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AADL Director Josie Parker Announces Retirement

by aadl-news

After nearly 22 years with the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), Director Josie Parker announced her retirement effective February 28, 2022. Upon her retirement, Parker will have served as Library director for 20 years.

“It has been a joy and a privilege to serve the Ann Arbor community as Library Director for 20 years,” says Josie Parker. “I want to acknowledge the courage of all of the people who have served as elected Board members over these years. Without them, nothing was possible. The several hundred people who have worked with me as staff over two decades made the possible happen in amazing and astonishing ways. Lastly, but most importantly, all of the community members who responded to our efforts, challenged us to keep innovating and improving library services. I thank you all, and I will see you in the Library!”

The AADL Board of Trustees will conduct a national search for the next director beginning later this fall. 

“The AADL Board of Trustees is enormously grateful for Josie’s incredible 22 years of service to our community,” says AADL Board of Trustees President Jim Leija. “Josie has been a generous and innovative leader in building the exemplary AADL that we know and love today. She’s fostered an incredible staff that delivers extraordinary programs, collections, customer service, and community engagement year after year.  Josie’s warmth and compassion, her steadfast and intelligent leadership, and her unfailing belief in libraries as our greatest shared resource will be sorely missed. It has been a great honor to work alongside her.”

AADL has thrived under Parker’s leadership and has been named a Library Journal five-star Library for the last 13 years in a row—a designation based on library usage stats like circulation, door count, and event attendance. In fiscal year 2020, AADL’s libraries welcomed more than 1.2 million people through the doors, with library events drawing nearly 120,000 attendees.

During Parker’s tenure, AADL underwent a transformative expansion. Parker supervised the construction of three new branch libraries and completely reimagined a fourth branch at the Westgate Shopping Center. Malletts Creek Branch was constructed in 2004, Pittsfield Branch in 2006, Traverwood Branch in 2008, and Westgate reopened in its current location in 2016. Malletts Creek and Traverwood Branch each earned awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for design. 

Parker was named an honorary affiliate member of AIA Michigan in 2010, a rare honor for a non-architect or designer, for her stewardship of AADL and its new libraries.

During her tenure, Parker also oversaw the transition of the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Print Disabled from the county to the Ann Arbor District Library in 2008. 

In an effort to preserve and showcase local history, in 2009, Parker inked a deal with The Ann Arbor News to store and digitize its vast collection of photos and articles in the AADL Archives. In 2013, AADL also partnered with the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County (AACHM) to launch the Living Oral History Project—an ongoing collection of interviews, photos, and articles that serve as a road map illustrating what African Americans in the Ann Arbor area witnessed, experienced, and built in the community. 


Parker also oversaw the evolution of AADL into what it is today: 

  • AADL’s Unusual Tools collection was added in 2011. Beginning with a set of telescopes, the collection expanded to include musical instruments, science tools, and giant games. 
  • The Library began its own publicly-owned publishing imprint Fifth Avenue Press in 2017.
  • The Library expanded its regular summer reading program to create the wildly popular Summer Game in 2011.

Born in Laurel, Miss., Josie earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Auburn University and her Master of Information and Library Science from the University of Michigan. She worked at the Chelsea Library and Ypsilanti District Library before joining AADL in 1999 as the youth department manager. She served as the Library’s interim director in 2001 before accepting the permanent post in 2002.

Parker served on the boards of the Michigan Library Consortium, the Public Library Association, and the Michigan Library Association, where she served as president in 2008. Parker also remains an adjunct associate professor of information at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. 


Thank you for all you’ve done to make AADL the jewel of Ann Arbor that it is! And congratulations and best wishes for your retirement!

Kudos and congratulations! AADL is easily our favorite thing about living in Ann Arbor. Thank you!

You are a gem! Time to enjoy your well earned retirement.
Thank you for the difference you have made.

Ahhh, Josie, it just won’t seem the same without you. But congrats on 20 great years leading this library into the 21st century. You have done a marvelous job. Enjoy the retirement you have earned.


You have done a superb job. The AADL is one the finest libraries in the Country.
It seems like almost yesterday that the Board appointed you. It was undoubtedly one of our wisest decisions.
Enjoy retirement.


Dear Dr. Parker,

It has indeed been a blessing as well as a great pleasure to have you as the Ann Arbor Public Library Director!!

I want to, once again, take this opportunity to thank you very much for allowing me to participate in the library outreach program, and for giving due consideration to my unique situation, with respect to the returning of all of the overdue library materials!

I am requesting you, kindly, to please pass on this information to your successor, as the successor, as the Director of the Ann Arbor Public Library!

Sincerely, Love,
Amit Kshirsagar

Dear Josie --

Such a gift you have to make twenty years feel fresh. My first thought was "Already?!, she's just getting started!" Yet these two decades (!!), you and the amazing staff always make AADL a "we," a place of possibility, and a whole lotta fun.

Thank you very much and all good things for the next phase of your life's journey.


Congratulations to Miss Josie & thanks for her stewardship! The library is a great community asset. Best wishes with the next step.

Congratulations Josie. You have truly made a difference at the library and in the Ann Arbor community! I hope you enjoy your retirement as much as I have mine the past year or so... Bob Grese

Congratulations and thanks for all you have done. I hope you have a happy and fun retirement! Betty Bishop

Thank you, Josie, and congratulations on your retirement! The AADL is second to none and has always been one of my favorite places. It has thrived under your leadership. All the best to you in your future endeavors!

Ms Parker, As a librarian myself (now retired) I have known some great ones in the profession. You are surely among them! What you've accomplished with AADL during your tenure is truly amazing, and I believe it is now one of the best in the country. Congratulations, and have wonderful retirement!

Sorry to learn this, Ms. Parker -timing only, because your leadership, particularly through this pandemic, has been exemplary. Congratulations, best wishes, and thank you for helping to build the pride of Ann Arbor. I do hope you'll have a major role in selecting your successor -if not already in preparing her or him.

Thank you so much for your kindness and praise. Leading AADL has been a very rewarding experience through the good times and the very hard times, too. I will miss it very much, but am glad to leave it in very capable hands. The Library Board is discussing their process for a Director search at this evening's Board meeting. I have complete faith in their ability and judgment, and know that they will consider all of their options for AADL's future leader.

Thank you, Ms. Parker for the valuable work you brought to the AADL. Your legacy from your time serving the library and the community will continue. You made the library a highlight in Ann Arbor. From the wonderful tool collection, events, and partnering with the African American Cultural and Historical museum. You and your team have enriched many people's lives.

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