Press enter after choosing selection

Downtown Library 2012: 2nd Community Forum Update

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 10:05am by josie

The second community forum to discuss the future of the downtown library was held Tuesday, June 12 from 7:00 -8:45 PM in the Multipurpose Room at the Downtown Library. We appreciate those who have chosen to spend time talking with us about 21st century library service at the forums held on June 9 and June 12. The third forum will be held Wednesday, June 20, from 7:00 - 8:45 PM in the 4th Floor Meeting Room of the Downtown Library. I am including the agenda and the content of our information boards, along with this video of the discussion in this message. This update also includes a video tour of some of the non-public areas of the downtown library. Tours will also be available to those attending the forum on June 20, however, the tour is not accessible. For those of you unable to attend, please don't hesitate to send your comments, questions or concerns to or comment on this post. Josie Recording of June 12th Downtown Library Forum

Get the Flash Player

Infrastructure Tour

Get the Flash Player

AADL Public Engagement Process Community Forum Agenda 1. Welcome 2. Process Overview 3. Introduction 4. Information Stations - Children - Finances - Quiet Reading Room - Research/Archives - Meeting & Gathering Spaces - Infrastructure Tour Current Challenges & Potential Opportunities - Easel w/ Paper & marker for comments - Suggestion cards 5. Question & Answer 6. Close Opportunities for engagement: 3 Community Forums June 9th, 10 am – 12 pm June 12th, 7 pm – 9 pm June 20th, 7 pm – 9 pm Contact AADL: All questions and answers will be posted on the Director’s blog. Board Meetings: Board Room on the 4th floor of the Downtown Library: June 18th, 7 pm July 16th, 7 pm AADL Community Forum: Information Stations Children Challenges: - Limited opportunities for interactive learning in current space - Current story corner can accommodate events or play but not both - Size and capabilities of current space limit ability to meet needs of different ages Opportunities: - A room designed around flexible, upgradable interactive exhibits and play surfaces - Dedicated capacity for simultaneous play, events, and tours - A set of planned zones that support the varying developmental needs of kids from birth on Finance - AADL is a taxing authority independent of the City of Ann Arbor or AAPS - Operating on 1.55 mills (81% of the voter-approved 1.92 mills) since July 2009 - Property taxes account for over 90% of income - Three branch libraries opened on time & on budget, using $24 million from the operating millage Opportunity: - A $65 million dollar bond will provide funds to improve the Downtown Library, allowing AADL to continue to function within the existing operating millage. 

Property Market Value Property Taxable Value Library Bond Millage Per Year
$150,000 $75,000 $52
$200,000 $100,000 $69
$250,000 $125,000 $86
$300,000 $150,000 $104
$350,000 $175,000 $121
$400,000 $200,000 $138

Research/Archives Challenges: - Ann Arbor News Archives currently housed in rented space - Limited to no access for downtown patrons, researchers, or staff - Difficulty integrating archives content into ongoing projects Opportunities: - Provide a downtown space to appropriately house & display the Archives collections - Enable public access to the archives, possibly in conjunction with a new reading room - Develop research stations that allow safe use of delicate collections  Quiet Reading Room Challenges: - No room for dedicated, quiet work & reading space in current structure - Poor lighting, bad acoustics, insufficient access to power and data - New Branch reading rooms are comfortable, useful, and welcoming; need a similar destination downtown Opportunities: - Create a comfortable, quiet reading room with ample seating, working / reading space and a welcoming atmosphere - Provide good, energy-efficient lighting & natural daylight - Provide ample access to power and data Meeting & Gathering Spaces Challenges: - Insufficient individual & group study/meeting rooms to meet demand - Library events are limited by availability & capacity of downtown rooms - Event attendees frequently have to tolerate cramped, uncomfortable rooms with poor sightlines Opportunities: - Develop a diverse set of meeting and study rooms with ample electrical, data, and equipment access - Provide event venues capable of supporting a broad range of library & public event needs - Establish facility within the downtown library that can comfortably handle large turnouts Infrastructure Challenges: - Three building phases (1957, 1974, 1991) do not work together efficiently, with terribly inefficient & expensive heating and cooling systems that require expensive service and maintenance - Only 1 ADA accessible restroom in the building; No public restrooms or drinking fountain on the 3rd floor Challenges in safety & supervision of space - All three building phases pre-date the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Opportunities: - Utilize advances in green building technology to deliver a sustainable, high-capacity downtown library - Ensure convenient, accessible restroom facilities throughout the building - Develop spaces with ceiling heights and column spacing that allow intuitive wayfinding & supervision


This comment was received through
Dear Library Board & Staff:

I will be voting against the bond issue as presently contemplated and encourage my family and friends to do the same.

I feel that Ann Arbor is growing more and more out of touch with the growing economic pain being felt by the middle class. While each tax increase
or utility increase in and of itself may only amount to $60 to $90 per year, there has been a steady number of these increases each year (sidewalks, school technology, water/sewer rates, transit- pending, etc.).
I wish there was more concern about the "affordability" of our community and cost of living issues versus the current environment of spend, spend, spend to have the biggest and best of everything.

It would seem, that the satellite branch locations provide more convenient, shorter trips for the majority of library patrons. Therefore, I would be willing to support a smaller downtown branch, but not the current plan.

Thank you for soliciting my feedback.


The following was the response from AADL:
Mr. Baird,

Thank you very much for taking advantage of the opportunity to comment about the Downtown Library. The numbers used in the article are not determined nor is the size of any possible building project downtown. However, it would unlikely be a smaller facility than the current building. The Library Board has not decided to place a bond proposal on the ballot, but is asking for input which you have so graciously given. I hope that you can also attend the forum on June 20.


Josie Parker


This comment was received through the account:

I vote for a new library and a bond proposal and tax to pay for it.
It is time for a total new building with all the new etchnologies.

Claire Turcotte
Ann Arbor resident

The following is the response from the Library:

Thank you very much for your support of the Library. I appreciate your taking the time to post a comment.



With regard to the Research/Archives section above. The three bullet points under "Opportunities" read as if they were thought of by someone living in a much different technological era than our current one. I think it would be a better use of human, building space, and technological resources to have the Ann Arbor News Archives scanned and/or transferred to microfilm (if non-digital archiving is desired). Even when I was in high school and college 20-30 years ago I didn't rely on actual printed original copies of newspapers for research - I used microfilm readers and properly indexed microfilm rolls. A much smaller amount of space could then be set aside for vault preservation of the original paper copies if desired. Scanning the originals would create the potential for making them more accessible (online) than any "reading room" could ever accomplish.

In reply to by deleuzean


Thanks for your comments. I think that it will interest you to know that AADL is digitizing the Ann Arbor News and other papers as allowed by copyright and our agreements with rights holders. Currently, at [], you will find over 128,000 articles that AADL has digitized since acquiring this collection in 2009. We have found that a demand driven digitization model is more effective than choosing an arbitrary start point. We know that better access will lead to stronger demand, that will in time help develop a robust online collection of local newspapers and other documents regardless of their original format. This collection is available online to anyone looking from anywhere in the world. Connecting this archive and its online presentation with physical access in a building near a reading area will be a catalyst that drives interest and helps to determine the direction of the AADL digitization efforts. In short, we work very hard to do what people want us to do before they know they want it.


One of my favorite things in the downtown branch is the dedicated kid's area. It's great for my kids to be able to search for books on a subject that are at an appropriate level, rather than needing to look past adult non-fiction, and giving up from the difficulty. I look forward to improvements, and would likely support a millage for them.


Thank you very much for your comment and support. I felt the same way about the children's area downtown when I moved to Ann Arbor twenty years ago with my family. I am glad to know that you recognize improvements are necessary, and we look forward to the opportunity to meet your expectations.



I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I don't think most of the reasons being given are all that convincing.
- The AA News archives should be digitized.
- I would want a third party with experience updating HVAC systems in place to give an assessment of the costs of renovations and whether they are needed.
- What downtown needs is meeting rooms like the one the library already has. It also isn't clear we need that many more of them.
- If we need fewer books, use that space for more meeting/study rooms, if needed.
- Servers should largely be moved off-site. We mostly need networking infrastructure downtown, and that should mostly be wireless.
- If we really needed to tear down and rebuild buildings to meet ADA requirements, we'd have to raze most US buildings. Again, we should get estimates from third party renovators, and think about whether we need more restrooms.

On the other hand, there will never be a better time to do this kind of work.
- Financing costs are currently at lifetime lows.
- The library has a strong credit rating to take advantage of that financing.
- Having just built the other branches, there is an opportunity to leverage them while the downtown space is being rebuilt.
- Construction costs should be near a lifetime low.
- Rebuilding would allow for a ground-loop heat-pump system to heat and cool the building, drastically reducing energy use and costs.

I think I'm still waiting for some new vision that would strongly warrant a new building. I'm not quite seeing it yet. Maybe something along the lines of "Better public access to information, literature, and the arts", and concentrate more on providing digital access. I've never used the computers at any of the libraries, but they sure seem to be in demand.

You could always win me over with some decent covered bike parking!


Mixed feelings are actually good in this situation. You are asking all the right questions, and, unfortunately, the full discussions from the forums are not written up in the media. Please consider watching one, or more, of the three videos from the forums, and I think you will hear answers to most of your questions. If not, then let me know. We stated at those forums that the physical structural issues, while real, are not enough to warrant the extensive changes that we are discussing. Combined however with what you describe below in the second part of your message, the need for change is compelling.

We do talk about "better public access to information, literature and the arts" and we do it in the context of a rapidly changing digital environment. The vision is about building a public library structure for PEOPLE to continue to learn and read. I"m simplifying the message here, but I'm always glad to meet and talk with anyone about the Library.

As for the covered bike parking, I think you'll be happy to know that we will please you mightily and, perhaps, sooner than you imagine.



This comment was received through

Hi, folks. Unfortunately, I missed the notice (which I easily found once I looked for it!) of the community forums. As a heavy downtown library user (for myself and my kids) I'd be happy to be part of your community inputs as you develop your plans for the future. If you've got a mailing list of folks to notify proactively I'd be happy to be on it.


The response from the Library is below:

Thank you very much. We will look forward to talking with you, and appreciate your willingness to participate in this discussion.

The meeting room downtown really does need to be larger. It has been overflowing at every event I've gone to, especially the children's events. Hopefully acoustics could be good too.

I'm still surprised by the number of books the library doesn't have, and that I have to get from MelCat.

The branch meeting rooms are great, but, last time I checked, it was $50 to reserve one for any group meeting. I found that ridiculous, given that they sit empty much of the time.

A quiet space would be great, but think about a 'pink noise' machine, as utter silence itself can make coughing or sneezing, or shuffling papers distracting. Not sure of the cost. Also, signs that say "quiet room" don't really seem to dissuade noise-makers. A posted list of actual rules would be okay by me.

It would really be nice to build a new building, but it is such a bad time for us to vote to spend more money right now.

Good luck!


Thanks so much for your comments. I am glad that you know about Melcat,
and that you use it to receive material that AADL does not own.
We will certainly take your thoughts on meeting spaces and quiet spaces
Into account as we move on into this discussion.


I am concerned about the high priority placed on a 400 seat auditorium. While I appreciate the events hosted by the library, as contributing to the community, it is not clear to me that the events are within the scope of library priorities. Please provide more information on use of an auditorium.

Also, many buildings can be renovated, to support green, sustainable use of their structures, and to avoid repeat extraction of resources to fabricate new buildings. Examples in town include multiple buildings on the UM campus, some of the same era as the library (1950's), and some much older (Dana Building, Couzen's Hall, East Quad). If the contents of the library are wearing out, replace the heating and cooling system, figure out how to implement geothermal heating/cooling via access through the new underground parking structure, and add appropriate lighting and wiring to support future uses. Each of these improvements does not require a new building. Policies can be implemented to support quiet space, rather than building new spaces.

ADA requirements benefit all, but existing buildings can be redesigned to support physical access. I'm concerned about the implication that buildings that existed before ADA implementation cannot be re-configured to support good physical accessibility. If such were the case, most existing buildings would have to be torn down.

As for additional area, add on to what we have, if the square footage is needed, but consider reconfiguration and re-use, which would be good green models for the community.


Thank you for such a comprehensive comment. The Library Board is taking all of what you discuss into consideration as they make a decision on the next steps for the downtown Library.
It is very helpful to have questions and concerns so well presented.

Please reinstate this entire post, including all three videos and all comments, to the top of the home page, at least until after the July 16 Board meeting. Also, please link this infomation in its entirety under "Building Projects" as well as "Director's Blog", that being the more intuitive connection. This is a very important taxpayer issue. It's essential that you make it as easy as possible for your constituents to gather information.

Comment: While I understand the time constraints in regard to putting a potential bond issue on the November ballot, I wonder why the recommendation of the Board Facilities Committee has not been presented at least one month prior to Board action on it. Please clarify if I'm remembering incorrectly, but it's my understanding that the Board will hear the recommendation, discuss, and vote all at the July 16 meeting. If that's so, I'm very disappointed. For an issue so important to the constituency, at least two Board discussions at open meetings seem the absolute minimum necessary. I don't see how the Board can make an informed decision without further time to research the Committee's recommendation and to gather further citizen input regarding the exact proposed ballot issue. Why the rush?

Dear gelpdg,

Thank you for your comment and your question. I have restored the three community forum posts to the front page of, but not to the top of the page. There are many events, planned and unplanned (power outages) that need to move to the top of the site. However, in the interest of transparency, they are back on the front page, but will move up and down depending on the immediacy of other information posted.

The process that the current Board of AADL selected to follow to determine its course regarding the downtown library has been made public and restated at the three community forums and at the Board meeting in June. The Board charged the Facilities committee to review the work done in years 2006-2008 regarding the Downtown Library and the staff to provide to that committee any updated or new information that it needs to make a recommendation. The Board will hear that recommendation at its July 16 Board meeting. You asked "Why the rush?" The Board made a strategic choice to prefer the November 2012 ballot, but the process has not short-circuited either the usual process or what due diligence calls for. The process is consistent with the AADL Board's practice of relying on Board committee recommendations, which are based on thorough background work by the committee members and library staff.

The Board has several options including rejecting a recommendation, accepting a recommendation or revising a recommendation. I encourage you to attend the July 16 Board meeting to voice your opinion during the public comment period regarding the future of the Downtown library building.


Graphic for blog posts

Blog Post