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Downtown Library 2012: The Vision | The Vote

by aadl-news

This evening the Library Board approved the bond language for a November 6, 2012 ballot proposal that would provide $65 million to fund the replacement of the Downtown Library at its current site at Fifth Avenue and William Street in Ann Arbor. The Board voted earlier in June to replace the Downtown Library, and now the bond language will be submitted to the Washtenaw County Clerk for inclusion on the ballot.

Questions about this decision are centering around a few key issues. Those questions are answered in The Vision | The Vote. If your question is not contained here, please email, and we will answer your question and post it to the Director's Blog so that it is widely available.


AADL Library Bond Proposal

The Vision

1. What will a new Downtown Library offer our community?

Here are ten things that are possible in a new building, but are not possible in the current building:

• A destination, multi-­‐age, youth area that can simultaneously accommodate open play, story times, and other youth programming
• A grand, quiet reading room
• A 400-­‐seat auditorium to comfortably accommodate the crowds that AADL’s
lectures, movies, discussions, and performances already bring to Downtown
• An accessible downtown location for AADL’s Local History collections, specifically the
collection from The Ann Arbor News
• Individual and group study and workspaces throughout the building with adequate
comfort, power, and acoustic privacy
• An array of meeting spaces that can simultaneously accommodate events that range
from messy, hands-­‐on programs to formal public assemblies
• A café that is open before and after the library hours
• A Friends of the AADL shop in the lobby
• A Media Production Lab that provides high-­‐end computer production bays adjacent
to larger, comfortable, public computing areas
• An environmentally sound, comfortable, efficient structure that is accessible to all

2. What will the new library look like?

The Library Board has not commissioned any specific plans at this time. The Board is, however, using the work that was done and paid for in 2008 to develop a program for a 21st century library building in Ann Arbor. Even with ongoing changes in technologies, that building program is valid, and we are confident that replacing 110,000 square feet with 160,000 square feet will result in a building that reflects the increasing use of Ann Arbor’s Downtown Library with the flexibility to change spaces in the future without major renovations. The Board is asking the community to first decide if it is willing to invest $65 million. If we receive an affirmative answer from voters, then we would move onto the next step and select an architectural firm and a construction management firm. The Board considers this a prudent, fiscally conservative approach.

3. Is $65 million enough?

Yes, it is. The bond amount covers every aspect of the proposed project, and the actual amount estimated to be spent on construction would necessarily be less than the total.

In 2008, we estimated spending $334 per square foot on a new downtown facility. In the library’s experience managing construction projects, that cost per square foot is sufficient to deliver an outstanding facility. That these numbers hold true in today’s construction market is a very important factor in the Board’s decision to move forward with a bond proposal at this time.

4. Why can’t you just renovate the existing facility?

The work that was done in 2007/2008 included a thorough review of many options that had been brought forward by staff and consultants. The architect and construction management firms at that time, with the Library Board and staff, concluded that two of the options provided the best opportunity to build a library building for the 21st century. One option was to replace the current building with a new 160,000 square foot facility and the other was to completely renovate the 1990’s portion and to replace the 1958 portion with a four-­‐story addition. It was determined through construction cost modeling that the renovation option cost would save less than 10% of the cost of a new facility. After careful consideration, the Board determined moving forward with a request for a new facility was a better return on the requested investment.

5. Why hasn’t the Library Board chosen to build the new library on the top of the underground parking garage on Library Lane?

The Library Board considered this option in the 2007/2008 process and ruled it out for two major reasons. The first is that public library space is safest and most efficient when arranged on large floor plates with direct sight lines on each floor. The buildable space on the parking garage is too small to provide necessary large floor plates. The second reason is that the AADL owns the property at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street, and that property is zoned public land. In short, the parking garage space is too small, and we have more flexibility on property owned by the Library to build a facility that will meet the community’s needs in a public library space well into this century.

6. Why doesn’t the Library Board sell the property at Fifth and William and build elsewhere?

The AADL owns the property at Fifth and William streets where the Downtown Library is located. However, in the separation agreement with the Ann Arbor Public Schools in 1995, the AAPS reserved the right of first refusal if the property was to be sold. The AAPS also has a year in which to make such a decision. In addition, the AAPS would pay only 65% of the estimated value of the property in such a sale, and if the AAPS chose not to purchase the property, but it was sold, the AAPS would receive 35% of the proceeds. The AADL Board has determined that this cost is too great to consider selling the site.

7. Are libraries needed in the age of EBooks and the Internet?

EBooks and the Internet are a big part of why a new library is needed. The explosion of digital content has not decreased demand for library services; in fact, demand continues to grow, and that demand is increasing for new and different services. The current downtown building was not designed to accommodate, and cannot be retrofitted to enable, the delivery of 21st century library services. EBooks and the Internet have changed and expanded the demand that AADL enjoys and works to meet. A building built around warehousing one particular format no longer serves this community well.

8. How many people use the downtown library?

• The Downtown Library averages over 600,000 annual visits, about 1,700 visitors per day.
• The Downtown Library averages over 1,000,000 annual checkouts: 32% of total AADL checkouts.
• The Downtown Library holds a collection of over 344,000 items, about 56% of AADL’s total collection.
• The Downtown Library serves over 75,000 annual Internet sessions, about 30% of AADL’s total.
• Since 2009, there has been a 21% increase in use of meeting rooms by outside organizations; 364 such uses, about one every day in 2011-­‐2012.
• AADL produces over 500 downtown events per year for a total of over 26,000 attendees

9. Why does the board think the public is interested in a new downtown library?

In March of 2012, the Board commissioned EPIC­‐MRA to conduct a scientific telephone survey of district voters, looking to see whether the library was valued by voters, whether they thought the library was an important part of the community’s future, what they liked and disliked about the library today, and whether they would be willing to support building a new library. The survey showed that 45% of the respondents were willing to support a $65 million bond for a downtown library project. An additional 15% of the respondents said they would likely vote yes to such a bond.

After reviewing that survey, the board held three community forums to discuss the need for a new library, the interests of the public, and the opportunities presented in a new library project. The Board also reviewed past reports and studies about the need for and cost of a new or renovated library. After taking all of that information into consideration, the board decided, in the words of Facilities Committee Chair Prue Rosenthal, “The needs today are even greater, and now is the time for us to ask the community to support construction of a new library that can fulfill the community’s requirements for information in many forms for years to come.”

10. What is wrong with the current building?

The Ann Arbor District Library Board’s Facilities Committee reviewed the shortcomings of the current building, first constructed in 1958 and updated twice, most recently in 1990.

The Committee found the facility has:
• Inadequate capabilities for meeting patron needs for safe, quiet reading space
• Outdated heating and air conditioning systems
• Insufficient meeting space for community events and large presentations
• Inadequate capacity for additional infrastructure to meet growing computer use
• No space for children’s programming and services that reflect the needs of contemporary families and students
• Built before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
• No auditorium

After reviewing renovation possibilities, the committee determined that a new facility built on the site of the existing building was the most cost-­‐effective solution.

11. Where can I give my feedback?

Questions are important and helpful as the Board and staff move through this very important phase in the Library’s history. Video of each of the three forums, held on June 9, 2012, June 12, 2012, and June 20, 2012, and a summary of the feedback from the public are available on the Director's Blog. Send your questions to All questions will be addressed and answers posted to the Director's Blog.

The Vote

1. What is a bond proposal?

A bond proposal is a request by the Library Board for voters to approve the sale of bonds, which will raise funds to build a new downtown library.

2. Why is a bond proposal necessary?

In 1994, in response to law passed in the legislature, the Ann Arbor Public Schools could no longer fund the operation of a public library with school millage. The AAPS and the City of Ann Arbor then established the Ann Arbor District Library in accordance with this new legislation. The Library is not connected in any way with the budgets of the Ann Arbor Public Schools or the City of Ann Arbor. The Library is a completely separate institution with an elected governing Board of Trustees. In 1994, the voters approved the establishment of the district library, and at the same time approved a millage of 2.0 mills in perpetuity to fund the operations of the Ann Arbor District Library. Today, the Library could levy up to 1.92 mills. Due to the improved technologies and choices made by the Library to use all of our resources to return an investment to the taxpayer, the levy is now 1.55. The current difference between 1.55 and 1.92 is $1.6 million, and that is not enough to fund a project of this magnitude.

3. What is on the November 6, 2012 ballot?

Shall the Ann Arbor District Library, formed by the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the City of Ann Arbor, County of Washtenaw, State of Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed sixty-­‐five million dollars ($65,000,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds, in one or more series, payable in not to exceed thirty (30) years from the date of issuance of such bonds, for the purpose of paying all or part of the costs of constructing, furnishing and equipping a new main library building to be located at the current site of the downtown library building, including costs related thereto?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

The following is for information purposes only:
The estimated millage to be levied in 2013 to pay the debt service on such bonds is 0.56 mills ($0.56 per $1,000 of taxable value). In accordance with State law, a portion of the revenue collected may be subject to capture by the City of Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Scio Township Downtown Development Authority.

4. Who can vote in this election?

Registered voters in the Ann Arbor District Library district boundaries can vote on this proposal. That includes all of the City of Ann Arbor and parts of Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Pittsfield, Superior, Salem, and Scio townships.

5. Why did you put this on the November ballot?

This is the election when turnout tends to be highest. We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to express his/her view through the ballot box.

6. How much will the proposal cost the average taxpayer?

If the bond proposal is approved a property owner’s taxes will be increased by approximately 0.56 mills. Property owners can use the following home value samples to determine their estimated individual tax increases.

Property Market Value Property Taxable Value Library Bond Millage Per Year
$150,000 $75,000 $42
$200,000 $100,000 $56
$250,000 $125,000 $70
$300,000 $150,000 $84
$350,000 $175,000 $98
$400,000 $200,000 $112

7. If the ballot issue passes, when will property taxes be levied?

If the bond proposal passed on November 6, 2012, the first tax levy related to the bond would be in July 2013.

8. Where and when can I register to vote?

You may register in person with your city, township, county clerk or any Secretary of State office. You may also download printable voter registration forms.
Please follow the instructions carefully for polling locations.

9. What are the key dates coming up for the election?

The election is November 6, 2012. To vote, you need to be registered by October 9, 2012. No date has been given yet for when absentee ballots will be available. Absentee ballots are usually available about six weeks before the election, which would be about mid-­‐September.


You've got my vote. One of the things I'm the most proud of about living in Ann Arbor is the awesome library system we have.

One aspect I would like to see addressed early on is the plan for keeping services and collections available during the construction, should the bond pass. I have faith that AADL will provide for the best possible temporary situation, but I would like to know the goals and time frame for that.


We appreciate your faith in us very much. While we don't have a specific timeframe or a detailed plan, we know generally what we will do to maintain services during a construction period if the bond passes. We intend to keep the collection status available online for requests, but most of it will not be physically browsable. We will use our branches and other rented spaces in the library district to continue our programming for all ages. We hope to find a space downtown that we can use as a temporary downtown branch, too. Now that the Library Board has decided to place a bond proposal on the ballot for a new building, the staff will begin considering all of the options for maintaining services during construction.


Thank you for the thorough summary and explanation. It's a compelling case to invest now in a new downtown library.

The central library is a concept that is no longer viable. More & better remote sites like the one in Pittsfield Township are what the future should bring. I no longer even consider going downtown to the library. Why would I drive a long way only to waste even more time looking for and then paying for parking? Going downtown is simply a waste of time & money. I can easily logon to the online catalog, request whatever I want, get an e-mail when it's ready and pick it up close to where I live. The future will also emphasizes the digital library and that doesn't need to be in expensive downtown real estate. A new central library is a classic bureacratic waste of resources, that is, a solution in search of a problem, as long as we spend lots of "other peoples money".


I am very glad that you are so satisfied with your library experience and the use of Pittsfield Branch. You clearly describe how easy and straightforward it is to request and receive a title at any location in the library system. Technology is certainly key to our being able to offer this level of access. However, while the use you describe is the traditional use of a library and still a very important one, it is not the only reason a person uses the library, and that can be said for all of our buildings. The Downtown library houses the majority of the collection, and provides space for programming and events that aren't possible in branches. Our service to youth and families would be greatly diminished without a large Downtown location. I appreciate that we will likely agree to disagree, but I encourage you to consider coming downtown some evening after 6:00 PM when street parking is free, or on a Sunday, and walk through the Downtown Library just to see what is going on in that space.



I too request books online and pick up at the closest branch. However, you are overlooking a small detail; not everyone owns a car. At the same time that Ann Arbor is spending huge amounts to attract people to intown living, it seems counterproductive to move useful sites to the periphery. Your contention that "The central library is a concept that is no longer viable." is contradicted by current practices.

This is a comment received through
Dear Downtown Library,

I tried to make a reservation for the downtown library study rooms, and was told by a staff member that it was based on first come first serve instead of reservations. This is not ideal for students who are searching for a quiet place to study. I was also told that rooms would be available, but found that they are occupied most of the time that I have been there. I would recommend putting a sign in the rooms that say that the rooms are intended for groups of people and that the groups of people have priority over single people using a study room. I also found that there are not enough outlets for people using computers, and where there are outlets, there do not seem to be tables, so I find myself sitting on the floor when I need to use an outlet.

Thank you for you time.

Caitlin Schulze

This is our response:
Dear Caitlin,

I am sorry that you are finding it difficult to use a study room Downtown. We have very few study rooms and that does limit whether or not you can find one available at any given point in time. While they are first-come-first-served, a single person using a room with seating for 8 does not have an exclusive right to the entire space. If a study room is not being used by a group, then any number of individuals working quietly can be in the space. I encourage you to go ahead and use the room if it is not occupied by a group. We know that we have too few outlets. We have added them in places such as the laptop counter on the 2nd floor. We have tried to place tables near all of the outlets, so if you find an outlet without a table, please ask the staff if a table can be moved for you so that you do not need to sit on the floor.

Josie Parker

This comment was received through

After reading The Vision for the new downtown library I have a question concerning "A Friends of the AADL shop in the lobby". Are you referring to the used Bookshop now functioning in the basement of the current library?

The Friends bookshop offers a wonderful service to our community. Although, I am aware it requires a substantial amount of space to operate, I hope it will be able to continue in the new proposed facility.

Marge Rutila

This is our response:


The Friends of the AADL Board has worked closely with the AADL concerning the vision of a new Downtown building, and the shop space in the lobby is a placeholder. The current used bookshop in the lower level is an asset in our community. The FAADL Board is an excellent steward, and I am certain that its members will make good decisions about the shop.


Ms. Parker - Could you please clarify your response in regard to the question about the FAADL Bookshop in a new building? You say "... the shop space in the lobby is a placeholder." What does that mean? Surely the Friends Bookshop will be included in any new building! Yet, as I read " The FAADL Board ... will make good decisions about the shop" it sounds rather as though they are being evicted. So, I'm confused. Thank you.


The use of the word "placeholder" implies intent. The FAADL Board does make all decisions about their bookshop. There is space intended for their use in the proposed downtown library.


This comment was received through
Question: where will be the new location?
Jennifer Yue

This is our response:
Dear Jennifer,

I am not certain if you mean the location of a new library building or the interim location of the library if a bond is passed, so I'll answer both questions.

If the bond is passed, the new library will be constructed on the current site of the Downtown library at Fifth Avenue and William Streets.

We have not secured spaces for operations in the event that the bond is passed. Those are decisions that we do not plan to make until after the election on November 6.

Josie Parker

I love our library system and these improvements at the Downtown Library sound like a real asset to the community! Two questions:

(1) Will there be a temporary Downtown site during construction? ==> Looking through the other comments, I see you already have the beginnings of a plan for this. :)

(2) Will the new building prioritize any elements of LEED or other green-building practices? I'd really like to see more downtown buildings not only be sustainable, but <em>add</em> to the vibrancy and vitality of the community.


We have the beginnings of a plan for how to operate during construction, but no details yet. AADL's commitment to green-building practices is evidenced in the three new branches in the AADL system built since 2004. Two of them were recognized with awards for sustainable design. The high use we experience in all three of the new branches is the vibrancy and vitality that I believe you are referring to in your comment. We would carry that design philosophy and those practices into this project, too. Thanks for bringing this aspect of a building project into the conversation.


I use the electronic request system frequently, so I'm glad to hear it will be available during construction. Even if you don't have a firm timeline, do you have any idea how long the construction would take? 18 months? Five years?

Also, the only idea for the new space that I really question is the cafe. Downtown already has plenty of coffee shops. And do we really want people bringing food and coffee into the library anyway? I know some people do, but it doesn't seem like a great idea.


Construction would likely take 18 to 24 months. We do allow drinks in containers with lids in the Library now. Food is also allowed in casual study/vending areas in all of the buildings, and we provide food and beverages at many library events. The cafe is an element being considered because of an interest that has been expressed over the years. For many, reading while having a coffee, is a relaxing and pleasurable experience.

Thanks for the feedback and the questions.


I love my library been going there since I was little I would totally back u guys up but I have a problem, I seem to be having the same problem at most of the branches I recently got called "inappropriate and childish" from your security staff at the downtown library because I was laying down reading books and eating my funnier bears in a far corner minding my business where no one could see me cause no one was really on that floor anyways but a hour later I was told I need to sit up I for didn't do anything wrong an I feel I deserve an apology. And now at the beach on packard road this happened a year ago but I had got done with my doctors appointment an I was tired and drowsy from the medicine and I went to the library to wait for my mom not even a minute pass by that this lady told me I had to leave cause I kept dosing off so I went outside sick as a dog in the cold... Then just recently I had to catch the bus downtown it was going to be there shortly and I had got done checking out so I was gonna take a 5 min nap till I had to leave I got asked to leave. It's not like I'm a bum or something I understand you want to keep the limit of homeless people out of the library and I've noticed the security I feel like I can't do anything in the library but get my stuff and leave all I'm saying is please loosin up a bit that's all.

As a patron from outside the district who pays $150/yr. to use the AADL (and my house is worth less than $200,000!), I think the library bond millage is a bargain for you all.

The new building seems like a great idea; really looking forward to the possibility of a larger, even more effective library!


This comment is from

Dear Ms Parker,
In my opinion, you and your staff are doing an excellent job in providing services to the community and to myself personally. You have my enthusiastic vote to build a new branch downtown. My concern is the security staff. I know that downtown has real needs to police patrons, but I have found some of the security staff to be intrusive of my personal space and disruptive to my experience. Because of this, I avoid the downtown branch. I would like to hear you speak about your security plans for the new library downtown and more generally about your security problems system wide.

This is the response:

Dear j david,

Thank you for the compliment to the staff, and for stating your support of a downtown building project. We intend to apply our current practices in any new building. That practice is to use security wherever it is required in the system to the extent that it is needed to resolve problems. We also call on law enforcement when problems escalate and we will continue to do that, too.


Josie Parker

We have just had 3 new libraries built in the last 10 years. With the economy the way it is now, this is not a good time to invest in another new library. Other services have a higher priority.


To clarify, the AADL is a taxing authority independent of any other unit of government. Revenues in the AADL budget are not available for municipal services. The building bond, if passed, could be used to pay for a new Downtown building project, but not for any other project or service. The proposed bond term is for 30 years.


I don't own property, so I don't think this tax applies to me, but if it did you would certainly have my vote. Ann Arbor's library is so incredibly better than my little hometown library system, where the whole county shares a library system instead of one city.

I think there should be a vote to use that money to help the economy instead of constructing a 65 million dollar building that will just give more homeless people a place to hang out all day.

In response to A2TreeCity on Sat, 08/11/2012 - 9:08pm.
"I think there should be a vote to use that money to help the economy instead of constructing a 65 million dollar building that will just give more homeless people a place to hang out all day."

I think a new downtown library is actually a great, long-term investment in our local economy. A new building will also better serve the needs and interests of our diverse community.


I won't argue your point about the economy, but a building project does boost several economies immediately. The new library building would be a long-term investment in access to support education and learning for all ages. Hopefully, that educational access will result in a workforce able to find jobs in Michigan far into the future.

As for your concern about who uses the public library, I can only say that all are welcome here. We average 1,700 visits into the Downtown Library each day. That number reflects all ages, and yes, likely those who are homeless and jobless, too.


My point was that there should be some money in the city to help the homeless. Instead there is no money to help people, but money to build a new 65 million dollar library. I understand the library has its own money, and this money will not be coming from the city to build the new library. The city needs to find a way to save 65 million dollars to build new things or fund organizations to help the people in the city.

Wow, this new library sounds amazing. What an invaluable resource it would be to Ann Arbor!

I'm excited about the possibility of a new downtown library, I think it will be a great addition to our community.

Holy Cow that's a lot of money! The rest of us are tightening our belts and it's hard to get support from the community when it looks like lavish spending, no matter how good the cause. You'd better be prepared to demonstrate how you're saving where you can and how this building will be set up to last long into the future!

I think we are very lucky to have a library system here that is at the forefront of the global discussion about what libraries <strong>are going to be</strong> going forward.

This proposal sounds very well considered and exciting. I'm particularly excited by the possibility of having a ~400 seat auditorium on the site, which I think would be a fantastic community resource and an important component of the evolving role of the library as a public space. Events like Ignite Ann Arbor, The Story Collider, and other events which bring people together in the physical world for a shared experience require such facilities to contain them. In the internet age, such face-to-face interaction is more important than ever. Providing additional public facilities of this nature will be an important contribution to growing Ann Arbor as a vibrant and intellectually fertile city.

-Ryan Burns

One idea from the old library I hope they keep in the new one is the stairs. The ones now are big, wide, not too high and not too steep, not to mention a landing to rest on. A lot of people have problems climbing stairs, but these stairs make it easier. I hope the library will keep this in mind if the proposal goes through and they get to the design phase.

This comment was received through
Dear Ms. Parker,

I am encouraged that the library is pursuing options for keeping
access to the library services during the (likely to be) extensive
shutdown, and I think the community needs to hear about the plans as
soon as they become available.

1) I read that two years has been floated as the construction time
(I'm not sure if that also includes time for preparing for
construction). While this may not seem to be long for an adult, this
represents multiple school years without a proximate library for the
children living nearby (and the children's area is always bustling on
the weekend). For a preschooler, this loss of two years of library
access is even more significant.

2) Considering that the next-door parking garage took about three
years to complete (although it was supposed to be much quicker), I
think two years is highly optimistic for relocating the collection,
tear-down of the existing building, construction of a building capable
of delivering library services, and relocation of the collection. This
could easily morph into a four year endeavor.

Our current space is incredible, and something many other communities
would love to have. The loss of our library for several years seems to
greatly outweigh the benefits of the new library. I think the
community would be more supportive of this effort if clear plans for
continuation of library services over the next three+ years can be
presented before the November vote.

Thank you

This is our response:


Thank you for your support of the library's efforts to build a new downtown library. I appreciate your acknowledgement of our commitment to keeping library service not only available during a construction period, but available in a way that does not diminish the level of service that you and so many others are accustomed to receiving from AADL.

There is no doubt that any renovation or rebuild effort would require us to relocate services during construction, and it will be a disruption. While I don't have a definite plan that includes locations for library services during a construction period, I can tell you that if the bond proposal passes, we do plan to have a location downtown with services similar to that which you receive in the branches. The majority of the collection will be housed in a closed stacks facility, likely a warehouse type facility, but it will remain accessible through online requests and will be delivered to pick up locations as we do now with all our of items on hold. In addition to using our other four locations, we will continue to rent space in the district for programs and events. Our intention is to make this construction period as convenient and enjoyable for you and other library patrons as we possibly can.

I appreciate your concern about pre-school children and the lack of the children's room downtown for a two year period. While two years is a long time to a child, it is what will be required to make sure that your child and all other children in the area continue to have a fine library to visit downtown while they are growing up.



Yeah that's true that plans are to be as they are made so that we are being keep updating about it.Nice article keep writing and updating us.And hope all your work is done all renovation an all.

I am an enthusiastic library supporter. Our library employees and capacity are outstanding. In addition, the interlibrary loan service makes it possible to get almost any book from anywhere in the U.S. As a library lover, if I am reluctant to vote for this bond without having some sense of the architecture of the new space, my guess is that other residents who are less committed to library services may be even harder to convince. I have not been impressed with the design of the last 3 branch libraries. They may be ecologically sound, but their design -- a lot of glass, open space, and shiny silver/metal surfaces and supports -- lacks the warm, cozy, comfortable, and private aspect of the current downtown space. Of course, change is inevitable and we would expect the "personality" of the downtown library to be updated along with the architecture. But do we have any assurances that the new design will provide safe, quiet reading spaces as well as space for messy, hands-on programming; a cafe; computers; lectures; movies; and performances? You could potentially earn public support for this vote by reassuring people with images of the proposed design. If you're not going to use the previously paid-for proposal, what are your plans?


If the bond passes an architect will be selected and the intention is to have public meetings to hear people say what you have so eloquently written above. What are the expectations of those who will use the building? What works for you or doesn't? We hope to hear from many people. While ideas and wishes will inevitably conflict, we have learned that there is usually a great deal of common ground to work from in a design process. We are relying on what we learned in the 2008 process to inform this 2012 process, so nothing we already know or have paid for will be wasted or lost.


Wow, this is both exciting and sad. Always sad to see a childhood memory change, but it sounds like there are some good plans going on. How will the library deal with the construction--will it close?


If a new building is built, the current library will close and services will be provided from other locations in the library district. We don't have those locations identified at this time, but making those arrangements will be a top priority if the bond is passed in November.


When Grand Rapids worked on their downtown branch, they moved their collection to a far-off warehouse temporarily, and it was exciting to see all of the people who for the first time had an opportunity to use the library's services due to what seemed a poor relocation. I have very fond memories of that extended period, especially the space, which had extremely high ceilings and lots of open seating areas, no shelving too low or too high, and excellent accessiblity for the handicapped and those dropping off or picking up children and the elderly. The staff was energized by the new visitors and it was a wonderful time to be a patron there, so I'm confident that the 2-3 years will fly by here in a similar manner, even if the branch is not downtown. I hope AADL will use this special opportunity to invite everyone to use their imagination and submit ideas, big and small, for this new branch. The goal should be to get featured in Metropolis for innovative design that is functional, future-reaching, and befitting of our vibrant and diverse community. And it would be worthwhile to look at bookstores such as B&N, not just libraries, for the inspiration. Personally, I am tired of seeing people using such places like they would a library: rather than buying the books, they're reading them in the cafe or lounge chairs and then putting them back on the shelves. A cafe and a shop would be worthwhile to consider...perhaps incorporating a ring of small shops on the first floor would allow for better security, such as one sees overseas or in larger stores like Meijer. Rental fees could fund more activities for the community to enjoy, and workshops could be directly related to the businesses: for instance, a small Motawi outlet would occasionally offer tile making, as done now, or a gallery owner could offer painting classes. The branch out at Westwood appears to benefit from that type of environment, and that approach would better link the library to the energy of being downtown among local shops and restaurants.

Hello, I have two comments.

First, I completely agree with Marninel above. The new, wide- open, glass and wood branches leave me cold. I have no desire to hang out in them. I would be devastated if our downtown library felt that way.

Second, I keep reading about all the services and electronic resources that will be upgraded. But what I treasure most about the library is the collection of books --real ones. Are you planning on reducing the numbers you keep in your stacks?


In reply to by juliekayeroth


The Library will provide space in a new building for its current book collection and all other collections housed on shelving. We will buy books for as long as books are available and for sale to libraries.


Wow, your plan does sound well thought out. I like the idea of a cafe, would that be sub-contracted out? Or ran by the library? Where would the proceeds go? I also really like the idea of a green roof with maybe some seating that show cases something like the Ford River Rogue roof, but much cooler. The downtown branch needs plants and natural light. I tend to agree with some of the other comments about some of the new branches. I personally think that Traverwood is a huge waste of space. They did such cool things with the parking and the site, then you go into the library and there are all sorts of weird angles and corners that make it "un-shoppable," and to cap it all over a HUGE concret stair case that looks like it is waiting to swallow infants right in the middle of the floor plan. I would hate to be the cleaning crew there. And what is up with the rusted metal on the outside?? Anyway, that is just one person's feelings and not that important to the conversation at hand, unless the Traverwood had a hefty bill for the plan and design, which it probably did for all that cool parking.

I really like the chart showing what the purposed millage would likely cost a person based on the .56 mils, could you so a similar chart showing what people who own property are currently paying in mileage for the library? Maybe also show what they would pay if the full amount was levied. I am a home owner, but a little ignorant of how the milage system works. It seems like you said that the library is authorized to take up to 2 mils, but that really only ended up being 1.9 something mils....but was only actually collecting 1.55 of the mileage that was passed in perpetuity... so I am wondering if you are only collecting 1.55...why not collect your other .4 something for a while until you can build with CASH on hand and avoid borrowing money that you will pay back with a mileage that will probably involve some kind of interest rate. For instance on my 170,000 loan, after 30 years at 5% interest I am paying a little under 200,000 in interest.

So I would much rather see the library be built down the road with less total cost if possible. I am not certain what I am already paying yearly for my library, but I feel it is well over the $150/yr that some other commenter posted they pay to use the library coming from out of town. And they said that it looked like a good deal to them, but they were not looking at the whole picture. We already pay a decent amount yearly for the library. It was a far better deal for me when I was a student living in slum housing than it is now that I am a home owner.

I also have noticed a large amount of indigent persons at the down town branch, sometimes the smell is so bad I can not use portions of the library for fear of getting physically sick. The study rooms often have one person from this unfortunate group taking up the space that 8 people could use. You make it sound so easy to just go in and sit down and use/share the space, but after reading books like "The Soloist" and hearing that many of our homeless are such, because of deep rooted psychological problems...well I am just not ready to step up and share the room with a guy giving me laser beam death eyes!! Never mind the afore mentioned smell in that little room.

So I guess I am a mixed, un-politically correct bag. I think it would be a good thing, but I am unwilling to pay for it and do not understand why the full mileage is not levied to raise the future capitol.

I am not sure if the intent was to get this mileage for .56, and then collect the full amount that you possibly can, because if that is the plan, then my comments above would not apply as much, but it would be nice to know if that is the plan.

Better hope McKinely does not find out, imagine how much .56 miles would cost them!!!

Many thanks for the space to air comments and concerns,

mostly satisfied library user!!!


Thank you so much for the quick response. At the time I did not have access to my tax information, but your numbers are spot on. My home is assessed a taxable value of $109,375 and my library mileage is $169.53. I appreciate your completely factual and transparent methods. I also apologize that I indicated that I thought I paid well over the $150 an outsider is assessed to use the system, I am only $19 over that figure. With a little research it looks like my home is close to the average or a little under the average for a home in Ann Arbor. I can only conjecture that the shock of total taxes caused me to over-estimate, $169 for my summer taxes of the $4,500 seems pretty reasonable. I do not have my winter taxes to see what, if any is assessed for library.

I am also happy to see McKinely knows of and support the library's plans. I was surprised at their reaction and campaign against the school mileage a little while back.

I also think I need to amend my sign off from "mostly satisfied," but I am not sure to what. The services provided by the library are amazing. The web changes over the past few years are also amazing. The staff at the libraries are pretty good, I am sure it is not easy to be at a desk for 8 hours working with the public, I know I would not want to do it, with that considered they are amazing, but when I compare the reaction and attitude to a sales person, the library staff often come off as less friendly and way less happy or smiley.

When I look at the down town branch objectively - It needs a change. More light, more plants!! Every event I have attended has been at or beyond capacity, often with standing room only.

My only concern still remains that I vote in a new mileage for .55 mils and the board also decides to assess the full 1.92 mils, effectively making my taxes go up by (.55 + .37) .92 total. I would rather see the library only ask for what they actually need. So if it is determined that .55 would do the trick and they can already asses another .37, maybe put .18 on the ballot. If the .37 would only be $1.6 million anualy, then isn't .55 mils only going to raise about $2.4 million yearly? That is a difference of $700,000 and over 30 years that is only 21 million.

Thank you again


Well, you still sound like a mostly satisfied library patron to me, and I'll take it! The 1.55 mills is from the operating millage that the Board votes on each May, and, yes, it can go up or down depending on what a mill is worth at that given point in time, and how much levy is required to meet operating and service provision expenses. The bond is for a capital project only and cannot be used for anything else and that is why it is separate. Your question, I think, is why don't we lower the bond ask by the difference in 1.55 and 1.92, and then levy the full amount of the operating millage?

That difference is all that we have to adjust to changes in the economic conditions year to year. For example, housing price declines lower the value of a mill and decisions made by the legislature regarding tax revenue, such as a possible elimination of the Personal Property Tax on businesses, have large impacts on our revenue. Currently, if the Personal Property Tax is eliminated, the budget of AADL would be negatively affected by $630,000. These are factors completely out of our control. Some things are in our control, and we work hard to control costs. This is why we are able to operate at a lower rate than our voted maximum.

We are confident that the voted operating millage is enough to serve the AADL community well into the future, even as services change and grow. However, it would be imprudent within the current economic climate to encumber those funds.


The following message was emailed to two weeks ago, on August 16. According to the information above, "If your question is not contained here, please email, and we will answer your question and post it to the Director's Blog so that it is widely available." My questions were not posted and they were not responded to or acknowledged. (Part of what I raised was addressed in response on August 28 by Josie to comments posted by Marniel on August 24.)

My email:

The library has at various times pointed to the environmentally friendly design of its branch libraries, including Traverwood. I believe the statement has been made that environmental awards have been given. I would like more information about the environmental friendliness of the Traverwood branch, in addition to the show you put on with the horse team dragging tree stumps around, and the inclusion of some of those stumps in the window. I'm particularly interested in environmental certification and awards, but any other information you care to divulge on this topic would be welcome. That environmental claims are well supported will argue against any concern that the Library is hyping (if that's a pejorative) the p.r. for the downtown building millage proposal.

In this connection, I'm interested in the fact that the design included a driveway going underneath the building. What was the thinking behind this feature? I note that it seems to have required a much bigger footprint (trees cut down) than otherwise might have been the case, and that the candy truck that stocks the the branch can't use it because the clearance is too low.

I'm not too interested in architecture, but I know some people are and approve of making an artistic statement. Several people I know think the Traverwood branch is ugly; I think it looks fine. Can we take Traverwood as an example of the kind of architectural thinking the Library has in mind for a new downtown branch in its millage proposal? Will the community have any input in the design once the millage is approved?

Thank you.


I do beg your pardon. I missed your email during a vacation, and I am very sorry that I have not responded to you in a timely manner. I am happy to do so now. You will find information on all of the AADL building projects at [] including a PBS documentary on the Traverwood Branch that includes film of the harvesting of the ash trees by draft horses.

None of the AADL buildings have been officially LEED certified, but all are eligible. LEED certification was an expensive process when Malletts Creek opened, and while more affordable now, the Library has simply chosen not to pursue LEED. However, Malletts Creek was awarded a MI AIA award for Sustainable Design, and Traverwood won a MI AIA award for Building Design. The awards are mounted on the walls near the front doors of each location.

There is an underground parking area under the Traverwood Branch and delivery vehicles, including those owned by the AADL, are able to move in and out under the building to make deliveries. That the building is built right up to the two streets it fronts allowed the AADL to impact as little as possible on the 4 acre site. Ash trees were dead or dying from the Emerald Ash Borer infestation at the time the building was built, and so were harvested for use in the building.

There is not a design for a new Downtown Library. The AADL Board will select an architect if the bond millage passes, and the public will be invited to public meetings to voice opinions and wishes about the design of a downtown library.


Josie Parker


I'm sorry you missed my earlier email and hope nobody else was neglected while you were gone, in the interval between mine of 8/16 and your posting of Patrick's on 8/22. But thank you for your helpful response.

I can understand your pride in the Traverwood Branch but I think the environmental argument in your response and in the materials you directed me to is pretty thin. I remain concerned that these are examples of the hype that might carry over to your arguments for a new downtown building.

The touted environmental benefits for Traverwood boil down, based on the available evidence you present, to a stormwater management system and the recycling of ash trees cut down to make room for the building. (Your response adds that the ash trees at this site, specifically, were infested with ash borer, an assertion that was not made in the writeups at /aboutus/buliding_projects.) The reuse of the trees seems to be almost entirely an aesthetic feature, "harkening back to a time when building materials of necessity came from the surrounding area" as stated in the writup, for example (hype, IMHO). Those "precisely cut concentric pieces" of wood that "curve along a wavy expanse" must have been expensive.

Stormwater control would have been a necessity anyway, although the site may have prompted praiseworthy innovations that go beyond being able "to watch the water cascading past as it makes its way"; it's hard to tell.

You say that AADL buildings are not LEED certified, "but all are eligible". It's hard to tell what this means. Under the current LEED 2009 (Traverwood opened in 2008) I gather there are 100 points that can be awarded based on Sustainable Sites, etc. The lowest level of certification requires 40 points. There is no indication that points can be calculated outside of the application process. Apparently there is some basis for thinking that Traverwood could have gotten at least 40 points if it went through that process.

It may be worth noting that the 2009 process places increased emphasis on energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gases, both goals not normally considered advanced by a design with large areas of window glass and the choice of a freestanding building isolated from other destinations that will overwhelmingly be reached by single-purpose automobile trips.

Traverwood received a MI AIA award for Building Design but not for Sustainable Design as did the Mallets Creek building. MI AIA refers to the Michigan chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The criteria for a Building Award are "a single or related group of buildings including new construction, renovations and historic preservation projects." Not very limiting. The 2012 awards included one for interior design at Frita Batidos. This award is irrelevant to environmental considerations, and bringing it up does not address the topic of my questions.

So we have a building that is a lavish architectural statement that its promoters are proud of, financed by the extraordinary generosity of Ann Arbor property owners, who have given us a wonderful library system that I use a great deal and appreciate very much. I have no doubt that the Library Board would like a new building. I just don't know whether I can believe the arguments for it, given the kind of statements presented in other instances, using Traverwood as an example.

AADL continues to be awesome. I hope this thing passes, because a new library would certainly benefit the community!
WOW - over 600,000 annual visits - that's a lot!

This comment was received through

what about jobs of people who work at Downtown library during two year transition period? Will they be effected? Will jobs at other branches be lost due to seniority issues?--Carla

Our response is as below:

Ms. Bayha,

If the bond passes, the AADL will not layoff any library staff for the construction period.



I own 2 condos in Ann Arbor and 1 in pittsfield township-- the milliage is causing me to "double pay"

Having said this - the library is one thing I feel I get my tax dollars worth! and I never mind paying overdue books - as I feel it is a 'contribution'

I work outside of Ann Arbor - and even my co-workers in grosse point are envious of the books/ books on tape I get from AADL

so I will probably vote yes- one thing I would ask - since the libray moved 'west' ie traverwood and mallets creek - could they not have a book return at Arbor land or some common place for us east siders?



I am glad that you are so satisfied with your library experience in Ann Arbor, but I wanted to clarify your statement about "double paying" in taxes. That is true if one of your properties is not in the AADL district and you are also paying taxes to another library system. If that is the case, then I understand your comment.

The Malletts Creek branch serves the southeast area of the AADL district and the Traverwood serves the northeast area. We do not currently intend to add access points due east of town. I am sorry to disappoint you about that.

Thanks again for your support.



I want to add a picture to my post. It says you're allow to do so, but I have no idea how to do it. Can someone please tell me?

Hi there Messa, uploading pictures in a comment isn't currently set up. If your picture is on the web, you can just paste in the address of the picture and we can turn it into the image, or you can email us the picture at <a href=""></a&gt; and we'll add it to your post. Thanks for your patience!


If this proposal passes, please do everything in your power to not make it look like that atrocious library parking garage in Kansas City, despite the enthusiasm of some previous commenters.

I was on the Library Board from 2000-2008. We had a good bit of work done by an architect, and were given extensive materials on what a design for a new Downtown Library might look like. They included a virtual tour, inside and out.

Josie, considering the large number of people who have expressed interest in our earlier work, please consider posting those materials online. Voters should know what one design could look like. Frankly, considering the limitations of the site, I don't expect that 2008 design to change much.

Dave Cahill
Board Member Emeritus


Thank you for your suggestion, however, there was not a final design for a building in 2008. The current Board has determined that an architect will be selected if the bond is passed, and then the public will be able to join in the design process. The comment below yours is evidence of the wisdom of the Board's decision. Thank you again for remaining interested in the work of the AADL.


Josie, which parts of the current Downtown Library don't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act? I know the Library isn't in violation of the ADA because it is "grandparented in." I would like more details about the noncompliance problems. How would they be corrected in the proposed new library?

Dave Cahill
Board Member Emeritus


There is actually no such thing as a "grandfathered" status. The building was built before the passage of the ADA but elements of the building have been altered to afford accessibility. The old ramp and the new incline on the front are examples. The ramped entry into the MPR is another, as well as, the addition of the fully accessible restroom in the Youth department.

A new building would meet or exceed ADA requirements.


Josie, let me try again.

I thought that some parts of the Library would still not be ADA compliant if they were built today. I am aware of the changes already made, to which you refer.

Are you saying that with these changes, everything in the present Library is ADA compliant? If you are not saying this, then what parts of the Library are not ADA compliant?

Dave Cahill


Some parts of the Library that would be different if built today are the ramp in the MPR, access to the Library Garden, and all of the restrooms would be fully accessible. I don't have a list of everything that would be different under the ADA.


Re: David's questions

According to the July 6 "AADL Facilities Committee recommendation to the AADL Board" (link on AADL homepage, 2nd item as I write this), the existing building, "While ADA compliant ... is grandfathered, and does not present the public with universal access." Maybe this means that the building modifications that have been made bring it up to minimum ADA standards.
It is a little contradictory that in the "Vision/Vote" handout the library has written about the bond issue, in #10 - "What is wrong with the current building?" one of the points is "a grandfathered ADA status" but Josie says above that there's no such thing as a grandfathered status. Maybe we need an architect or someone to join the discussion and explain.

Suggestion to post preliminary architect drawings from 2008 -
I would like to see them, too. I hope they will be posted. This isn't the same thing, but on this website (About Us - Building Projects - Downtown Library Project - Read More) there's a link to the Providence Report from 2007. That has drawings of the present building and some concept drawings and site drawings explaining some options that were put forward in the report. Not the same as real architectural drawings but they do give a sense of some of the possibilities for both a new building and a remodeled one.

In the same post there's a link to a survey from 2007 where only 33% of people said that a 400 seat auditorium was Important or Very Important, while 68% said it was Not Important or Somewhat Important. But that's another question.

The traditional view of the library is that it is a place to check out materials and more lately to research using online resources. But recent advances in the universal design of buildings and in the digitization of information into multiple formats makes it possible for people with disabilities and diverse needs to access resources in ways that were not previously possible.

After 37 years in special education, during which I specialized in Assistive Technology, I have seen how technology and the principle of universal design of architecture can sigificantly reduce the challenge of people with disabilities to get access to information that most of us take for granted. Many of these folks don’t have access at home and depend on the library to get access to information in a format that is friendly to them. If some of you were to spend just one day experiencing what some of the folks go through, I would expect that the cost of building a modern, universally designed libary building would become less of an issue.

The current building was built before the innovations in universal design and technology infrastructure. Passing the bond proposal to build a new library would not only demonstrate our support for the diversity that has made Ann Arbor a great place to live, but it can also serve as a model for other communities challenged with providing universal access to information for all its citizens.

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Have not had time to read all the posts, but here are some things I would hope to see in the new building:
* Better task lighting for the computer terminals, you already mentioned task specific computers (IE. video editing)
* Print to PDF as an option on the computer terminals.
* Solar Cells on the roof along with a Mallets Creek-type roof and rain drainage system.
* Direct DC power from the roof cells to bring your own laptop stations and cell-phone charging plugs.
* Cell-o-phone booths. A stand-up booth to go to take and make calls. With a shelf for a writing surface.
* Bathrooms to accommodate expected volume, particularly for that 400 seat auditorium.

I'm sure I had other ideas, maybe others have come up with them.

-Tim Ryan
Ann Arbor, MI

This is our response:

Thank you very much for this list of things you wish to see in a new library building.


Josie Parker

As a former Director of the University of Michigan Libraries, and a Library Board member during the District Library’s formative years, I was keenly aware of the physical limitations imposed by the facility. I found it remarkable how much the library’s staff was able to accomplish considering the limitations of the building. The popularity of the new branches reflects the community’s commitment to library services, but branches need a strong and vibrant downtown library to serve as an anchor to the system.

The current building has served the community well over the years and those who were instrumental in its construction need to be thanked, but the current library building is functionally obsolete. Its layout and structure reflect the way libraries functioned in the late 20th century. One can’t renovate functionality into the building because it is architecturally obsolete as a library.

It has recently become fashionable for some officials to predict that the digital era has eclipsed the need for public libraries as important community resources, but the opposite is true. Library usage is up nationwide as libraries reach out and become more engaged in their communities. The number of cities that are now constructing or have recently constructed new central library facilities is very impressive. It reflects their continued commitment to libraries. A progressive library system not only serves as a magnet for new businesses and families, it also can produce economic benefits for each dollar invested. This relationship has been shown in a number of Return on Investment (ROI) studies where public libraries can produce up to $5 or more in economic benefits for every dollar invested.

If Ann Arborites wish to continue to enjoy the benefits of a world-class public library system, and I believe they do, a new downtown library will produce the necessary foundation. I say vote yes on the bond issue.

Richard Dougherty

This question came through
Can you tell me what the current operating costs are (per year) for the existing library? How about costs for the proposed new library?


Richard Hausman

Our reply is:
Mr. Hausman,

The utility cost, including water, for the Downtown library for the past fiscal year is $196,208. We have not estimated costs for a new building.


Josie Parker

This question was received through

What is the plan for a temporary downtown library while you build? How long will we be without a library?

I won't vote for a new library if there is no plan of any kind for the duration.

Christine Pellar-Kosbar

This is our reply:
Ms. Pellar-Kosbar,

We do not have details, but we do plan to operate in rented space during the construction of the building if the bond passes. We intend to have a space downtown that will be a storefront type space such as the Westgate branch, and the bulk of the collection will be in a warehouse space. We will continue to deliver items to you at designated locations around the system. The bulk of the collection will not be physically browsable, but will be available online for requests We will use our branches and rented venues to continue with programming such as story times, lectures, and events with community partners such as the MI Theater, UMS, and many others. Our goal is to continue providing the high level of service you are accustomed to receiving for the duration of the construction period. It is estimated that the project, once construction begins, will take 24 to 27 months.

Thank you for stating your concern, and I do hope that I have reassured you.


Josie Parker

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I just wanted to be sure that the library will still have a large collection of actual (as opposed to virtual) books to browse. I find wonderful older books that I wouldn't have remembered otherwise on every visit. I also appreciate one place that has an extensive enough collection that I can go there an be assured of finding something I'd like to take on a trip. Although I love my branches also, having a large collection to look around is invaluable, especially as brick and mortar book stores are devoting more space to everything but books.



This is our response:

Dear Lesli,

Thank you for sharing your enjoyment of browsing the Library’s collection of books for wonderful reads. AADL will continue to add books to its collection for as long as books are available and for sale to libraries. I am happy to reassure you that AADL will provide space in a new building for its current book collection and all other collections housed on shelving.


This comment was received through

Hello Josey,
I want to begin using more electronic books. In checking for electronic titles, I was dismayed to discover that the choices do not appear to me to be very extensive. I want to read books from Fareed Zakaria's book list, when I go on a trip this winter, and cannot find any of the authors ( I checked for Walter Isaacson, Kofi Annan, Fareed Zakaria in vain and then gave up).

In the bond proposal I do not see any provisions for increasing the titles for e-books. Can you please address my concern?

Susan Quackenbush

Here is our reply:

Hello, Ms. Quackenbush,

We're sorry you were unable to obtain these ebooks from AADL. Unfortunately, this is the case because the publishers of these author's works (Simon & Schuster and Penguin) have decided not to make ebooks available to libraries. There is not a way that we can obtain a license to digitally distribute these works, unless they choose to license them to us. We are watching this issue closely and are developing and using solutions that work for those that will license their material to libraries, but with ebooks, we are limited by what is offered. Not all titles are available to libraries digitally, though we hope this will change in years to come.

That said, AADL's collections of materials are funded through the library's existing millage. The bond proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot is for funds for a project to rebuild the Downtown Library and does not include operating expenses, such as new items for the collection. Collections, services and operating expenses will continue to be covered by the existing millage within the amount approved by voters in 1995. That's why there is nothing in the bond details about ebook collections; those remain part of our ongoing work independent of the bond.

Thank you again for your interest in this.

This comment was received through

Assuming the bond issue is approved, what will become of downtown library holdings and functions during construction?

This is our reply:

Jon and Sue,

Although AADL does not have a specific timeframe or a detailed plan yet, we know generally what we plan to do to maintain services during a construction period if the bond passes. We intend to have a space downtown that will be a storefront type space such as the Westgate branch, with the bulk of the collection in a warehouse space. The majority of the collection will not fit in a temporary downtown location, so our intent is to make materials available via the online request system and the delivery system that are currently in place. We will use our branches and other rented spaces in the library district to continue our all-ages programming, such as story times, lectures, and events with community partners. Our goal is to continue providing the high level of service you are accustomed to receiving for the duration of the construction period.


It's ironic that you have these two books in your catalog, celebrating the works of Michigan's greatest 20th century architect.
Alden B. Dow just happened to design our downtown library and we are incredibly lucky to live in a city with such a number of his works. Of all our cultural institutions, you'd think a library would be more sensitive than not toward its history and the significance of its current home. Why not tear down and rebuild the later additions to the building if that's really necessary, and restore the original Dow-designed section? It originally was a very attractive building with lots of planters along the street and the roof, which have all been removed over time. This building is an asset, not an eye-sore (despite what Ed Surovell may suggest)*. Keep this building and your grandchildren will thank you, destroy this building and your grandchildren will roll their eyes at the shortsightedness of your decision.
Already sent in my absentee ballot. Guess how I voted on this proposal.

* Surovell's negative comments about Dow can be read in this article (hosted by the library):

Alden B. Dow - June 2, 1975:
"What you say, how you think, is going to last longer than any building you ever build."

I've studied the life and work of Alden B. Dow, who carries the distinction as Michigan's only architect laureate (awarded in 1983). I appreciate his philosophies and many of his designs, especially his Home & Studio in Midland, MI - a highly recommended visit for a tour. In my opinion, the downtown library is not a great example of his architectural designs, nor does it merit expensive preservation/restoration efforts (as local historical preservationist Ray Detter points out - see below).

As the role of libraries has evolved in the last 50 years, and dramatically so in the last 20 years, the functionality of the building is problematic for the AADL to best serving our community. They are also strong champions of preserving our local history, but well aware of the building's many deficiencies that are fundamental to the structure and design.

In rebuilding the downtown library I would like to see some type of tribute to Alden B. Dow's role designing the original. I look forward to sharing this suggestion during open public meetings about the designs and details of a new downtown library, if/when that project is approved.

"The Ann Arbor District Library is a great steward of our local history. The current downtown building is not an adequate facility for their important archives nor does it merit an expensive preservation effort. I support the AADL's proposal to rebuild the downtown library and improve this great resource of the Ann Arbor community." - Ray Detter Chair, Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council & Coordinator, Downtown Historical Street Exhibit Program

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