AADL Board Adjusts Budget, Reviews Policy

Library trustees authorize funds for newsletter, phone survey; also, board holds officer elections, sets retreat date for Feb. 3 to discuss long-term strategic plan

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Jan. 20, 2014): Acting in part on recommendations from last year’s communications audit by Allerton-Hill Consulting, the library board authorized budget adjustments totaling $118,000 at its first meeting of 2014.

Prue Rosenthal, Ann Arbor District Library board, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Prue Rosenthal was re-elected to another one-year term as president of the Ann Arbor District Library board of trustees on Jan. 20. (Photos by the writer.)

Two of those items relate to communications and outreach: $63,000 to design, print and mail event postcards, newsletters and other items to all district residents; and $25,000 for a satisfaction survey of 500-600 library district residents, to be conducted by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA. The library previously did a survey in early 2012, in part to gauge public support for financing a new downtown library. The board later put a bond proposal on the November 2012 ballot to fund a new downtown building, but it failed to receive a majority of votes.

The new survey will be used to measure the public’s recognition of the products and services provided by AADL, their regard for AADL as a public institution in the region, and the avenues by which people obtain information about the library.

Results will be ready by this spring, and are expected to help inform the library’s next long-term strategic plan. Trustees have scheduled a retreat on Feb. 3 from 4-7 p.m. in the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown library, to begin discussions for updating the current strategic plan that runs through 2015.

Also on Jan. 20, trustees elected officers for the coming year. All votes were unanimous with no competing nominations. Prue Rosenthal was re-elected for a second one-year term as board president. Also re-elected for a second one-year term was Rebecca Head, as board secretary. Barbara Murphy was elected as vice president, and Jan Barney Newman was elected as treasurer. Newman had served as vice president in 2013.

The board also established special committees for communications and facilities, and made appointments to those as well as to standing committees for finance and policy.

Work of the policy committee was another item on the Jan. 20 agenda. The committee previously had discussed staff proposals to revise more than a dozen sections of the AADL policy manual. Discussion at the board meeting focused on policy changes to offer free library cards to non-resident students and staff at state-sanctioned schools within AADL’s district. Also highlighted were the library’s behavior rules, which board member Nancy Kaplan called generous and kind. AADL director Josie Parker noted that even though the current policy prohibits sleeping in the library, during the recent extreme cold no one is asked to leave when they are found sleeping. The board will vote on the proposed policy revisions at its February meeting.

The board heard from five speakers during public commentary, including thanks from local cartoonist and teaching artist Jerzy Drozd for services that the AADL provides for the youth of Ann Arbor. Since 2011, Drozd has hosted a podcast called Comics Are Great! that’s recorded in the AADL podcast studio. Drozd called it “The Dick Cavett Show for cartoonists.” Also during public commentary, Kathy Griswold again urged the board to videotape its meetings for broadcast, and to open its committee meetings to the public.

Budget Adjustments

Trustees were asked to approve three budget adjustments for the current fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. The adjustments totaled $118,000.

The changes involve transfers from the library’s fund balance into the capital outlays budget, the library programming line item, and the purchased services line item:

  • Increase the capital outlays budget by $30,000 to buy a delivery truck from Varsity Ford.
  • Increase the library programming line item by $63,000 for costs related to the design, printing and mailing of event postcards and newsletters to all district residents. AADL director Josie Parker told the board that this is in direct response to recommendations in a 2013 communications audit by Allerton-Hill Consulting. [.pdf of Allerton-Hill report]
  • Increase the purchased services line item by $25,000 to cover a satisfaction survey of library district residents, to be conducted by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA. The library previously used EPIC-MRA to conduct a phone survey in March of 2012, and results were reviewed at the board’s April 16, 2012 meeting. That survey had in part asked questions to gauge public support for financing a new downtown library. The board later put a bond proposal on the November 2012 ballot to fund a new downtown building, but it was rejected, failing to receive a majority of votes.

The 2013-2014 budget was approved by the board at its May 6, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of 2013-14 budget summary] According to the most recent financial report, the library had a fund balance of $8.188 million as of Dec. 31, 2013.

The board has made previous budget adjustments during this fiscal year. On Oct. 21, 2013, trustees authorized a $40,000 adjustment to AADL’s 2013-14 budget to cover costs of repairs and testing of the downtown library roof.

Budget Adjustments: Board Discussion – Truck

Regarding the budget amendment for the delivery truck, Barbara Murphy confirmed that this was a purchase that Ken Nieman – the library’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – had previously mentioned to the board. Nancy Kaplan said she’d talked to Nieman and he’d priced other options.

Neiman came to the podium and explained that the library’s current truck was purchased in 2006. Prior to that, the library relied on an outside delivery service. The current truck requires a special certification to drive it. It’s on the road 30-35 hours per week, Nieman said, and has become a critical part of the library’s operations, moving material between branches. He reported that he got a quote from Briarwood Ford as well as Varsity Ford. Prices were similar, but the offer from Varsity included a ramp on the truck, rather than the lift gate that’s currently used. It will also be a smaller truck, so more people will be able to drive it, if needed.

Neiman said deliveries are made twice a day, and patrons have come to rely on quick service of materials that need to be transferred between locations. “That’s really what it’s all about,” he said.

AADL director Josie Parker explained that materials are loaded onto carts, which is why a ramp is preferable. When the lift gate on the current truck doesn’t work, the carts can’t be loaded.

Outcome on budget adjustment for the delivery truck: The board voted unanimously to approve the adjustment.

Budget Adjustments: Board Discussion – Communications

Regarding the $63,000 transfer for library programming, Josie Parker explained that it will be used for the AADL’s marketing, communications and publicity efforts. It will be spent on several pieces of literature – including postcards announcing special events as well as a newsletter – to be mailed to all households within AADL’s district.

Barbara Murphy, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL trustee Barbara Murphy.

Parker noted that the library stopped publishing printed newsletters in 2006, prior to the 2009 decision by the owners of the Ann Arbor News to cease publication. Now that there’s not a reliable way to reach all of the district’s residents, she said, it’s time to renew that effort. The newsletter will include information from the board and director, as well as news about programming and services.

Parker said that this is a direct consequence of recommendations in the communications audit. She added that the mailings will also highlight AADL accomplishments, like its five-star rating by the Library Journal.

Barbara Murphy said she’s pleased by this decision. She used to love getting AADL newsletters at home, and will look forward to it. Nancy Kaplan also was pleased, calling it a wonderful outreach effort.

Margaret Leary noted that it illustrates that communication can’t be all print or all digital. The library has an award-winning website, she said, yet the previous survey that the library conducted showed that a lot of people aren’t aware of what the library does. The newsletter is another way to get information into households in the library district. “Together with our website … it moves us a lot closer to having a full panoply of ways to communicate with everyone in our district,” Leary said.

Rebecca Head reiterated the importance of a newsletter, given that there’s no daily print newspaper in Ann Arbor. Having a mechanism to communicate with people in print is useful, she said.

Outcome on budget adjustment for library programming: The board voted unanimously to approve the adjustment.

Budget Adjustments: Board Discussion – Survey

Rebecca Head thought this would be a useful survey to gauge both satisfaction and awareness among library patrons or potential patrons. Josie Parker told the board that the survey will, among other things, measure the public’s perception of the role that libraries play in modern society – both generally, and pertaining to AADL in particular. That includes quantifying the public’s recognition of the products and services provided by AADL, their regard for AADL as a public institution in the region, and the avenues by which people obtain information about the library.

Parker noted that this is another recommendation made by the communications audit, which suggested conducting a survey at least every other year. The last EPIC-MRA survey was done in early 2012. Results from the new survey will likely be ready in late March or early April.

The original resolution was for $20,000. Margaret Leary noted that EPIC-MRA had provided several options at different price points. She wondered whether $20,000 was sufficient. Parker replied that she’d discussed this with EPIC-MRA representatives. The proposal is for a phone survey of 500-600 people. She talked about the difficulty of including cell phones in this survey, because some people with a 734 area code don’t actually live here. So they’re still talking about how to do that, and how it might change the cost, Parker said.

Margaret Leary, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL trustee Margaret Leary.

Leary clarified with Parker that at this time, no focus groups would be convened as part of this process. Parker said that’s not what the recommendation calls for. Based on results from the phone survey, however, the board might want to do focus groups in the future.

Parker also reminded trustees that in the past, they used focus groups as part of developing their strategic plan.

Leary asked whether Parker would feel comfortable if the board approved a slightly higher amount than $20,000, so that Parker would have more flexibility in finalizing the survey work. Parker replied that the people she’s talked with at EPIC-MRA believe they can deliver the kind of information that the library wants within that amount.

Jan Barney Newman pointed out that the board could approve an additional amount at a later date, if needed.

Leary offered an amendment to increase the amount from $20,000 to $25,000.

Prue Rosenthal thought that this survey would provide information to build on what the board has already learned as a result of the Allerton-Hill communications audit. Parker noted that increasing the amount would allow for the opportunity to target more cell phone numbers. She said she wouldn’t spend more than was needed to get the data they wanted.

Outcome on amendment to increase the survey budget to $25,000: It passed unanimously.

There was no further discussion on that item.

Outcome on budget adjustment for the survey: The board voted unanimously to approve the adjustment, as amended.

Financial Report

Ken Nieman – the library’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – gave a brief report on the December 2013 financial statements. [.pdf of financial report]

Ken Nieman, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ken Nieman, the library’s associate director of finance, HR and operations.

Through Dec. 31, the library has received 96.9% of its budgeted tax receipts. The library had $13.5 million in unrestricted cash at the end of December, with a fund balance of $8.188 million.

Six expense items are currently over budget, Nieman reported, but all of those items are expected to come back in line with budgeted amounts by the end of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2014. The over-budget line items are: (1) purchased services; (2) communications, for an annual Internet-related payment; (3) software; (4) copier/maintenance expense; (5) supplies, due to a large purchase of computer supplies in November; and (6) circulation supplies, due to a large purchase of library cards in December.

Nieman described it as a “pretty regular month,” with nothing out of the ordinary.

There were no questions from the board on this report.

Officer Elections

The AADL board’s first meeting of the calendar year is its annual meeting, during which officers are elected for the coming calendar year.

Prue Rosenthal was nominated for a second one-year term as board president. Also nominated for a second one-year term was Rebecca Head, as board secretary. Barbara Murphy was nominated as vice president, and Jan Barney Newman was nominated as treasurer. Newman had served as vice president in 2013.

At the beginning of the meeting, Rosenthal read aloud a statement reflecting on her term as president, and highlighting accomplishments of the AADL staff, including many that had been featured at board meetings in 2013. She praised staff and AADL director Josie Parker for their work. She noted that in the AADL district, which has a population of more than 163,000 people, there are more than 129,000 registered cardholders – or 79% of the district.

Outcome: All officers were elected in separate unanimous roll call votes.

Committee Appointments

In items added to the agenda during the Jan. 20 meeting, the board was asked to establish two special committees – for communications and facilities – and to confirm appointments to those committees as well as to the board’s standing committees.

Special committees for communications and facilities also had been established a year ago, at the board’s Jan. 21, 2013 meeting. The duration of those committees was through 2013. They’d been formed in response to a defeated bond proposal on the November 2012 ballot, which the AADL board had hoped would fund a new downtown library.

Committee Appointments: Special Committees – Communications

The resolution established the special communications committee to serve through 2014. The committee’s charge is “to consider the implementation of recommendations in the communications audit, and related issues.” The reference is to a 2013 communications audit by Allerton-Hill Consulting. [.pdf of Allerton-Hill report] Members nominated to the communications committee were Rebecca Head (chair), Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal.

There was no discussion.

Outcome: In separate votes, the board established the special communications committee and appointed its members.

Committee Appointments: Special Committees – Facilities

The charge for the facilities committee, to serve through 2014, is “to recommend to the Board steps needed to develop and maintain clean, safe, physical facilities that creatively meet the needs of the community and staff with an emphasis on sustainability, accessibility and flexibility.” Nominated to serve were Margaret Leary (chair), Jan Barney Newman, and Ed Surovell.

Leary pointed out that the charge to this committee is drawn directly from the library’s strategic plan.

Outcome: In separate votes, the board established the special facilities committee and appointed its members.

Committee Appointments: Finance, Policy

Nominations were also made to two board standing committees. Members of the finance committee are Jan Barney Newman (chair), Barbara Murphy, and Nancy Kaplan. The policy committee members are Murphy (chair), Kaplan and Rosenthal.

Outcome: Committee appointments were confirmed in a unanimous vote.

Committee Reports

The board has six committees: communications, budget and finance, facilities, policy, director’s evaluation, and executive. Two brief committee reports were made during the Jan. 20 board meeting.

Committee Reports: Communications

Prue Rosenthal reported that the communications committee met off-site in December for an “information-gathering process at a local company,” she said. No other details were provided.

Committee Reports: Policy

Barbara Murphy, chair of the policy committee, reported that the committee members met in December and reviewed in great detail the proposed policy revisions that were on the Jan. 20 agenda. Committee members talked by phone in January to reach final consensus on one item, she said. The board will be asked to vote on the policy changes in February.

Meeting Dates, Retreat

Also on Jan. 20, the board was asked to approve its meeting dates and locations for 2014. Typically, the board meets on the third Monday of each month at the main downtown library. Three meetings this year will be held at AADL branch locations: June 16 at Traverwood, July 21 at Pittsfield, and Aug. 18 at Malletts Creek. [.pdf of full meeting schedule]

In addition, the library administration recommended scheduling a retreat for Feb. 3 from 4-7 p.m. in the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown library, where board meetings are typically held. The retreat in part will begin discussions for updating the library’s strategic plan. The current strategic plan runs from 2010 to 2015.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve its meeting dates.

Library Policies

Trustees were asked to review extensive revisions to parts of the AADL policy manual, which covers a wide range of issues spanning overall library philosophy to circulation policies and rules of behavior for patrons. In introducing the item, AADL director Josie Parker noted that the staff routinely reviews various policies, but they don’t ever review the entire manual at the same time – it’s just too large.

Parker also noted that after these revisions, all references to the AADL’s former attachment to the Ann Arbor Public Schools will be eliminated.

The board’s policy committee had already reviewed the changes that were proposed by AADL staff and vetted by legal counsel. For each section, board members were provided with a copy of the current policy, a marked-up version showing suggested deletions and additions, and a “clean” draft version of the updated text.

Revisions are proposed for the following sections of the policy handbook:

Barbara Murphy, who chairs the board’s policy committee, pointed out that four sections of the current manual are proposed to be deleted. The issues addressed in the deleted sections are covered in other parts of the manual. As she’s noted in the past, Murphy also said that the changes have eliminated the archaic term “bookmen.”

Among the policy changes that Parker highlighted was a revision that reflects the changing way in which children are educated. The policy would allow AADL to offer library cards – without charging the non-resident fee – to students and teaching staff in any educational environment that’s approved by the state within the AADL district, regardless of residency.

Nancy Kaplan remarked on the policy about rules of behavior, saying that it’s very generous and very kind. “I am proud of that,” she said. Parker pointed out that the policy prohibits people from sleeping in the library. However, she said, there’s a practice in how that policy is enforced. The staff will ask people to wake up three times before asking them to leave for the day. “There are very valid reasons for nodding off at the public library,” she said – a comment that elicited laughs from the board. Some people are ill and take medicine that makes them sleepy, Parker continued. Some people are inebriated – if the staff determines that, then the person is asked to leave. “And some people need to choose a better book,” she quipped.

The policy that the AADL has “lets us be kind,” Parker said. She also noted that during the recent extreme cold, no one is asked to leave when they are found sleeping.

A vote to approve the policy updates will likely occur at the board’s February meeting.

Outcome: This was not a voting item.

Director’s Report

Josie Parker began her director’s report by showing a five-minute video annual report that featured highlights and accomplishments of the fiscal year from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. She thanked Tim Grimes, AADL’s community relations and marketing manager, and his staff for producing the video.

Parker also reviewed the events that took place at the library in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, including a talk by author and children’s book illustrator Bryan Collier and a concert by Gemini. Earlier in the day, about 275 people attended a performance by the percussion group Biakuye at the downtown location of the library.

Another event, held on Jan. 21, featured Ruta Sepetys, the author of “Between Shades Of Gray,” which is the 2014 selection for Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program. Parker thanked the selection panel for their work. She noted that the book is a young adult novel, but it’s being read by all ages.

Parker also called attention to items in her written report, including attendance at the AADL’s annual visit by local second-grade classrooms, and an email from a patron thanking the library for being open during the recent cold spell. [.pdf of director's report]

Resolutions of Thanks

Three separate resolutions gave official thanks to librarians who are retiring this month: Ieva Bates, who joined AADL in August of 1976; Beth Andersen, who started work at AADL in December of 1978; and Jacqueline Sasaki, who was hired by AADL in September of 1988.

Ed Surovell, Ann Arbor District LIbrary, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL trustee Ed Surovell.

Ed Surovell told the board that Sasaki and “her crew” came to his house the previous week. Although she’s retiring, he said, one of her last official acts was to select some books from his library for AADL. “It was a delight to give them to her,” he said. Parker noted that Surovell, a collector of rare books, has made parts of his collection available to AADL for digitization.

Parker praised the librarians who are retiring. She called Andersen a “reference librarian extraordinaire” who also selected materials for the library. Her selection and acquisition skills resulted in her service on several committees over the years with the American Library Association. Much of AADL’s film collection has been selected by Andersen, Parker said.

Bates is an amazing children’s librarian, Parker told the board. She’s known to children who attend Storytime, and she designs and makes her own felt boards. “We will miss that very much,” Parker said.

Sasaki has served as a liaison between the AADL and the Ladies Library Association on the purchase of art for the library. She also oversaw the selection of the library’s print art collection, as well as its framing and maintenance. Sasaki is also a docent at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Parker noted, and she has a fine arts background. Because of her relationship with art and artists, some of the artwork in the library was donated because of those relationships, Parker said.

These librarians have a broad and deep impact on the community, which reaches all ages, Parker concluded – in both traditional and non-traditional ways. The board and staff gave them a round of applause.

 Outcome: All resolutions of thanks were passed unanimously.

Public Commentary

Five people spoke during public commentary at the start of the meeting.

Jerzy Drozd introduced himself as a cartoonist and teaching artist. He wanted to thank the board and staff for three items that the AADL provides for the youth of Ann Arbor.

Jerzy Drozd, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jerzy Drozd.

He teaches courses on how to make graphic novels, which is not a widely available field of study, he noted. Even if you find such a course, often it costs hundreds or thousands of dollars to take, he said. For the past seven years, he’s been working with AADL to teach young people these courses for free. He recently ran into one of his former students who is now working in the publishing industry with award-winning cartoonist Tom Hart. “Here’s a kid who seven years ago was a hyperactive 14-year-old who loved manga,” he said, “and because of what you provided to her, she got access to allow her to work in the publishing field.”

Drozd also thanked the board for providing the AADL podcast studio. Since 2011, he’s hosted a podcast called Comics Are Great! Drozd called it “The Dick Cavett Show for cartoonists.” In other words, he said, “the youth of Ann Arbor have their own TV show on making comics, because AADL was forward-thinking” – the interviews are streamed live on YouTube. One of the highlights for him was an interview with Mark Kistler, who hosted a popular drawing show on PBS in the 1970s and ’80s. “I got to teach him how to use Twitter, so that was pretty awesome.”

Finally, Drozd told the board that he’s program coordinator for an annual event called Kids Read Comics. Starting in 2012, the event has been held at AADL, which he said has been a very gracious and incredible partner. It’s a weekend with 25 or more free comics workshops led by industry professionals around the world, including New York Times bestselling author Raina Telgemeier, Rafael Rosado, and Ben Hatke. If those names don’t mean anything to the trustees, he said, imagine that you’re 10 years old and you go to the library, and there’s Charles Schulz and Jim Davis saying “Come draw with me.” An educator from outside of Ann Arbor told him it was the “single coolest pro-literacy event of the year,” Drozd said.

He reported that one of the guests at Kids Read Comics saw an AADL staff member walk by – someone who’d been on Drozd’s podcasts many times – and gasped, “That’s her! I don’t know what to say.” So AADL has celebrity librarians that cause cartoonists to be “in the vapors” when they’re around, he joked.

Drozd concluded by thanking the board for their advocacy in support of arts for the youth of Ann Arbor.

Another person from the arts community who addressed the board was Shary Brown. She said she also wanted to thank the board and AADL. She’s been an Ann Arbor library cardholder for probably more than 60 years.

Shary Brown, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Shary Brown.

Brown recalled being a kid in Ann Arbor, and looking forward to seeing the bookmobile come around the corner. “That was groundbreaking stuff 60 years ago,” she noted.

As a professional, Brown noted that she formerly ran the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. The library had stepped up and became a home for the fair throughout the year, she said. The library also helped the fair during a change in technology that affected how the fair jurors reviewed the artists’ submissions.

As a retired person, Brown said she continues to use the library. She’d like to continue learning all of her life, “and the library does that for me.” She volunteers with the FoolMoon and FestiFools events, and again the library has helped, Brown said. AADL has become a center for FestiFools’ organizers to meet other groups in town “that would like to play with us as we put on our events.”

All of her life, Brown concluded, the library has been a place of leadership. It’s been forward-looking, and has provided new skills and technology to people who have nowhere else to go, she said. She’d like to see AADL continue to do that. “It has been a tremendous resource.”

Kathy Griswold said she wanted to follow the theme of appreciation. A year ago, she said, the Protect Our Libraries political action committee mentioned the library’s contribution to serving the homeless population. While the community is trying to find a better solution, including a 24-hour warming/cooling center, Griswold said she wanted to acknowledge the service that AADL provides, especially at the downtown location. “I know that’s a real burden,” she said.

She agreed that great things are being done at the library, but said she was somewhat troubled that the AADL board meetings aren’t being recorded  – especially given that the library is spending money on improving its communications, and the boardroom is equipped for Community Television Network broadcast. CTN now has an on-demand feature, so if someone wanted to see the work of the library or the financials or any of the reports given at a board meeting, they could easily do that. She hoped the board would consider that this year.

Also related to CTN, Griswold hoped that in the long term, the library would make plans for how AADL’s podcasting operations can dovetail with what CTN is doing. “Some of your functions seem to be very similar, and long term there’s probably some efficiencies there.”

Griswold also noted that a lot of collaboration is being done, especially at the staff level. She’d like to see more collaboration at the board level with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Also, she hoped the library would rent the Michigan Theater’s screening room for events. “I think we all know that they’re desperate for more financial resources,” she said.

Kathy Griswold, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Kathy Griswold.

Griswold also urged the board to become more professional. She said she was really troubled that AADL email addresses aren’t being used by all of the board members. “That’s sort of standard for most boards within this community,” she said, including the school board and city council. It would be a very easy thing to do, and would provide a more professional appearance when AADL trustees are communicating with community members, she said. [Personal email addresses for all board members are posted on the board's website, but none of the trustees use AADL email addresses.]

Griswold noted that the issues of being more transparent in general and of having committee meetings that are open to the public has been raised in the past, and she hoped that in this new year, the board would focus on that. She concluded by saying that she had used the library’s website but hadn’t seen a general search function on it. Maybe she’d missed it, Griswold added, but if it’s not there, she suggested adding it. [A "Search The Site" link is included at the upper right corner of the AADL's home page.]

Don Salberg began by wishing the board a happy new year. He said he’d always wondered why a new library would cost as much as the one AADL had proposed. Then he realized that the $330 per square foot – which is much more than the average $200 per square foot, he said – is required to provide an adequate super-structure to hold the many shelves of books. It would be of benefit, however, to reduce the number of books and that extra weight, he said, so that they could build a library much less expensively. Salberg called the board’s attention to a new digital library that opened in San Antonio, Texas, called BiblioTech – Bexar County Digital Library. It cost $2.4 million to build and holds 10,000 electronic books, 5,000 e-readers, 48 computers and 20 iPods and laptops, he said.

Similarly, Salberg said, the Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY, has replaced all its textbooks with a digital library. Students no longer carry heavy backpacks, and the digital books are cheaper than buying print textbooks, he said. Students can highlight and annotate without damaging the textbooks, and teachers can add material, check homework and communicate more easily, he said. The world is changing to become more digital, and younger generations will have no difficulty accommodating that, he said. When the board considers putting forward another bond referendum for a new library, Salberg said, “be aware that the world of information, education and entertainment is rapidly changing, and that the old library with its thousands of books may become obsolete and undesirable for a new tech-savvy world.”

Salberg also urged AADL to consider a decentralized library system, which a digital library would be able to provide. Smaller branches can be set up in rental spaces in more areas of the city, he said, making it more convenient for people to use.

Libby Hunter suggested that the board should meet on a different night in January. [The meeting was held on Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.] The day is almost sacred for some people, she noted. King is a hero to possibly thousands of people in Ann Arbor, and certainly millions of people worldwide. There are Martin Luther King events in the area that night, she said, and it’s a day of service in his honor for many people. Depending on your age, King lived during or near your lifetime, so it’s not like people are celebrating someone who lived 500 years ago, she said. The Ann Arbor Public Schools celebrated by not being in session, Hunter said, and the Ann Arbor city council celebrated by postponing its regular Monday meeting until the next day. She asked the board to take into consideration these reasons when setting next year’s meeting calendar.

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

Next regular meeting: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]

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  1. January 29, 2014 at 12:50 am | permalink

    The announcement that the AADL will pay $25,000 for another EPIC-MRA survey was surprising in view that the last one was done two years ago. In that study,the 400 interviewed citizens thought favorably about the present library and only 45% favored a new library costing $65 million and financed by a bond issue. The referendum confirmed the veracity of the survey since only 45% of voters favored replacing the library financed by a bond issuance.

    The only reason for the AADL library board contracting for another survey is to use the results to convince voters to pass a bond referendum for a new library when a another referendum is scheduled for the fall. With careful design the EPI-MRA can surely obtain survey results different from the 2012 survey, reporting major criticisms of the present library. (For instance, a question phrased as follows:”Do you believe that the physical structure of the library is “extremely bad,”"very bad,” of just “bad.” For fairness a “no opinion” option may be included.)

    Whether justified or not, appropriately replacing the present library poses difficult decisions. How much of a new library should house physical books when libraries are rapidly transitioning to digital libraries with fewer and, in some cases, no physical books? Should a new library include costly large areas designed to support conferences and meetings? Should a central library even be built considering the utility and desirability of having many smaller branch libraries?

    In my opinion the downtown AADL has changed little in the past two years and with rejection of one bond referendum a little over a year ago, another bond referendum for a new library is not justified this year or for at least several more years in the future. By then decentralized digital libraries may be the accepted norm.

  2. By Doug Jewett
    January 29, 2014 at 9:12 am | permalink

    Probably somebody on the AADL Board should have foreseen that the juxtaposition of the two budget items, $63,000 for direct mailing to all residents and $25,000 for a phone survey of 500-600 residents might be a lightning rod for irony. For the phone survey, I did the math (just simple division, unlike the riskier stuff favored by pollsters). Still, I had to go back and check my results. That’s $50 per resident polled. That’s for a data set of the sort that any frustrated, head-banging researcher has encountered many times – too small a sample, hopelessly skewed in ways that can’t be fully imagined – in short, total junk.

    However, somewhere here a viable alternative might be offering itself: Why not use just a little of the $63,000 budget for direct mailing to ask residents to come forward their thoughts and opinions? (There is already no shortage of people eager to do so.) Probably the best would open a web page, etc., where everyone could just talk back and forth with the aim of coming up with a comprehensive list of well thought out questions. That list could then be submitted to all Ann Arbor residents by one of the subsequent direct mailings. That way everyone would get a chance to sleep on things, to think broadly and deeply about the Library and the future – not as, in a phone survey, where only hurried, off the cuff responses are encouraged or even possible.

    Enthusiastic participation would be assured by
    entering all responses into a lottery. Five hundred names would be drawn, and each winner would receive a check for fifty bucks.

    Most all residents would be forever grateful and upbeat about the AADL. (Except possibly for a few howling curmudgeons who might try to point out that the money came out of the taxpayers’pockets in the first place.

  3. January 29, 2014 at 10:33 am | permalink

    I hope the survey allows us to vote for books. Libraries should be about books! I guess I should say, “too”.

    Another good question: “Do you think the AADL board meetings should be on CTN like most other governmental bodies? Yes or no?”

  4. By Jack Eaton
    January 29, 2014 at 11:56 am | permalink

    Re: (3), yes, books! But not just books. The entire spectrum of resources – books, audio, film, technology, and most especially well paid, well trained professional staff.

    As information technology expands from hard cover book out into the vast internet, having good library staff is essential. Wikipedia is a good source of information, except when it isn’t. A librarian should be able to show library patrons how to find reliable information and how to verify the information one finds in addition to finding a good book.

    In the recent past, it seems that our library is more focused on the real estate aspects of running the library than on the resources in those buildings.

  5. By Lyn Davidge
    January 29, 2014 at 3:58 pm | permalink

    Re:(3) Professional librarians indeed are able to show patrons how to find and verify reliable information. Unfortunately, it appears that AADL finds less and less value in having degreed librarians on staff and using their unique talents in ways that will be most beneficial for the community. I wonder how many of the highly experienced and talented librarians who are retiring this month will be replaced with degreed librarians?

  6. By Herb
    January 29, 2014 at 5:36 pm | permalink

    In recent months I have visited downtown and Mallet’s Creek several times. Almost all the patrons I see are using a library terminal or their own laptop or playing games or texting on cell phones or just killing time. Few are in the stacks or at the reference desk. Mallet’s Creek seems to have a certain amount of book circulation but mostly it is call in to reserve, pick up and go home. If the taxpayers want to maintain public connection and hang spaces that is their perrogative but there does not seem to be much need for librarians.

  7. By sheila rice
    January 31, 2014 at 11:13 am | permalink

    Thank you Jack Eaton for your positive librarian comments. In an expanding world of information, information professionals (i.e. librarians) are uniquely trained to organize the morass as well as instruct in its use. We need more well trained library professionals as the world of information–good and bad, analog and digital–continues to enlarge.