Stories indexed with the term ‘Allerton-Hill’

Ann Arbor Library Board Gets Feedback

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (July 15, 2013): For the second consecutive month, the AADL board held its meeting at one of the district’s four branches – this time at the Pittsfield branch on Oak Valley Drive.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

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

Fifteen people spoke during public commentary, a much higher than usual number. About half of the speakers, including several children, were there to earn points in AADL’s summer game, and spoke about their appreciation for the library and for the game in particular. Codes, which can be used to collect points in the game, were given to anyone who showed up to the meeting or spoke at public commentary. Later in the meeting board members received a briefing on the game from Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, who talked about its role in encouraging kids to read and write during the summer months.

The board also was briefed on the recent Kids Read Comics convention, as well as new collections of non-traditional items – like home tools and microscopes.

In his financial report to the board, Ken Nieman, AADL’s associate director of finance, noted that library ended the year about $43,000 under budget for tax revenue. That amount includes $37,000 from tax refunds that AADL had to make to the county and various municipalities throughout the year, following decisions made by local tax tribunals. AADL had expected to make $75,000 of such refunds, but refunds totaled about $112,000 for the fiscal year, which ended June 30.

AADL director Josie Parker highlighted several staff accomplishments during her report to trustees, including news that an anonymous donor has given his classic video game collection to the library. The collection – which will be used for AADL events, but won’t be in circulation – includes cartridges and discs from the 1980s and ’90s, and a few game consoles.

Parker’s own achievement was highlighted by trustee Margaret Leary during the meeting: inclusion in a new collection of essays titled “Library 2020: Today’s Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow’s Library.”

During public commentary, Bob Rorke – a consultant working for the Protect Our Libraries political action committee – raised questions about AADL’s decision earlier this year to hire Allerton-Hill Consulting. Referencing excerpts from emails that Protect Our Libraries obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Rorke argued that the consulting contract is not a generic communications audit or project – but rather it’s political. He indicated that Allerton-Hill provides political advocacy for the passing of public financing issues, and asked the board to review this contract and determine whether it’s legal under Michigan law.

Public commentary also included thanks from Robb Wolfe, executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, for AADL’s ongoing support. Other topics raised by speakers touched on the condition of the downtown library, appreciation for events hosted by the library, and a report from the recent American Library Association conference.

The meeting also included a tribute to Karl Pohrt, who died earlier this month. Trustee Ed Surovell, an avid book collector, noted that many people knew Pohrt as the founder and owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop in downtown Ann Arbor. “But he was so much more than that,” Surovell said. [Full Story]

AADL Branch to Get Infrastructure Upgrade

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (June 17, 2013): In a meeting held at the Traverwood branch, library trustees approved a contract to upgrade the Internet infrastructure for another branch – the Pittsfield location.

Jan Barney Newman, Josie Parker, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor District Library trustee Jan Barney Newman and AADL director Josie Parker. (Photos by the writer.)

The $112,150 contract with Merit Network, a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor, would put the Pittsfield branch on par with high-speed connections throughout the rest of the AADL system. The branch had been described to the board as a “bandwidth backwater,” with about 2% of the Internet connectivity speed compared to other AADL locations. The project will be paid for with money from the library’s fund balance.

In other action, the board approved final budget adjustments for the fiscal year ending June 30 – a routine procedure.

In her director’s report, Josie Parker highlighted the launch of the library’s popular summer reading game, and announced that Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads is soliciting suggestions for its 2014 selection – a work of fiction. The theme is “A Very Good Read.”

During public commentary, Doug Jewett focused his remarks on the Michigan Open Meetings Act, especially as it relates to committee meetings. Bob Rorke discussed the results of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Protect Our Libraries political action committee, related to the AADL’s hiring of Allerton-Hill Consulting. Reading through the 634 pages of material the library had produced in response to the FOIA request had raised some concerns for Rorke, including questions about whether the library was using public monies for political purposes. [Full Story]

AADL To Hire Communications Consultant

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (March 18, 2013): Several items during the AADL board’s most recent meeting related to the issue of communications.

Eli Neiburger, Prue Rosenthal, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and production, talks with AADL board president Prue Rosenthal in the small room off of the fourth-floor boardroom. The former closet is used as a studio for podcasting. (Photos by the writer.)

Nancy Kaplan, chair of the board’s new communications committee, announced that AADL will hire Allerton-Hill Consulting to do a communications audit and plan for the library, to be completed this year. The decision was made in consultation with AADL director Josie Parker, Kaplan said. It didn’t require a board vote because the amount of the contract is the maximum for not triggering board approval: $28,000. Contracts for purchases over that amount must be authorized by the board.

Board president Prue Rosental, in supporting the decision, noted that during the campaign to pass a bond for a new downtown library – which voters rejected on Nov. 6, 2012 – library advocates learned that “people in the community didn’t know what we do and how well we do it.”

Some of those “what we do” activities were highlighted during two presentations at the meeting: (1) an overview of AADL podcasts produced by staff and patrons; and (2) a report from Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and production, about his recent trip to Germany as a guest of the U.S. State Department and Zukunftswerkstatt (“Future Workshop”), visiting libraries in several cities. The head of the Zukunftswerkstatt was interested in using AADL’s efforts as a model to get German libraries more involved with younger communities, using gaming and other activities. As a result of the partnership with AADL, a dozen libraries in Germany have started running events through the GT System, which AADL staff developed. A league tournament is being held, and three winners will come to Ann Arbor for the May 19 German-American Gaming League Championships, held at the AADL.

Communications was also a topic during public commentary. Libby Hunter, a member of the Protect Our Libraries political action committee, urged the board to be more open and transparent, asking them to allow the public to attend committee meetings, to videotape their meetings for broadcast on Community Television Network, and to explain their use of closed sessions in relation to the Michigan Open Meetings Act. And Don Salberg asked for more information related to the condition of the downtown library, and for details on the board’s rationale for wanting a larger building on that same site.

Also during public commentary, Stewart Gordon spoke briefly about an effort to put a skating rink on the city-owned Library Lane site, adjacent to the downtown library on South Fifth Avenue. He hoped the topic could be put on the board’s agenda at some point.

The one resolution that was on the board’s agenda was unanimously approved: A one-year contract extension with Pace Mechanical Services for $83,865. The contract, which will run through June 30, 2014, covers HVAC equipment and maintenance.

The board also talked briefly about its budget preparations for fiscal 2013-14, which begins July 1. The budget and finance committee will bring a draft budget to the board’s April 15 meeting, with a vote on the budget scheduled for May 20. For the current fiscal year, the AADL has a budget of about $12 million, with a millage rate set at 1.55 mills. [Full Story]