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Downtown Library 2012: Facts about the Downtown Library Bond Proposal

Wed, 10/24/2012 - 9:55am by josie

We've been getting many questions about the upcoming Bond Proposal. We have put together this list of the most common questions and factual answers. Please don't hesitate to comment on this post or email us at if you have further questions. Thanks for your interest in the library!

What is the Downtown Library Bond Proposal?

Residents of the Ann Arbor District Library service area will find a proposal for a bond to fund a project to replace the downtown library at the end of their November 6th ballot. If approved, the proposal will authorize the sale of up to $65 Million of bonds, and authorize the library to levy an annual property tax millage for up to 30 years to make the bond payments.

Why is the Downtown Library Bond being proposed now?

The current building will need major investment over the coming years to maintain or upgrade aging infrastructure. This will require increasing percentages of AADL's operating budget. With interest rates at unprecedented lows and construction costs still well below average, the AADL Board of Trustees determined that now is the time for the community to decide if a new downtown library should be built, or if AADL should continue investing operating funds in the current inefficient building. In 2007, the AADL board studied the issue of whether to replace or renovate the Downtown Library to address the capacity issues, and it was found that a new building would cost only 10% more than a renovation. Those cost estimates were assessed again in 2012 and found to be still valid.

Why is the proposal for rebuilding a downtown library on the same site?

AADL owns the site of the current downtown library, and it is by far the most heavily used public library in the district. AADL is committed to making information, events, workspace, and collections available downtown, and current demand for these services is beyond the capacity of the current building. The compromises involved in the previous two renovations to the current downtown library building are a major factor that limits the ability of a third renovation to add space and efficiency, so the AADL Board voted to place the bond proposal on the November 6 ballot to seek public approval for a new downtown library on the current site.

Who is responsible for this project?

The publicly-elected Board of Trustees of the Ann Arbor District Library is the sole body responsible for the project, services, and facilities of the AADL. AADL is an independent taxing authority, and the Downtown Library Project is not affiliated with the Ann Arbor Public Schools, the City of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, or any other governmental or commercial entities.

How much will the project cost? What does that cost me?

The bond proposal seeks authorization to sell up to $65 million of bonds to be repaid over 30 years. That is enough to fund the estimated $53 million of construction costs, plus demolition, rental of temporary facilities during construction, furniture, equipment, technology, and other costs related to the project including permits, architectural and interior design, and engineering.

Once the bonds have been sold, the library will levy property taxes for the annual bond payments. Depending on the interest rate at which the bonds are sold, annual payments will by funded by a millage rate of .47 - .56 mills per year, meaning the cost to the owner of a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value will be between $47 - $56 per year:

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

The library currently levies 1.55 mills per year for operation, costing the owner of a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value $155 per year.

When would the bond payments begin?

If the proposal is approved by voters, the bonds would be sold in spring of 2013, and the millage would appear on tax bills starting summer 2013.

If approved, what will happen to the Downtown Library?

It is AADL's intent to have a downtown library open to the public throughout the process. If approved, when the current building closes, a temporary downtown library will open in a rented space offering request pickup, drop boxes, internet access, a kids' area, and popular materials, until the new building opens. AADL will not lay off staff during construction. The current downtown collection will be temporarily relocated and available by request as always during the construction process, and will be brought back into the new building before it opens.

If approved, when would the project begin and end?

A solid timeline will be developed if the proposal is approved, but it is anticipated that the project will begin by spring 2014 and construction will last 18-27 months.

If approved, who would design and build the library?

The AADL Board will select an architect and construction manager if the bond proposal is approved. AADL Board meetings, as always, are open to the public.

If approved, how can the community give input on the design?

In addition to the public forums seeking public feedback on the project that were held on June 9, 2012, June 12, 2012, and June 20, 2012, AADL will offer many opportunities for the public to give input and feedback on the design of the project as it progresses if approved. Similar events were held throughout the design process for the Malletts Creek, Pittsfield, and Traverwood branches, and the public is invited to speak to the AADL Board of Trustees at the beginning of every AADL board meeting.


This question came in on
How long is the downtown library expected to be closed for the construction?

During the construction will the downtown libraries collection be available through the branch libraries?

Why can't I find any questions and answers on the directors blog? Am I the first to submit a question or are the answers hidden away somewhere?

Jim Dowling
Ann Arbor resident and library member.

This is our reply:

Mr. Dowling,

Thanks for taking the time to ask your questions. You are not the first to ask, and the answers are on the blog, but the blog has grown quite long so I am not surprised if you did not find them when you looked. Answers to other common questions are contained in a document posted to my blog, The Vision| The Vote which I will attach to this email.

In short though, we estimate the closure to be 18-27 months depending on how hard winters are during construction. The collection will remain available during construction, but all of it will not be physically browsable. Requests can be made online or by phone, and the items picked up at a branch location of your choice.

Thanks again for being persistent, and please let me know if you have further questions.


Josie Parker

This comment came in on
I live in Webster Township and currently pay $150 per year to use the Ann Arbor Library system. If the new millage is approved, will the voters in non-.Ann Arbor townships have the right to use the library free, since we're paying for it?

Mrs. Robert Verbal

This is our reply:

Mrs. Verbal,

I'm not sure if you are a resident of the Ann Arbor Library District or not, so I am going to answer your question as if you are and as if you are not. If you live in that portion of Webster Township which falls within the Ann Arbor Public Schools, then you are also a resident of the Ann Arbor District Library. If this is so, then you currently pay taxes to the Library for its operating millage. The bond proposed would be an additional levy for the purposes of building a new downtown library. If if passes, then you would also be taxed for 30 years for that bond proposal. If it fails, you will continue to be taxed for the operation of the library because that millage is in perpetuity.

If you do not live in the Ann Arbor Public School district, then you do not pay taxes to support the Ann Arbor District Library and the $150.00 is a fee that you are charged as a non-resident for a library card. You may continue to purchase a non-resident card to use the AADL whether the bond passes or not.

The only persons who will use the AADL without paying a non-resident fee are those who reside within the AADL service boundaries.


Josie Parker

This comment came in on
Hello! I have a couple questions about the library bond proposal.

One, I understand that if the proposal passes, monies contributed by taxpayers can be diverted to fund other, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) initiatives. That translates to taxpayers voting to support a library and ending up supporting downtown merchants. Is this true?

Two, how long would taxpayers be levied this increased millage? For the entire 30 year life of this bond?


Cass K.

This is our reply:

Most millages that are levied within the jurisdiction of a DDA are subject to capture. In our case this includes that of the AADL, the WCC, WISD, the City of Ann Arbor and the County.

DDA's are tax increment financing structures and are allowed by state legislation and are authorized locally. In the case of the AADL, there is the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Scio Township Downtown Development Authority.

The bond duration as proposed is 30 years.


Josie Parker

This comment came in on

Where Can I find the study that has been done for the renovation or replacement of the downtown library?

Thank you.

Bruce Tasoojy

This is our reply:
Mr. Tasoojy,

You can find that information at <a href="">…;. There is also quite a bit of information at in the Director's blog postings.

If you need more information, please don't hesitate to ask.


Josie Parker

I have received a disturbing e-mail from your "downtown" e-mail address, promoting the library bond proposal. This makes me very uneasy about the security of my private information on file with the library. I read your Privacy Policy at "About Us" on the website, but it does not address the use of patron e-mail addresses for political purposes. It does say that you will only use my e-mail address to send me notices, and I regularly receive alerts regarding holds to pick up, due dates near, etc. These are legitimate "notices" in my mind. Political campaigning is not.

Some of the so-called "Facts" presented in your document could be disputed, so it is clearly a bid for "yes" votes. I wonder now if you have provided the list of library card holder e-mail addresses to the three groups arguing for "no" votes?

This is a highly questionable intrusion into patron records.


Your email is not something that AADL will share with any third party. It is protected by the AADL policy. The notice that we sent to cardholders and those registered on the website was an FAQ document that is also posted on the website. It is not a political piece and does not advocate a vote one way or the other. I am sorry if you are upset by this notice. It was not our intention to cause you concern about the privacy of your account.


Josie Parker

This comment came in on
Dear Library Board --

Please consider the following:

- Change the approach on use of space in the new Library. With smart modern design for optimizing space utilization, the 160,000 square feet or 49,000 sq ft of expanded space that is being proposed could be decreased. The Providence Report states 120,000 sq ft, or a 9,000 sq ft expansion to be more than adequate for decades to come. Instead of a full catering kitchen that is lightly utilized, consider changes like a partly convertible kitchen or access to a potion of the cafe's kitchen space. Optimizing space can also help with safety, security, and ADA use.

- Find architects that are experienced with adaptive re-use (and motivationally interested) to to open dialogue with regarding what parts of the existing Library structure might be re-utilized. Even if the building is gutted and added on to, it is likely it will generate significant cost savings, and conserve significant energy, materials, and labor, part of LEED building efforts. (Construction companies have little incentive to promote savings of this sort.)

- Modern engineering technology has only improved over recent years for re-utilization of existing building structure, including reinforcement of supporting structures. In conjunction with more optimal space utilization, this may make adaptive re-use of the existing structure more easy to accomplish.

- If a performance hall or auditorium is being considered as part of the new Library in the balloted proposal, it should state so. A Library and performance hall serve two different functions in the eyes of the general public.

- A performance hall as part of the new Library will require the Library to divert staff and operational funding from the Library's resources. Even if the performance hall is operated at net zero cost, it will take staffing to seek out and book revenue generating events along with staffing for the events themselves. Has the financial impact of this been assessed? The Library's performance hall will also unfairly compete with such places the Michigan Theater as its funding will be directly subsidized by tax payers.

-Has the Library Board investigated whether it could house the need for space for children's events at other existing local venues in the area? It would bring some directly supportive business to local places.
- Remote hosting is the 21st century model for data services. If the Downtown Library's data center is outdated, then it may be time to consider transitioning to remote hosting. It is far more economical to keep server hardware updated and maintained, along with the facility hosting the servers. Your IT staff can focus more effort on developing library data services instead of babysitting servers along with cost savings on equipment and facilities.

- Switch to wireless data services as much as possible, including for desktops, video and telephony. Current technologies make this much more affordable than installing wired infrastructure in most cases.

Although I am a stanch supporter of our Library, right now I am unable to support the proposal for the new Library on the upcoming ballot because of these and additional considerations and concerns.


Jane Klingsten

This is our reply:
Ms. Klingsten,

Thank you for taking the time to give us such a comprehensive list of suggestions and concerns. While the Library board has made the decision to go forward with a bond proposal for a new library building, the design process will only occur if the bond passes. I hope that you will participate in the public input sessions during the design phase if the bond does pass.


Josie Parker

Thank you so much for this helpful information. You are doing a great job informing the community about the bond proposal.

My comment is regarding the design, which I understand is pending approval if the millage passes. I utilize the library branches (Mallets Creek, Pittsfield) for reading, writing and tutoring. I don't use West other than for holds pick-up because there is simply not enough quiet, semi-private space there. Both Mallets and Pittsfield have been designed poorly in regard to sound transmission. I hope that additional attention is paid to this important issue if the millage is approved. While libraries have expanded the variety of uses, traditional use for studying, reading, writing and other quiet work is still important and should not be overlooked.

In addition, I wonder what the future plan is for West branch. I love the location but it's too small. I wish that programming similar to other branches' were offered there. Frankly I feel like residents in my area are somewhat neglected because we aren't being offered the same quality of services as are those who live nearer to the other branches. Is there any chance that the West branch could move to Maple Village shopping area and take advantage of the larger space there? There is always an empty store front or more there.

Thank you


I am very glad that you use the branches, and if the bond passes, I hope that you will voice your desire for quiet reading space when the design of the downtown library is being discussed.

The new branches are 14,000 to 16,000 square feet, and Westgate is under 5,000 square feet. The current Downtown by comparison is about 110,000 square feet and a new library could be as large as 160,000 square feet. We will certainly be able to provide many types of quiet spaces in a larger facility.

While any ideas about relocating Westgate are worth our consideration, a discussion about that branch and its location is not a current one.



I must disagree with Josie about the sending of an e-mail "blast" to patrons' e-mail addresses. Doing so violates the Library's privacy policy. I was on the Library Board when the policy was adopted (and amended). No one ever suggested that something related to a political campaign was a "notice" allowed under the privacy policy.

I could make a quibble that the e-mail blast did not say it was a "notice".

More fundamentally, though, a e-mailed "notice" from the AADL has always meant an overdue book notice, a notice that some material was soon going to be due, a notice that a hold was in, or (occasionally) a notice that the downtown library or a branch would be out of service because of maintenance or a utility failure.

I am deeply ashamed for my former institution.

It seems like your comments page has been filtered. For instance you begin a few comments by prefacing with, "this comment was received by the library...". And, it appears most comments that are displayed turn out to be questions that Josie answers. I know people who are very upset about this proposal and it's complete lack of transparency about what people are asked to commit to, however, the comments section does not seem to represent the complete range of volatility that exists in the community. Please don't censure.

Dear kimhill,

I have always answered posts to the Director's blog. As for the ones you mentioned, we indicated on earlier blogs that questions to resulting from those particular posts would be answered and posted.

We have found that the volatility displayed elsewhere on the web, on any topic, is rarely the behavior at the Library, virtually or physically. We are glad of it.


Josie Parker

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