Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (July 21, 2014): Action at the July board meeting allocated in total nearly $570,000 toward three infrastructure projects, mostly related to the downtown library. A special meeting on July 29 added $75,000 to that amount.
Most of the funding was for renovations of the downtown library’s front entrance. The board authorized a $425,523 construction budget for that project at 343 S. Fifth Ave., which has been in the works for several months. The budget covers new doors, a redesigned facade, and heated sidewalks, among other changes. The construction manager is O’Neal Construction of Ann Arbor.
Also related to the downtown library, trustees authorized a $93,598 contract with Schindler Elevator Corp. to repair the public elevator, which has been out of commission since this spring.
A week after the July 21 meeting, the board called a special meeting for July 29 to address additional issues related to the elevator. The four board members present at that meeting voted to authorize an additional $75,000 for elevator work.
Because of the elevator repair work, the Friends of the AADL bookshop is now located in the main first-floor lobby of the downtown building, rather than its normal location in the lower level, which is closed. It’s been in the lobby since June 30, and is open all of the hours that the building is open. Books are sold at the circulation desk.
The third infrastructure project approved on July 21 was $50,000 for carpet replacement in parts of the downtown library, as well as at the branch located at the Westgate Shopping Center.
The money for all three projects will be taken from the fund balance, which stood at $8.17 million as of June 30.
In other action on July 21, the board approved five adjustments to the 2013-14 budget, for the prior fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The adjustments totaled $96,300.
Public commentary was dominated by fans of AADL’s summer game – in part because they could earn points by speaking to the board. Other issues raised during public commentary included concerns about communication, outreach to underserved populations, the cost of renovations to the downtown library entrance, and the “purging” of reference books.
The board’s August meeting is canceled. The next scheduled board session is on Sept. 15.
Downtown Entrance Renovations
The board was asked to approve a $425,523 construction budget for renovations to the downtown library’s front entrance, at 343 S. Fifth Ave.
The resolution also increased the capital outlays line item in the 2014-2015 budget by that same amount to cover the work, transferring it from the library’s fund balance. As of June 30, the fund balance stood at $8.17 million.
The construction budget was presented by O’Neal Construction Inc. At its June 16, 2014 meeting, the board had voted to hire O’Neal for construction management of these renovations. The project involves adding new doors and a redesigned facade facing South Fifth Avenue, along with changes to address accessibility issues.
The construction budget includes funding for heated sidewalks and two new flagpoles. Those were among the items that were considered discretionary, but were recommended by the board’s facilities committee. [.pdf of construction budget resolution]
The existing teal porcelain panels that wrap around the downtown building’s front facade, part of architect Alden Dow’s original design from the mid-1950s, will be replaced with a “concrete skin” panel. The entrance will continue to be oriented to South Fifth Avenue, with new doors into the building. Leading from the front of the building into the vestibule will be two balanced double doors, which will be easier to open than the existing entry, and a single automatic door. A matching set of these doors will lead from the vestibule to the interior of the building.
The overall project was originally expected to cost about $250,000. Work will begin later this summer.
Nicole Wallace at O’Neal Construction, the project’s supervisor, attended the July 21 meeting but did not formally address the board.
Downtown Entrance Renovations: Board Discussion
AADL director Josie Parker reported that the project has been submitted to the city for building permits, and bids will be going out soon. She hoped that the cost would be lower, but that won’t be clear until after bids are submitted. There will be a lot of concrete work.
The amount was in line with what she had anticipated, Parker said. There were some adds that the facilities committee requested – three flagpoles that are lit, for example – which increased the cost.
Parker noted that the heated sidewalks also increase the cost quite a bit – by $67,834. There are several reasons why it makes sense to add this feature, she said, noting that it hadn’t been part of the board’s original discussion.
Because the library is working with the city to eliminate the step at the front curb, that means the grade needs to be handled somewhere else. So to remove the step, the grade will have to be accommodated in other ways. In addressing that, the concrete on the north side of the building will be removed and repoured. That’s why the library has asked that the ArborBike program delay installation of its station at that site, Parker said. That way the conduit they’ll be using to power the bike-sharing station will be placed underneath the concrete.
All of this new concrete work will be adjacent to the surface of the city-owned Library Lane underground parking garage, which already includes heated sidewalks. So the entire approach from the parking structure into the library will be clear of ice and snow, Parker said. She noted that the area was designed so that cars could pull into Library Lane to drop off library patrons, rather than stopping on South Fifth Avenue. Drivers can let people out on the passenger side, rather than having people get out next to traffic on South Fifth – a one-way, southbound street.
There will also be a heated sidewalk on the incline leading to the south of the building, which is exposed to the elements, Parker explained. The walkway under the overhang won’t be heated, because it won’t be exposed. But the steps in the front and the concrete deck in front of the building will be heated.
Rebecca Head characterized it as a balance between energy use and safety. Parker said it’s a one-time cost to put the heating in now, while the concrete is being ripped up for the renovation.
Parker also explained the $9,042 in additional expense related to cladding material. Under the front windows outside, there’s white material that’s peeling off, she said. A greenish-colored cladding will be placed over that.
New signs are not included in this construction budget, because the library will be handling that separately, Parker said.
Margaret Leary reported that the facilities committee had discussed this construction budget for about an hour. This was their recommendation to the board.
Outcome: The construction budget received unanimous approval.
Downtown Entrance Renovations: Public Commentary
During public commentary at the end of the meeting, Donald Salberg said he hadn’t planned to speak until he heard about “the apparent inflated costs” for O’Neal to replace the front entrance. He noted that Josie Parker had previously indicated that she hoped to keep the costs under $250,000. He said he wasn’t sure if the total cost now was estimated at $425,000 or closer to $700,000.
AADL director Josie Parker replied, saying “Dr. Salberg, I have no idea where you came up with the number of $700,000.” Salberg said he didn’t know if $425,000 would be the total – he said he’d assumed that was the number. It still represents almost doubling of the original cost estimate. He wondered about the heated sidewalks. Trustee Barbara Murphy clarified that the cost for the heated sidewalks was about $67,000 and characterized it as not very much, compared to the total project.
Salberg said one of the problems with heating coils is that if it doesn’t completely melt the snow as it falls, then you get a thin layer of water that’s being melted, covered by a thin layer of ice and snow. “That could potentially make the walkway slipperier than it would be otherwise.” He also wondered what the expected lifetime of the heat coils would be, how frequently they break down, and if there’s any way to repair them other than breaking up the concrete. It would be nice to know how much more the AADL will have to spend on electricity to operate the coils, he said. Using salt and the manual removal of snow seems to have worked well in the past, he added. He wondered if the expense was entirely necessary.
The board was also asked to authorize the director to seek bids and award a contract for carpeting at the West branch, located at the Westgate Shopping Center, and in portions of the downtown library. The amount was not to exceed $50,000, to be transferred from the fund balance to the capital outlays budget.
Because of the work on the elevator in the lower level of the downtown library and the high use of the spaces there, the carpet will need to be replaced, AADL director Josie Parker told the board. That includes the shop for the Friends of the AADL, the meeting space, the exhibit area and stairwell lobby, as well as the hallway to the emergency exit. In addition, carpeting on the third floor will be replaced. It’s original to that section of the library, which was built in 1990.
After all the renovation work is done downtown, the branch at Westgate will be closed and completely recarpeted. That will likely happen in the fall, Parker said.
There was no board discussion on this item.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to authorize the carpeting projects and budget.
Downtown Library Elevator Repair
On July 29, the board was asked to authorize a $93,598 contract with Schindler Elevator Corp. to repair the public elevator at the downtown library, located at 343 S. Fifth Ave. A special meeting held about a week later – on Tuesday, July 29 – included only one agenda item: Allocating an additional $75,000 for the repair work.
The elevator has been broken and out of commission since this spring. AADL director Josie Parker had reported the situation at the board’s May 19, 2014 meeting, estimating it would cost about $100,000 to repair. It’s the same problem that took the freight elevator out of commission a couple of years ago. Leaks had developed in the hydraulic piston, causing it to fail a weight test.
The July 21 resolution authorizing the contract designated $57,988 for elevator repair, plus $35,610 for “well drilling (after-drill) of elevator hole in the existing hoistway and clean out of existing hole and casing.”
The capital outlays line item in the 2014-2015 budget would be increased by a total of $93,598, to be transferred from the library’s fund balance. As of June 30, the fund balance stood at $8.17 million. [.pdf of July 21 elevator contract and resolution]
Downtown Library Elevator Repair: Board Discussion – July 21
Barbara Murphy asked for an explanation of “after-drill.” AADL director Josie Parker explained that the elevator is a hydraulic jack design. It operates using a cylinder with hydraulic fluid that hoists the elevator. The cylinder is as deep as the library is tall, she said. Over time, the wear on the cylinder causes hydraulic fluid to leak, compromising the safety of the elevator. It failed its inspection for weight, she reported.
The same problem occurred with the staff elevator a few years ago, Parker noted. Both elevators had been installed about the same time – around 1990, she said, and it’s fortunate that the library was able to get this many years out of it.
The workers will drain out the hydraulic fluid, then take the jack out piece by piece by lifting it up and cutting off sections to remove. As the jack is removed, the earth around it caves in. So the work entails excavating and drilling the hole again for a new jack and casing.
The new jack and casing will also be brought in section-by-section through the front door, then welded together in the lower level. The workers will bring it in before the library opens, and on those days the library will open later, at noon. “The last thing we need is for someone from the public to come into the building when it’s not open, and go near that hole in the ground,” she said.
Parker noted that anyone who needs to use an elevator in the interim can ask any employee to use the staff elevator. People are asking for help, and the staff is happy to provide it, she said.
Margaret Leary pointed out that the contract with Schindler includes the statement that “the condition of the existing casing and hole is unknown. Removing the existing jack may uncover a cylinder hole full with sand or other debris requiring additional work to install the new jack.” If additional work is necessary, the company will provide a separate proposal for that.
Leary said one important element of this job is that Schindler doesn’t know exactly what they’ll have to do until they take it apart.
Outcome: The board unanimously authorized the elevator repair work.
Downtown Library Elevator Repair: July 29
A week later – on July 28 – the board announced that a special meeting was called for Tuesday, July 29 with one action item: Allocating an additional $75,000 for elevator work.
AADL director Josie Parker reported that after last week’s board meeting, Schindler made an assessment of the elevator. The well-drillers found that there were three casings in the elevator shaft, nested inside each other. It’s not clear why there are three casings, she said. To meet current code, the jack must be encircled by PVC. But the center casing is too narrow to accommodate the PVC and jack, and isn’t allowing a plumb drop. So the center casing must be removed. If the jack and PVC can be inserted without removing the middle casing, then the cost will be lower, Parker said.
The $75,000 is an amount that would cover the worst-case scenario, Parker said – that all three casings would have to be pulled out, the shaft redrilled for a new outside casing, PVC and jack.
The total authorized by the board for the project would be about $170,000. “If we don’t need it, we won’t spend it,” Parker said. But she didn’t want to keep coming back to the board “every time there a bump that causes to change the scope of this project,” she added, especially becase the board won’t be meeting in August.
Jan Barney Newman asked what the casings were made of. The old casings are steel, Parker replied.
Parker explained that the workers will come in next week and spend the week taking out the casing. The following week, they’ll be drilling for the new casing and prep for the rest of the work. “That’s when things are going to be incredibly noisy in here, and smell bad,” Parker said. The casing is brought into the building in sections of pipe that’s 12-15 feet long, and workers will weld the casing in place, she noted. It’s likely that there will be some closures of the downtown library during that period. The elevator work will be done during the weekdays, so there will be no closing on weeknights or weekends.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the additional $75,000 for elevator work. Four trustees were present at the July 29 special meeting: Rebecca Head, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, and Ed Surovell.
Eli Neiburger, AADL’s deputy director, presented the June 2014 financial report at the July 21 meeting. [.pdf of finance report] He noted that this report was for just the month of June, not for the close of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Through June 30, the library has received tax revenue totaling $11.256 million for the fiscal year. This is the library’s low cash time of year, Neiburger said, between the end of the fiscal year but before the arrival of revenue from summer taxes, which are collected in July.
Through the fiscal year, the library showed an operating surplus of $460,616. A lot of that related to positions that were open and that are now being filled, Neiburger said. The library had $8.77 million in unrestricted cash at the end of June, with a fund balance of $8.17 million, up from $8.001 million a month ago.
Revenue from state aid for the year was $153,000 more than budgeted, Neiburger noted. The library always budgets very conservatively, he added, because they’re not sure how much state aid will be awarded. Other revenue items that were higher than budgeted include interest and grants/memorials. Overall, revenue for the year was $12.3 million, “which was just about right on target,” he said.
Neiburger reported that five line items were slightly over budget for the year – purchased services, software, copier expenses, supplies and library programming. Purchased services are slightly over budget because the library paid for a survey in March. Regarding software, the library had planned to make a larger capital purchase, but it turned out that half of that purchase was actually a software license. Copier expenses were slightly higher than expected.
Regarding the supplies line item, Neiburger explained that every year, the library budgets for big capital projects but many individual purchases for those projects are typically under $1,000 each. That makes them assets that aren’t tracked, he said, so they can’t be paid for from the capital outlays line item. So every year at this time, the board is asked to transfer funds from the capital outlays line item to cover expenses in the supplies line item. These purchases are for things like computers and monitors that used to be capital outlays, but that are now much less expensive.
Library programming was $536 over budget for the year. “On a $273,000 [programming] budget, that’s pretty close,” Neiburger said. That line item went over budget primarily because of last-minute travel expenses related to visiting musicians performing in June concerts.
Neiburger noted that the board would be asked to make budget adjustments for FY 2013-14 later in the meeting.
The board had no questions about this presentation.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve disbursements for June.
FY 2013-14 Budget Adjustments
The board was asked to approve five adjustments to the 2013-14 budget, for the prior fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The adjustments totaled $96,300.
Eli Neiburger, AADL’s deputy director, had previously indicated that such adjustments would be necessary.
The resolution would authorize transfers in the following line items:
- $22,500 from capital outlays to supplies.
- $49,800 from capital outlays to software licenses/maintenance.
- $17,000 from utilities to purchased services.
- $6,500 from utilities to copier expense.
- $500 from utilities to library programming.
There was no discussion of this item.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the budget adjustments.
The AADL’s summer game launched in mid-June, and it was a theme throughout the June 21 meeting – for the public, staff and board.
Players can earn points for traditional activities like reading a book, but the game includes tasks that are done online, like tagging an item in AADL’s catalog or commenting on a blog post. Points can be traded in for merchandise that’s available at AADL’s online store.
People can log on, sign up and earn points for completing tasks like checking out a book or other item (50 points), tagging an item in the AADL catalog (10 points), writing reviews (50 points), or posting a comment (50 points). One point per page or minute is awarded for reading, watching, or listening to media, with a 100-point bonus for finishing an item. You can get between 200-500 points for attending an AADL event – including board meetings – where you’ll be given a code that allows you to redeem the points and earn “badges.”
On July 21, points were awarded for attending the meeting, with additional points for speaking during public commentary.
Summer Game: Public Commentary
Rachel Coffman told the board she was in second grade going into third grade. She really loves the summer game, and so do her sisters. They love it so much that they’ve been hiding codes all over their house, in places like the toothbrush cabinet, and they’ve made badges out of paper. “I just really love the summer game,” she said.
Cherie Burkheiser said she was there because she’s addicted to the summer game. Last year she discovered the game late in the season, so she jotted this year’s start date into her calendar “and I was there the first day it started.” She also wanted to make some comments. She’s lived in Ann Arbor her whole life, so she assumed all library websites were like AADL’s. But she recently looked at some other library district’s sites, and said that many are difficult to search. She asked that AADL make improvements to the online commenting, however, to make it easier to follow comment threads.
Regarding summer game codes placed in parks, she requested that the staff make sure the codes are permanent. One code was graffiti on a bench that was subsequently sanded off and painted over, and another code was for signs that have been removed. She said she looked forward to when her son is older and can help with the summer game.
Sara Mayman said she enjoyed the summer game and the library. She also offered a general suggestion, noting that there’s a lot of outdated equipment, like Betamax videocassettes and Zip drives. She was hoping that AADL could have a media room or make this equipment available for checkout. People could donate the equipment, and perhaps volunteers from Maker Works could manage the upkeep. When she was cleaning out her parents’ house, she came across these kinds of things and wasn’t sure what to do with them. Most people don’t need to use this kind of equipment very often, or for very long, she noted. It would be useful to be able to transfer your old media to new media at the library, using equipment there. It would be expensive for someone to buy, especially just to use one time. She offered to volunteer if there’s a committee that would work on this.
Tom Brown and his daughter Lydia Brown told the board that they were enjoying the summer game. They described some of the things they’ve done, like attending the Emerging Writers workshop and Kids Read Comics, and visiting all the AADL branches. They went to Parker Mill to get their codes, and saw a deer. They also went to the Barton Nature Area. Tom Brown said he’s lived in Ann Arbor 22 years and had never been there before. “The code made me go there, so that was cool.” They saw a deer there too. And when they went to Mary Beth Doyle Park, they saw a badger. In total, they’ve earned 78 badges. They also participate in a summer game team with the youth group at their church. Lydia reported that she collects buttons – including some vintage AADL buttons – and put them on her AADL bag. AADL director Josie Parker noted that “vintage” means pre-district, when the library was part of the public school system and called Ann Arbor Public Library.
Jinny Potter introduced herself as a summer game “fangirl.” Her family moved here about four years ago from the ??south. In the south, people are friendly and like to get together. When her family moved here, they initially lived in the metro Detroit area and the library there only had events for her and her young son once a month. She never felt like a part of that community. When they moved to Ann Arbor, her husband has a longer commute but it’s been worth it. Having the library here has helped with her homesickness, Potter said. The summer game has been a great way to learn about local businesses, the parks system and it’s a lot of fun to play with her family. She hopes that the recent success with expanding public transit “means that maybe we can revisit the expansion of the downtown branch.” It’s already pretty awesome, she said, but it’s exciting that it could be even more of a resource for the community. She’d love to volunteer to work on that, because the library has given so much to her family.
A girl named Rosie said that this spring, she and her sister Margaret started talking about how they couldn’t wait for the summer game to begin. Their mom was confused about what that meant, “and then we got her hooked.” She thanked the board and staff for doing a wonderful job, and for encouraging reading and other modes of learning. She also thanked the library for hosting Nerd Nite, saying it was “awesome and very informative.” She’ll be sad when August comes and the game ends.
At the meeting’s final opportunity for public commentary, Donald Harrison quipped “the code’s making me do it!” He said he’s a fan of the summer game and of AADL’s non-traditional collections. The musical instruments have been a great addition, and he’s used most of them. Recently he saw a little green table on the shelves, so he checked it out and took it to a family reunion that weekend. He set up the table and net, and within minutes, “we’re playing ping pong at the family reunion, so family members who hadn’t seen each other in years were having a really great time.” Things like that create a lot of value, he said. Harrison joked that this might put some pressure on the parks and recreation department to add public ping pong tables in the parks.
Summer Game: Director’s Report
As part of her director’s report, Josie Parker highlighted the popularity of AADL’s summer game, as reflected in some of the public commentary. She noted that it requires a lot of work from staff. For example, the staff goes out into local parks to find where codes could be located. It’s gratifying to hear that the library is sending people out to visit parks they haven’t been to before, or to local businesses. “It’s the library bringing the community together in a game, but then sending the community out,” she said. “I don’t want us to lose that, because that’s what I think is so important about this way of playing the summer game. And it’s reading, reading, reading – there’s no way to play the game without reading or being read to.”
Parker also noted that teens are volunteering to package the prizes that players are redeeming with their points. It counts as community service for their high school, but many of them have finished that requirement and continue to volunteer, she said. Adults are also volunteering too.
Some badges are easy to earn, Parker noted – like the one called “Josie’s Chickens,” which entails going to her office and retrieving the code. But other badges take hours or days, because the clues are nuanced and complicated to figure out. “That’s why people love this – it makes you think,” she said. The game is teaching children how to use the resources of the library – its catalogue and databases – as well as getting them out into the community to find codes. If board members haven’t tried the game, Parker encouraged them to do it.
The board has seven committees: communications, budget and finance, facilities, policy, director’s evaluation, executive, and strategic plan. Because membership on each committee consists of only three trustees, which is fewer than a quorum of the board, the meetings are not required to be open to the public under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The board has the option of making its committee meetings open to the public, but has chosen not to do so.
There were two committee reports on July 21: communications and facilities.
Committee Reports: Communications
Rebecca Head, chair of the communications committee, reported that they met on June 17. Other members are Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal. They reviewed the recommendations of the Allerton-Hill Consulting report regarding different ways to ratchet up the library’s communications. [.pdf of Allerton-Hill report]
They agree that the communication is already pretty good, she said, but there’s always more that could be done. For example, AADL director Josie Parker has a blog, Head noted, as do other staff. That’s useful for getting information out, she said. The print newsletter that was mailed out earlier this year was a success, she added, and so those mailings will continue. The winter newsletter will focus on why people use the library, so that people understand what’s available.
There are plans to do more outreach to the townships that are part of the district.
The committee also talked about how to ratchet up services related to social equity, such as reading readiness and job search assistance. The library does an extreme amount of partnering in these areas, she noted, and are very connected to schools and other organizations. “But we’re always looking for new ways to get these messages across.”
Barbara Murphy mentioned that the board received a list of all AADL partners earlier this year. She didn’t think it had been part of the minutes or board packet. AADL director Josie Parker replied that it’s available for anyone who wants it. Murphy suggested posting it on the AADL website.
Committee Reports: Facilities
Margaret Leary, chair of the facilities committee, reported that the group met on June 25. Other members are Ed Surovell and Jan Barney Newman. Most of their discussion related to items on the board’s agenda that night, including the construction budget for the downtown entrance. They reviewed the most recent schematic drawings with Cory Lavigne of InForm Studio. They also went over the proposed budget for that work, she said.
The committee also discussed two other items that were on the board’s July 21 agenda: repair of the downtown library’s public elevator; and a proposal for carpeting in portions of the downtown library and the West branch.
The board is provided with monthly library statistics in five categories: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. The data is compared to year-ago figures, when available. The information for June 2014 was presented by Eli Neiburger, AADL’s deputy director.
Neiburger noted that the presentation of these stats will be retooled in the future, because some of it isn’t very meaningful if there’s little year-to-year variation. It’s also an opportunity for some strategic planning, he said, to identify some key performance metrics.
Here are some highlights from Neiburger’s commentary:
- Collections: The AADL collection continues to grow in most categories compared to a year ago. In the digital collection, the category of photos saw the biggest growth (117%) with most of that coming from the Old News collection.
- Users: There are 199,613 known computer users, up 6.6%. Borrowers were up 8.3% to 123,437. The number of active borrowers during the month was 58,711. June is a big month for new library card sign-ups because of the summer game. New online registrations almost doubled compared to June 2013, mostly related to the summer game. This year there were 937 new library cards issued – 5% higher than last year. The number of cards issued to non-residents, businesses and organizations is also growing, he noted, thanks to the efforts of AADL’s outreach staff.
- Visits: The number of visits are down at all locations, but Neiburger said there’s missing data at several branches. For example, there was no data for five days in June at the downtown library. The door-counting hardware isn’t performing well, so the staff will be looking at how to get more accurate data. A ceiling-mounted system might provide better results. “However, our event attendance was crazy in June,” Neiburger said, with nearly 15,000 attendees – up 31.8% compared to a year ago. Online visits to AADL’s “devblog” – where staff posts information about the software they develop – was up over 100%.
- Participation: For the first time, attendance at films and shows exceeded the turnout for storytime events, Neiburger reported. Attendance for the category of talks, which includes Kids Read Comics, was up about 200%. Overall, the library held 4% fewer events in June compared to last year, but attendance was up 32%.
Neiburger also gave highlights of some “Top Tweets” that mentioned @aadl during June. One was by Midwestern Gothic (@MWGothic), a literary magazine based in Ann Arbor. They tweeted about a reading that AADL hosted in early June for the magazine’s contributors. Neiburger pointed out that AADL has licensed the full run of Midwestern Gothic, and it’s available for immediate download to keep.
Some of the Tweets highlighted new items from the AADL collection, including the Bounty Hunter Junior metal detector, giant checkers, disc golf and Kubb – a Swedish lawn game. Neiburger described it as a cross between horseshoes and cornhole. The library just got 10 more sets of it.
AADL director Josie Parker covered several topics during her director’s report, some of which are reported elsewhere in this article.
Parker showed the board a slide show about Visions 2014, a vendor fair held on May 14 at Washtenaw Community College for people who are blind and physically handicapped. The two-minute presentation is also posted on AADL’s website. The library continues to get good feedback on that event, she said.
Parker also noted that the Friends of the AADL bookshop is now located in the main first-floor lobby of the downtown building, because of the closure of the basement area where the bookshop normally operates. It’s been in the lobby since June 30, and is open all of the hours that the building is open. Books are sold at the circulation desk.
She reported that many people didn’t realize there was a bookshop, so it’s become very popular. Nancy Kaplan asked if there’s the possibility that it could remain in that location, even after the elevator repair is finished. Parker replied that it’s a possibility. “That conversation is one we’ll have to have,” she said.
Margaret Leary said it’s a fabulous example of a good outcome from a situation that was challenging. It’s creative and opens the door to new ways of thinking about the bookshop.
Resolution of Thanks
The board’s agenda included a resolution of thanks to Wendy St. Antoine, who is retiring on Aug. 15. She joined the library in December 1996.
AADL director Josie Parker reported that St. Antoine came into the system as a head clerk at the Northeast branch. “We no longer have head clerks, and we no longer have the Northeast branch,” she noted. St. Antoine is known throughout AADL for her quiet strength, Parker said. She deals well with all sorts of people, and does it respectfully and in a way that everyone finds approachable.
When Parker joined AADL in 1999 “and found myself managing the circulation department as well as the youth department during that financial crisis, suddenly I had over half the employees under my supervision, two-thirds of the budget, and all these desks everywhere. Wendy is the person who taught me how to think about that in the right way, so that it was manageable in my mind. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.” Everyone has a story like that about St. Antoine, Parker said.
Cancelation of August Board Meeting
The board was asked to cancel its Aug. 18 meeting.
Margaret Leary pointed out that board president Prue Rosenthal and AADL director Josie Parker had discussed this, and they don’t foresee any business that will need to be addressed at that time.
Parker said that actions by the board regarding facilities projects, in votes taken earlier in the July 21 meeting, give her the authorization she needs to move forward on that work – on the downtown library front entrance, the downtown library elevator repair, and the carpeting replacement.
The next board meeting will be on Monday, Sept. 15.
Outcome: A proposal to cancel the Aug. 18 meeting was moved and supported, but Rosenthal did not call for a vote on this item. The board appeared to have consensus, though no official action was taken. A meeting cancelation notice has been posted on the AADL website.
Of the 12 people who spoke during public commentary, most of them talked about the summer game. They earned summer game points for both attending the meeting and for public commentary. Those comments are included earlier in this report.
Public Commentary: Communications
Lyn Davidge introduced herself as a Scio Township resident who also loved the summer game, and who’d spent the past 15 minutes looking for codes in the library. She said she hated to stand there and be the grinch, “but there’s one in every crowd.”
She’d been pleased to attend the informational meeting on July 14 for potential AADL board candidates. She’d been looking on the AADL website, MLive and The Ann Arbor Chronicle for information about the session’s date and location. She was surprised to see an item published by The Chronicle on Sunday morning, July 13 at 11 a.m., announcing the session for the following day. “In my opinion, that was incredibly short notice to the public.” [The Chronicle received the AADL press release via email on the morning of July 13, though it was dated July 9.]
To double check herself, Davidge said she went back to the AADL website and still couldn’t find any announcement there. She still couldn’t find anything in the online or print editions of MLive. It was possible that she simply missed the previous announcements, she said. “On the other hand, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that maybe the short-notice notice in The Chronicle was the only notice of the potential candidates meeting – and you know what that looks like, don’t you? It looks like you were hoping no one would show up.” She hoped they really didn’t want to give that impression, even to one constituent at one time.
Similarly, she said, the July 21 AADL board meeting was being held at the downtown library. But months ago, it had been announced that the meeting would be held at the Pittsfield branch, she noted. She knew that the venue had been changed, because a couple of trustees had given her the heads-up about it. They knew that she thought it was a good idea for the trustees to be visible in all of the branches. They also knew that she disagreed with the decision not to hold the July meeting at a branch. [The June 16, 2014 meeting was held at the Traverwood branch, and had drawn only one member of the public.]
Davidge said she could respect the board’s decision, but she couldn’t understand why the change in the July meeting venue wasn’t just announced during the June meeting. That way, people would have had very timely notice of that schedule change, she said. “Again, it looked like you were hoping no one would show up tonight.” That’s the impression people get, she said. Thank goodness there were a lot of people attending that night’s meeting – the word got out, she said. She hoped there would be more publicity in the future.
Kathy Griswold told the board that the Ann Arbor community is fortunate to have such an excellent library and truly excellent staff. She wanted to talk about one lost opportunity and two minor areas of weakness. The lost opportunity is that the library isn’t addressing part of its mission statement for underserved populations and low-income students, she said. Griswold said she’d tried to engage some of these students in the summer game, but she didn’t have the resources to do that. The library needs to go out into some of these communities, she said. There are several nonprofits who work with underserved youth but have limited financial resources, especially compared to the library. They are providing books to students in some of the subsidized housing units, she said. Griswold also noted that Ann Arbor Kiwanis recently provided a grant to the Family Learning Institute to buy a modified bookmobile. She’d really like to see the library revisit using a bookmobile that includes computers.
Regarding weaknesses, Griswold cited communications as something that needed work. She noted that the Detroit Free Press had recently sued the University of Michigan board of regents over alleged violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act. “I believe that their regents operate similar to the way that trustees operate, and that is just within the limits of the Open Meetings Act.”
Griswold also said she cringed to see that material had been printed out for trustees in “slide mode” rather than “handout mode,” which wastes a tremendous amount of toner – because the printouts had white letters on black background.
Finally, Griswold noted that a step at the Traverwood branch hadn’t yet been repaired. It’s a minor issue, but it’s a safety issue that needs to be addressed, she said.
Later in the meeting, AADL director Josie Parker responded to comments about the underserved. Parker pointed out that the library does provide services to underserved populations through its partnerships with nonprofits, as well directly through the library’s outreach to schools. “We are considered sort of the foundational location for many of them, because they don’t have budgets that give them space,” she said. The Ann Arbor Public Schools English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes are held at the library, as are sessions for Washtenaw Literacy and the Family Learning Institute. So the library’s outreach to the underserved – children and adults – is a long tradition, Parker said, “and not one that we would abandon.”
Margaret Leary clarified with Parker that it would not be accurate to say that the library doesn’t address the needs of the underserved, whether they’re children or adults. Parker said it’s fair to note that the library can’t solve all the issues that face the community. Root causes like illiteracy are of real interest to the library, and have always been, she said. Poverty, lack of health care and other issues are outside the mission of the public library, she added.
“However, we definitely serve those nonprofits trying to meet that mission, by giving them space to meet, space to bring those populations together,” Parker said. One example is the Proyecto Avance: Latino Mentoring Association (PALMA), a University of Michigan student group that provides tutoring in English. She said it’s important to be very careful in using the term “underserved” and labeling people.
Barbara Murphy highlighted the fact that AADL gives a book to every newborn – it’s one of her favorite programs.
Public Commentary: Reference Books
Gladwin McGee, an Ann Arbor resident, said he’s concerned about the purging of large numbers of reference books from the downtown library in recent months. There are several references that he’s used in the past, but they’ve been removed from the shelves. These include a three-volume encyclopedia of television, a three-volume encyclopedia of musical theater, and an eight-volume encyclopedia of the American Constitution. Just last week there was a Merriam-Webster encyclopedia of literature that had been removed, as was the American Decades series of history and culture.
“I would have hoped that it would be part of the philosophical groundings of librarians to respect various pathways of learning discovery, including respecting the choices of those of us who cherish various print reference works, who’ve found enrichment in them and would like to have the opportunity to continue using them.” He said it seemed like it was happening in almost “bibliocidal proportions.” It’s true that the Internet provides an almost unprecedented collection of facts, and would lead some to claim that print reference books are outmoded and could be dispensed with. However, the best reference works are more than just a collection of facts. They provide outstanding contextual frameworks for highlighting and exploring connections among related but independent sets of facts. “It saddens me greatly to see their removal.” He noted that he’d made an appointment to talk with the AADL director about this.
Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, AADL director Josie Parker indicated that the library regularly removes outdated materials, and has not changed that process. Some print reference work also is now available in electronic databases.
Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Prue Rosenthal.
Absent: Jan Barney Newman, Ed Surovell.
Next regular meeting: The August meeting has been canceled. The next regular board meeting is on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth, Ann Arbor. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]
The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor District Library board. Check out this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!