Library Board Reviews Building Forums

Also: Recognition for AADL director Josie Parker's statewide work

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (June 18, 2012): Library trustees spent part of Monday’s meeting reviewing two recent public forums on the future of AADL’s downtown building on South Fifth Avenue. No details were discussed about whether the board plans to seek a millage to fund a major renovation or rebuilding of the structure, and no one showed up for public commentary to address the topic.

Ann Arbor District Library downtown building

Traffic in front of the Ann Arbor District Library downtown building on the newly paved South Fifth Avenue, which opened late last week.

Less than two months remain until an Aug. 14 deadline to put a millage proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. At this point, only one more board meeting is scheduled before then – on July 16.

A third and final public forum on the downtown library is set for Wednesday, June 20 from 7-8:45 p.m. in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown building, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

Videos of the previous two forums are posted on the library’s website, along with additional information about the building. For Chronicle coverage of the June 9 forum, see: “AADL Board: What’s Your Library Vision?

In other action during Monday’s meeting, the board voted to make minor year-end adjustments to the budget for fiscal year 2011-12 budget, which wraps up on June 30. In a separate financial report, associate director Ken Nieman told the board that tax tribunal decisions are affecting revenues more than anticipated, but that higher-than-expected revenues in other areas are offsetting that impact.

The board also got an update on the kickoff of AADL’s popular summer game, which took place Sunday night at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park. The library is sponsoring Sunday Kids Rock concerts at TOP.

The meeting ended with highlights of a letter of recognition from Richard Cochran, president of the Michigan Library Association, who praised AADL director Josie Parker’s service with MLA. Parker served as MLA president from 2007-2008 and was chair of the MLA legislative committee from 2010-2012. “Josie Parker is a visionary among her peers,” Cochran wrote. “She is a vocal advocate of library services and is extremely well-respected in the library community and by legislators.”

Plans for Downtown AADL Building

The library board has hosted two forums so far – on June 9 and June 12 – to seek input on the future of AADL’s main downtown building at 343 S. Fifth Ave., at the northeast corner of Fifth and William.

The forums came up at two points during the June 18 board meeting. Prue Rosenthal is chair of the special facilities committee that was created earlier this year to explore options for the building. She gave a brief committee report, saying that the committee’s work is “moving right along,” though she did not give any additional details about that work. She hadn’t been able to attend the two forums so far, but said she had watched videos of the forums that are posted online. Rosenthal described the staff presentations as brilliant, and said she’s looking forward to the final forum on Wednesday, June 20. It will be held in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown building, starting at 7 p.m.

The special facilities committee – including AADL trustees Ed Surovell and Nancy Kaplan – will meet again in the next couple of weeks, Rosenthal said.

Jan Barney Newman commented that she had left the forums feeling exhilarated. The questions from people who attended were good, and the staff responses were wonderful, she said. People had been impressed, Newman added.

Later in the meeting, an agenda item set aside time for an update on the forums. Rosenthal asked for suggestions about ways to improve the final event. There was general consensus that the format worked well – it includes board and staff presentations, as well as time for one-on-one conversations and a Q&A period. AADL director Josie Parker reported that in addition to the videos of each forum, a video of a building infrastructure tour is also posted online, showing non-public areas of the downtown library. The videotaped tour was led by Eli Neiburger, AADL associate director of IT and product development.

Parker said that some people who attended the forums clearly had specific questions they wanted to ask, regardless of what other information they were presented. But those questions led to questions by others and a robust discussion, she said. In response to a query from Newman, Parker said that no one was deterred from asking questions, and no one was cut off because of time constraints.

For Chronicle coverage of the June 9 forum, see: “AADL Board: What’s Your Library Vision?” That article describes the background of the downtown building and previous efforts to renovate and rebuild.

The issue of what to do with the downtown facility has been a periodic topic at board meetings and retreats for several years, and is part of the AADL strategic plan that relates to physical facilities, which identifies two goals: (1) Renovate or replace the downtown library with attention to the condition of the existing building, tax base, revenue stream, development of surrounding properties and demographics; and (2) Maximize the efficiency and utilization of meeting rooms and other facilities.

At the board’s June 18 meeting, there was no discussion about a timeline for action regarding the downtown facility. However, details of the process were outlined at the forums earlier this month – including possible placement of a millage on the November 2012 ballot.

A survey commissioned by AADL – and presented to the board at its April 16, 2012 meeting – indicates voter support for a tax increase to pay for major renovations or reconstruction of that building. The special facilities committee is charged with making recommendations to the full board.

If board members decide to put a millage on the November ballot, they would need to take action before an Aug. 14 deadline. The board’s next monthly meeting is July 16, and the group doesn’t have another meeting scheduled until Aug. 20 – after the Aug. 14 deadline for ballot proposals.

With an informal group already forming to support a millage campaign, and those members exploring the logistics of obtaining absentee voter information, the expectation by many is that the July 16 AADL board meeting will include a decision to place the question in front of voters.

2011-12 Budget Adjustment

At its June 18 meeting, the board was asked to approve adjustments to the previously approved 2011-12 budget, for the year ending June 30, 2012. This is a standard action at the end of the fiscal year.

A total of $44,000 was transferred to the line item for supplies, coming from the following line items: capital outlays ($24,000), software ($10,000), communications ($5,000), and repairs ($5,000). The supplies line item covers computer and IT products that cost less than $1,000. Items more than $1,000 are paid for out of the capital outlays line item.

Ken Nieman – AADL associate director of finance, HR and operations – provided a brief summary of the request and was on hand to answer any questions. There were none.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve year-end adjustments to the 2011-12 budget.

Financial Report

Ken Nieman also gave a brief report on AADL finances for the fiscal year through May 2012. Nearly 98% of the library’s budgeted tax receipts for the fiscal year – $10.92 million – had been received. [The library's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.]

He noted that tax revenues are under budget, due to tax tribunal rulings. [The state's tax tribunal handles appeals regarding property tax assessments and other tax disputes.] The budgeted amount for 2011-12 tax refunds was $75,000. In fact, the amount will be closer to $150,000, Nieman said. He reported that other revenue line items are coming in higher than budgeted, indicating that the shortfall will be covered.

For the 11 months through May 2012, total revenues are $11,128,602 compared to a budgeted amount of $11,072,416 – that is, $56,186 higher than expected. In addition to property tax revenues, other revenue line items include state aid, penal fines, interest, fines and fees, and grants and memorials.

There was no discussion among board members, and no action item was associated with the financial report.

Director’s Report

During her director’s report, Josie Parker noted that AADL’s popular summer game kicked off on Sunday night at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park. She asked Eli Neiburger, AADL associate director of IT and product development, to give an update.

Neiburger reported the evening drew about 700-800 kids to Ingalls Mall, and included a performance by the Royal Order of Chords and Keys (R.O.C.K.), a band of teachers. AADL is sponsoring all four Sunday Kids Rock concerts at TOP. The staff gave out summer reading logs, Neiburger said, and launched an Ingalls Mall “quest” that sent kids searching for information like the fountain’s inscription or the background of Burton Tower’s namesake.

Neiburger had previously given the board a full briefing on the summer program a year ago, at the June 2011 meeting.

The other item in Parker’s report related to a certificate of appreciation that the library had received from the Michigan Prison Re-Entry Initiative (MPRI). The library has been hosting sessions for the local MPRI effort since early 2010, Parker said, covering library resources to help with job searches, including computer courses.

Parker also noted that the board has been invited to the Thursday, July 12 grand opening of the Library Lot Lane parking structure, adjacent to the downtown building. The event runs from 5-8 p.m. and is open to the public. [Despite the name, the underground garage is owned by the city of Ann Arbor, not the library. Its construction is being managed by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, which oversees the city's parking system under contract with the city.]

Recognition: Michigan Library Association

Board president Margaret Leary read a letter that she had received from Richard Cochran, president of the Michigan Library Association and associate dean of the Central Michigan University libraries. The letter highlighted the service of AADL director Josie Parker, who served as MLA president from 2007-2008 and was chair of the MLA legislative committee from 2010-2012.

From Cochran’s letter:

MLA has undergone significant changes in the last seven years. As President, 2007-2008, Josie led the charge to restructure and rejuvenate the 117 year old association. MLA had grown in size and scale beyond its ability to focus on core member benefits and financial sustainability. The transition from constituent to strategic governance required significant time, strategy, outside consultants, bylaws changes and member education. Josie traveled the state, listened to members, and led a transitional leadership forum to engage members in building a new MLA. Without that restructuring, MLA would not have survived to achieve our mission of Helping Libraries and Library Professionals Succeed.

As Chair of the Legislative Committee in 2010-11, MLA’s Legislative Committee developed and implemented a statewide issue advocacy campaign including the Protect Michigan Libraries website, statewide media, and target district meetings with legislators. As a result, MLA prevented a proposed 40% cut to libraries and actually increased library funding by 6%. That year the Legislative Committee also liad the foundation to restore renaissance zone funding for libraries through research and analysis.

As Chair of the Legislative Committee in 2011-12, MLA increased funding in support of libraries by $6,562,300 through increases in state aid to libraries, MeL funding and reinstatement of renaissance zone reimbursements. Josie personally testified before the Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Education Subcommittee under the theme of “Essential e-serves Through Michigan’s Libraries.” This testimony helped rebrand libraries as an essential government service critical to new literacy skills and access to essential information.

Josie Parker is a visionary among her peers. She is a vocal advocate of library services and is extremely well-respected in the library community and by legislators.

Josie’s involvement in MLA would not have been possible without the support of the Ann Arbor District Library Board of Trustees. Thank you, and your fellow Trustees, for your support of Josie’s involvement in MLA and for your support of MLA as an organizational member. Josie’s leadership has benefited the entire library community in Michigan.

Leary concluded reading and told Parker: “I hope that’s meaningful to you. It’s certainly meaningful to us.”

Parker said she was glad that Cochran had recognized the board’s role in allowing her to do the MLA work – it’s an in-kind contribution of staff time and resources.

Jan Barney Newman expressed surprise that other library boards might not allow their staff to do similar work. Was that really the case? she asked. Parker replied: “I’m positive that’s true.”

In addition to possible resistance from their governing boards, some library directors don’t feel comfortable in an advocacy role. Parker noted that it involves sitting in front of legislators who are considering annihilating library funding. She said she was proud of the fact that MLA was successful in gaining back funding.

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

Absent: Rebecca Head.

Next meeting: Monday, July 16, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date]

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  1. June 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm | permalink

    Actually, the new underground structure is being called the Library *Lane* parking structure. The name for this street was suggested several years ago by Doug Kelbaugh, and it stuck.

  2. June 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm | permalink

    Re: [1] and Library Lane.

    Right, thanks.

  3. By Smitt
    June 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm | permalink

    Prue Rosenthal is chair of the special facilities committee that was created earlier this year to explore options for the building… She hadn’t been able to attend the two forums so far.

    All we need to know about whether the public opinion is being taken seriously.