by the way, is lovely and a great place to spend some time.

  8. May 19, 2011 at 8:11 am | permalink

    I’m getting “page not found” on the link to the pdf of the budget.

  9. May 19, 2011 at 9:09 am | permalink

    Re: [8] Our apologies. I’ve corrected the URL to the budget document: [link]

  10. By Joseph
    May 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm | permalink

    Does the extra $40,000 for employment expenditures explain the constant lack of assistance at the counter when I want to check out?

  11. May 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm | permalink

    Re: [10] lack of counter assistance at AADL

    To ensure AADL management gets the message, here’s an online complaint form: [link] (There’s a drop-down menu, from which you can select “complaint” as a category. )

  12. By Rod Johnson
    May 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm | permalink

    You don’t need to go to the counter to check out most things. The self-serve machines are right there. What kind of assistance do you need?

  13. May 20, 2011 at 4:48 am | permalink

    Not only can you easily and efficiently check out your own books/videos etc. from numerous self-serve stations, but the members of the library staff, when you approach them, are always extremely helpful and very pleasant, I have found (and I have been using the AADL for years and years). AADL is a terrific library in every way, and we are extremely lucky to have it!

  14. May 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm | permalink

    I commend Nancy Kaplan for her forward-thinking proposal of videotaping the Library Board meetings. Further, I appreciate her vote and that of Barbara Murphy in support of it. Opening the deliberations of a publicly funded organization beyond the in-person participation of being present at the meeting, in this digital age is the way to go. Helping members of the community, who fund the library with our tax dollars will help the Board when it comes to renewal of the Library millage, and decisions about future programs. Ideally the proposal will come forward again, and the outcome of the vote will be in support of videotaping, along with on-demand access to the video files.

  15. May 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm | permalink

    The Library’s millage is perpetual. The voters approved this when the Library was split off from the school stem and became an independent organization.