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Posted on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:05 a.m.

One for the books: Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to build new downtown Ann Arbor library

By Ryan J. Stanton


The downtown library opened at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street in 1958. An expansion doubling its size was completed in the 1970s. A third addition was completed in 1991, again doubling its size.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor District Library Director Josie Parker believes public libraries will be as critical to communities 20 years from now as they are today.

As technology advances and the world becomes increasingly digital, Parker said, she's convinced the library will remain a destination place.

"We still will be those centers of learning and community engagement that we are now, but we will be doing it in a different format," she said.

Hoping to cement the public library's future in downtown Ann Arbor, the AADL is asking voters on Nov. 6 to approve a $65 million bond proposal for construction of a new downtown library.

The estimated millage to pay off the bond is 0.56 mills. The tax would last for 30 years and cost the owner of a home with a $100,000 taxable value about $56 a year.


Patrons enjoy a quiet corner on the first floor of the downtown Ann Arbor library on a recent afternoon.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Three committees — one called Protect Our Libraries, another called Save the Ann Arbor Library, and another called LOL=Love Our Library — have formed in opposition to the proposal.

"I'm very troubled when I hear Library Board members say it will be great for downtown Ann Arbor," said Kathy Griswold, treasurer for Protect Our Libraries. "I don't believe it's the responsibility of this group to provide a cool new library for our cool downtown."

Griswold argues the project is too expensive while providing only a marginal benefit to taxpayers. Meanwhile, Doug Jewett, who started the Save the Ann Arbor Library committee, argues demolishing the current building would be a devastating loss for the community.

Supporters of the proposal argue the building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street, which traces back to the 1950s, is past its prime and should be demolished to make way for a new one.

"That library is obsolete," said Ellie Serras, chairwoman of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee.

"It's just like having a car that's 50 years old," Serras said. "It might run, but you're just throwing money into it."

If the bond proposal passes, library leaders plan to spend the next year soliciting public input and planning what the next library would look like. Once the designs are in place, construction could take about 18 to 27 months, said Library Board President Margaret Leary.

Parker said the intention is to keep the downtown library's collection available online for requests during construction, but most of it would not be physically browsable.

Library leaders hope to find space they can use as a temporary downtown branch. Parker said the AADL would use its other branch libraries and rented space to continue programming.

Debating the need

The AADL is made up of the 113,850-square-foot downtown library and four smaller branch libraries that range in size from 5,900 square feet to 16,500 square feet.

The downtown library opened in 1958. An expansion doubling its size was completed in the 1970s. A third addition was completed in 1991, again doubling its size.


The downtown library as it looked on a recent day.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"Right now it's like the community is punishing the library staff for maintaining the building as well as they have," Serras said. "They've done such a good job of patching it together and keeping it running, but it's still very substandard."

A library facilities committee report found the building has inadequate capabilities for meeting patron needs for safe, quiet reading space and has outdated heating and air conditioning systems.

The report also found the facility lacks sufficient meeting space for community events and large presentations, needs capacity for additional infrastructure to meet growing computer use, and doesn't have enough space for children's programming and services that reflect the needs of contemporary families and students.

After reviewing renovation possibilities, the Library Board unanimously decided a new facility built on the site of the existing library would be the most cost-effective solution.

Leary said a complete renovation of the library to bring it up to modern-day standards would cost about 90 percent of what it would cost to have a completely brand-new library that is bigger.

No plans for what the new library might look like exist yet. The Library Board is asking the community to first decide if it is willing to invest $65 million before commissioning architectural designs.

Leary said library officials know from previous planning efforts they need a larger building — about 160,000 square feet. They're looking to add a 400-seat auditorium to comfortably accommodate the crowds the library's lectures, movies, discussions and performances bring to downtown, as well as an array of meeting spaces that can accommodate a wide range of other events.

Other features that library officials argue would be possible in a new building, but 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
  • An accessible downtown location for AADL’s Local History collections, specifically the collection from The Ann Arbor News
  • Individual and group study and work spaces throughout the building with adequate comfort, power, and acoustic privacy
  • A cafe 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 accessible to all

Leary said the AADL knows from its experience building three branch libraries in recent years — and from reviewing similar projects — that it will cost about $334 per square foot.

At 160,000 square feet, that means it could cost more than $53 million for construction, with the rest of the money from the bond paying for pre-construction activities and relocation/moving expenses.

One of the arguments against the bond proposal made by the Protect Our Libraries committee is that it could cost $130 million with interest. Supporters of the bond argue that might be the case if interest rates go up to 5.25 percent, but they're expecting to lock in rates in the 2 to 3 percent range.


Kathy Griswold

Griswold said her group is about 45 members strong right now and they don't see why the current library can't be maintained.

"I just think there is this underlying dislike for that building by the Library Board. It's not a bad building," she said. "They need to bring in more renovation and sustainability experts. I've talked to many construction people — I think the library is functional as it is."

Griswold notes the library district includes all of the city of Ann Arbor and parts of Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Pittsfield, Superior, Salem and Scio townships. She said she wonders why taxpayers in surrounding townships should pay to support a new downtown library.

She said she'd rather see the money spent on building more branch libraries that are in walking distance from lower-income neighborhoods.

Ann Arbor resident Amy Seetoo, a former reference librarian at the University of Illinois, is supporting the Protect Our Libraries fight against the bond proposal.

"We could always use a new library, but this is just unnecessary and at the wrong time," she said. "You know, when everything is thriving, yes, I would like to have a new library."

The AADL prioritized rebuilding the downtown library about five years ago, but it placed the project on hold due to the poor economy.

Serras said a new downtown library is not a want but rather a need given the current condition of the building and the demands being placed on it.

"It's energy wasteful," she said. "It's three buildings that have been patched together and the heating and cooling are totally inefficient."

By the numbers

While the AADL invested in building three new branch libraries over the last decade, library circulation went up significantly. Systemwide circulation went from fewer than 1.5 million items checked out in 2000-01 to more than 5.2 million in 2005-06 to more than 9.2 million in 2008-09.


The CD section of the downtown Ann Arbor library on a recent afternoon.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The numbers have dropped off since then with about 400,000 fewer items checked out in each of the last two years. Parker attributed that to changes in the library's internal processes for items placed on hold.

The downtown library saw four straight years of gains in circulation before hitting 1.2 million items checked out in 2009-10. It dropped to 1.12 million in 2010-11 and then to 1.03 million for 2011-12.

Fifth Avenue was closed for the construction of a new underground parking garage next to the downtown library for most of the time that circulation was down.

Fifth Avenue reopened in mid-June and new reports show circulation at the downtown library is picking back up. There were nearly 295,000 items checked out between July and September this year compared with about 256,000 during the same three months last year.

The number of annual visits to the downtown library grew steadily over the past decade, peaking at 649,231 in 2009-10. It then dropped to 590,362 in 2010-11 and to 576,043 in 2011-12.

But with Fifth Avenue reopened, there already have been more than 160,000 visitors to the downtown library in the first quarter of this fiscal year, an 11.2 percent increase from last year.

More than two-thirds of the 163,000-plus residents served by the AADL are current library card holders. With the AADL now offering a wide variety of movies and music albums, reports show nearly as many people go to the library for DVDs, CDs and Blu-Ray discs as they do books.

Systemwide, nearly 1.7 million visitors passed through the doors of the five libraries last year, and nearly 1,800 people attended more than 230 computer classes that were offered. The AADL put on nearly 1,700 programs that drew 42,905 adults and 37,641 children.

About 85,000 people used the downtown work stations last year, and more than 10,700 new library cards were issued.

Serras said having a functional downtown library is similar to having an anchor retail store downtown because of how many visitors it attracts.

"So in that way, it's a benefit to downtown," she said. "But it's so much bigger than that."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Dear Fellow Ann Arbor Residents, I think that spending $65 Million to destroy the existing Library and replace it with a new building is very unwise. I enjoy the present Library and make annual contributions of $100 to the Friends of the Library. It seems to me that the main beneficiaries of the $65 Million Bond will be the building industry, as with the overly modern and very expensive City Hall. If the voters of Ann Arbor want to spend an extra $65 Million, it seems far better to spend it on returning the Police, the Fire Department and the Fall Leaf Collection to their former status. Indeed if the Fire Department is not soon returned to meeting the national code, our House Insurance rates will all increase.

Cendra Lynn

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

No, no, and NO! Not my money. For a lot less money you could provide comfortable study places with outlets, and hire enough security guards to have one every 20', i.e., one in all sight lines. We definitely do not need another auditorium. We certainly don't need space for a collection of the A2News!! And the list goes on. Tell you what: Put me in charge of the $165 million this will end up costing us (according to the late Karen Sydney) and I'll find ways to renovate it and give you everything you want and I won't charge you an arm and a leg. Honestly! How stupid do you think we really are?

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Vote yes.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

From the perspective of someone who falls under ADA: I'd rather have improvements to the Library's electronic content online than pay $65 million for a new building with ADA improvements.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

We have several libraries around town. If we had just one for the entire city the argument to refine the downtown library would be stronger. Keep it as is. Save money, stop raising my taxes for special interests. We have a great library as it stands now. Fix the electrical. Don't need another empty auditorium in this town. Be creative and use the countless existing facilities.

Sarah MacDonald

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

There is literally nowhere for me to study near town that is quite! This would be a great facility to give me privacy and away from the loud coffee houses. I always end up at the library but do not have the best in access to outlets or comfortable tables. This would be great to have! AADL has done so much for us and I do not understand why anyone would say no to reading....This would ne so amazong to have!!!!


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Are you serious: what school do you attend? schools have learning centers/libraries of all sorts. Dorms provide desks. Not sure about the fancy high rise units-they appear to provide tables/chairs. Every relative I have brought to town commented on more than one occasion the odd characteristic of students with their devices "all around town"......notable- one student occupying an entire table designed for 2-4 people. Why should citizens provide a public library for the highschool or college students of Ann Arbor to have comfy quiet study quarters,when their campus/learning and living environments provide this. I studied in the University library system when in college[lots of choices where to study]-NEVER felt I should head downtown and be provided a study atmosphere tailored to my needs by the Ann Arbor citizens.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

whether or not i agree with the issue... i do have respect for a public vote on the issue.


Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

Yes, I agree with you. I'm glad we are voting on this.I just hope the winning vote is a "No".


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.

On another blog, I have been reading that the Friends of the Library Board of Directors has given $25,000 to the political group advocating for the new library. Can you verify this? Isn't a 501c(3) supposed to steer clear of political causes?

Steve Bean

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

I also posted this in response to another part of their statements: "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." The estimated millage can only be made for 2013 rather than the entire 30-year period (2013-2043) because property values will change in the future. We are in the early stages of a deepening, deflationary depression that could see property values drop more than 50% from current levels. Such a drop would either require an increase in the millage or some other budgetary adjustment, such as a reduction in library services. If we pay current inflated materials and labor costs prior to the deflation playing out, we will pay the premium from a reduced revenue stream over the coming decades. If we wait only a couple more years we could much better determine what we can truly afford without endangering the entire system's future.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Most people do not believe anything like this is on the way. Nor have they given it any thought. Why Americans persist in the belief that the rest of the world will continue to agree that only Americans deserve to live this standard of living is beyond me. Not only that, but if the rest of the world, as they catch up to us, wish to consume resources at the level we do, we are in deep s***. I've seen the (scientific consensus) current burn rate (living off our seed corn) described at 140%. Imagine that number as all the Chinese, Indians, SE Asian countries catch up to our burn rate. Think what tearing down decent, renovatable structures and wasting $65 million on new starchitecture at this point in time will look like in 30 years. People need to get used to making the best of what we already have. That includes architects, developers, city planners, library-goers, etc.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 9:24 a.m.

I was talking with a young guy (30) who opposes the measure. "I'll still be around paying for this in 30 years when you guys will be long gone."

Steve Bean

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

I posted the following at the Our Downtown Library web site FAQ page. "Interest rates are near all-time lows, construction costs are extremely competitive and the AADL's credit rating is very high." Low nominal interest rates heading into a deflationary period are a trap. Real interest rates are equal to the nominal interest rate minus the rate of inflation. When the rate of inflation is negative--that is, when deflation is occurring rather than inflation--the real interest rate is higher than the nominal rate. For example, if the nominal rate is 2% (the midpoint of the 1-3% stated above), and inflation is -3%, the real interest rate becomes 2-(-3), which is 2+3, or 5%. During the Great Depression inflation dropped below -10%, and even -15%, putting real interest rates above 15%. Compared to waiting until real rates drop back to 5% or below, borrowing $65 million at real interest rates of 15+% (for even just those first few years) would simply be unwise. Stated differently, we could borrow $65 million now to build a new library (or update the current one), or we could wait several years and borrow $30 million or so--at a comparable rate of interest--to do the same.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:35 a.m.

Libraries will be obsolete in less than 20 years. No reason to put money into a bricks and mortar building to store books and other media when everything is moving to digital. An ipod or kindle can store shelves and shelves worth of books, with no wasted space or wasted paper. That's the way everything is going. We don't need more huge buildings to house books. If you want meeting space, there is plenty of rooms and auditoriums all over town and campus to host big classes/meetings. $65 million building is not needed.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 4:13 a.m.

You'll' be paying through the nose in your digital future. If you think cable tv rates are bad, just wait...


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:21 p.m.

Only people that can read should be allowed to vote. It would win in a landslide.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

Quoting Barzoom: We don't need a new library. vote no.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

To start from scratch is ridiculous. Renovate or put an addition onto the existing structure -- I don't believe the political spin that an entirely new structure would cost less, given how things constantly go over-budget/overtime. A huge sum being requested in a recession and who benefits when the contract is rewarded? Something doesn't smell right here. Vote No.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

My final observation about the group of older women (or should I say the library board), feeling the necessity to leave their mark on society and build a building (with taxpayer funds), so they can have their name on it for all of eternity. It is clearly being driven by older women that do not understand how people are changing their information habits. I do not want to pay to park to go to the library already, stop putting more money into the downtown facility!!!! Buy me a e-reader instead.

Donald Harrison

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Have you even been to a library board meeting "A Voice of Reason"? They're open to the public. They're also run by citizens who understand the role of libraries and people's habits. The importance of the library is only going to increase, even as digital content becomes more pervasive (in fact, perhaps because of it). Cities are investing in modern main libraries, built around the idea of bringing people together around knowledge, sharing, collaborating and engaging - cities like Madison, Austin, Seattle and San Diego, but also Salt Lake, Fort Wayne, Iowa City and Ypsilanti. I'd recommend reading this latest from PEW about the habits of younger people and reading: And, btw, the library is one of our few remaining public commons. A new downtown library won't be named after a corporate sponsor or major benefactor or the library board. It's ours and it's for everyone.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

I think there are also older women who oppose the library. The worst reason to build a new library would be to justify the underground parking garage.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

Ok, there are probably a few men on the board too. What is the average age?

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

We do not need any more strangers around our kids and surely, a new conference center will attract more problems. PROTECT OUR KIDS AND VOTE NO!

Meredith Kahn

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

My husband and I own a home and a small business here in Ann Arbor. We love this town, and we plan on staying here for the long term. We'll both be voting YES on the bond proposal. AADL provides excellent services to our community, but they need a physical space that will allow them to grow and to meet the changing needs of residents. Ann Arbor is a great place to live, and it deserves to have a great public library. Based on the estimates of what it will cost us, I see this bond proposal as a fiscally sound investment in Ann Arbor's future.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

If your small business relies on payments by Ann Arbor citizens, anticipate lower revenues in your business because the amount of money paid for the library and DDA won't be available for people to spend money on whatever you sell.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

Wouldn't the request be more believable if the library had provided at least some concepts for the public? Asking for $65,000,000 based on "trust us, we really need it" just doesn't work in today's economy. Why not study what it would take to upgrade some of the systems in the building. As it has been mentioned, upgrading and providing more internet service should be relatively easy. Ann Arbor has many world class technology companies that would probably be glad to provide expertise to the library on the best method for technology upgrades. If the servers are outdated, why not consider cloud storage and servers which have become relatively inexpensive. There are many alternatives for internet service providers today that can provide service for much lower prices with significantly higher access speeds. It will be interesting to see if this proposal passes and if the library can bring themselves to look at some more reasonably priced alternatives.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

"No plans for what the new library might look like exist yet. The Library Board is asking the community to first decide if it is willing to invest $65 million before commissioning architectural designs." You're doing it wrong!!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

A city is define by its library. Vote yes on the library. "Vote no on Proposal 2"


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

This discussion is not about Proposal 2. This is about the library proposal at the end of the ballot.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

So which one of our FIVE libraries is it that "define" us?

Kathy Griswold

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

The $130 million total cost was taken from the AADL board discussion on July 16, as reported by the Ann Arbor Chronicle. Also note the discussion about 25-year vs. 30-year terms that increase the bond interest cost by (an estimated) $13 million. "A 25-year, $65 million bond would have an estimated interest rate of 5% and a millage rate of 0.59 mills. A 29-year, $65 million bond had a higher estimated interest rate of 5.25%, but a lower millage rate of 0.56 mills. It's better for taxpayers to pay a lower millage rate, Surovell said, even though the total interest payments would be higher under the longer-term scenario – $64.669 million in interest for the 29-year bond, compared to $51.478 million for the 25-year term. [Details on the interest and millage rates will vary, depending on market conditions when the bonds are issued.]" I agree 5% is high, but this is the interest rate the AADL board members used in their discussion prior to the bond vote, again, as reported by Ann Arbor Chronicle.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

If this $130 million library gets built, will it be obsolete in 30 years, before the the terms of the bond?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

If the city can't lock in a rate now for 30 years, it's necessary to assume much higher rates over the years. Interest rates could also go up if Ann Arbor's credit rating deteriorates, which could happen.

Kensington alum

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

While I no longer live in Ann ARbor, I'd vote no on this as well. $65 million on a wing and a prayer in terms of what the new building will be, etc. Why not spend some time and money on design and community input first? What is the $65 milion is too little? What if it's too high? I love the way the article points out its "only" $56 per $100,000 in value, omitting that it's $56 for THIRTY YEARS. In terms of value of your property, an additional $56 per year in cost (per $100,000, mind you), translates to something on the order of 1,100 permanent loss in value per $100,000 (assuming a conservative 5% cap rate). So, on a $300,000 home your house will be worth $3,300 less. Way to go Ann ARbor!

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

"I love the way the article points out its "only" $56 per $100,000 in value, omitting that it's $56 for THIRTY YEARS." For the record, the article neither uses the word "only" nor does it omit that the tax would last for 30 years.

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

I do live in Ann Arbor and I'm voting yes. I think the bond proposal vastly improves the AADL and our community. I plan to live here 30+ years and believe the $1/week is a bargain. It adds value for me personally, but also for the values I care about, especially providing much better access and resources for those in our community with fewer means. Rebuilding the downtown library addresses our current facility's extensive shortcomings and prioritizes access to knowledge/sharing/arts/culture in the heart of Ann Arbor.

Jerzy Drozd

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

A new library means more opportunities for Ann Arbor citizens to participate in content creation and stand as leaders of arts and culture in Michigan. We held the Kids Read Comics Celebration at AADL this past July. NYT Bestselling authors, voice actors, and cartoonists from across the globe came out to Ann Arbor not to merely celebrate the pop-culture fun surrounding comics (though that was a part of it), but to engage with kids in free hands-on workshops. Imagine getting to draw along side of Maurice Sendak, write with Beverly Cleary, or try your hand voice acting with Mel Blanc–that's the experience AADL made possible for the nearly 2,000 people who turned out for the weekend's festivities. And as you might imagine, we quickly ran out of room in many of the programming areas. During KRC we also held free hands-on digital animation and design workshops for pre-teens and teens, led by professional animators and game designers. The computer lab was great for this, but again we didn't have the space to accommodate all of the kids who were interested in participating. And AADL has begun to produce content created by Ann Arbor citizens. They record and broadcast web video series out of their "AADL Netcast Studio," featuring shows about the "maker" scene, visual storytelling, and more. These shows are hosted by Ann Arbor residents. A new library would open up the possibility of expanding these production facilities to allow more of us to create content. This isn't just about making a "cool" space for books, it's about expanding our opportunities to participate in media consumption and creation. It's a truer model of what PBS and NPR claim to be. A new library means a better space for rich community events and more opportunities for us to have unprecedented access to professional-grade production and media-creation facilities. What was once only available to the wealthy or connected would be available to all of the taxpayers. I'd say that's wort

Jerzy Drozd

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:28 p.m.

I meant to say that it's worth it. The last word got cut off even though the field said I had 10 characters left.

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

The library is one of our few remaining public commons and it's important we take good care of it. The AADL has updated their FAQ to provide more details about why they have proposed rebuilding the downtown branch to best serve our community. Worth a read:


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

A very interesting study was just release by PEW that challenges notions that reading and libraries are "obsolete" for young people.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

DonBee: Do you spend lots of time in the children's room? Try visiting on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday morning when the room is jammed with children, babies and parents attending storytimes. Or come by on Tuesday or Thursday evening after 5pm when PALMA is happening and the building is jammed with families learning English & getting tutoring from U of M students Or try visiting on Halloween next Wednesday between 9-11:30 - 100s & 100s of children attend that event yearly. . Or read Jerzy Drozd's comment below about the Kids Read Comics event that attracted almost 2000 kids & parents this summer. Downtown is also where most of the daycares, preschools & daycamps/YMCA etc. bring kids in droves all summer long, and to storytimes during the school year. Every fall during the annual "2nd Grade Roundup" every single 2nd grade class in town - both public & private schools - comes to the library for a fun, educational visit to get a library card and check out books. That amounts to well over 1300 kids based on AAPS stats + the private schools who attend: Apparently if you didn't witness it it didn't happen. And they say children are egocentric.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

Yes, but visit the various libraries, the majority of the children are at the branches, not downtown.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.



Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

It's worth noting that interest rates right now are at historic lows. If we wait a few years to replace this building, interest rates will very likely be higher, possibly significantly higher, and in the meantime there will be accelerating maintenance costs, probably involving the expensive replacement of major mechanical systems presumably nearing the end of their useful lives (HVAC, elevators, etc.). Part of this building is 54 years old, and another part 42 years old. It will surely be a good deal more expensive to replace in ten years, in both financing costs and construction costs. And it's worth underscoring that the supposed $130 million total cost for principal and interest payments -- seen on opponent's signs around town and trumpeted here -- is just a bogus number, presumably selected to frighten the voters. My calculator shows me that the $130M number assumes an interest rate of 5.3%, far above what the AADL would likely have to pay. A quick look at the municipal bond market suggests that the interest rate would probably be about half the fictional rate cited by the opponents. That is consistent with what the AADL's advisers are apparently projecting, "they're expecting to lock in rates in the 2 to 3 percent range." The Troy municipal golf course is paying 2.5%, for one example.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 4:04 a.m.

From the AADL's website: "The current Downtown Library consists of three different phases of construction: the original building built in 1958, a 1974 addition that doubled the size of the building, and a 1991 addition that doubled the building's size again." See Downtown Library Project at


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 3:29 a.m.

Kathy Griswold says: "I agree 5% is high, but this is the interest rate the AADL board members used in their discussion prior to the bond vote, " That may well be, but that was months ago, and now the expectation, according to the article, is that "they're expecting to lock in rates in the 2 to 3 percent range." Why the difference? I don't know for sure, but two possibilities come to mind. (1) The numbers the board was using months ago may well have been deliberately conservative, overly cautious. Better and more prudent to discuss a hypothetical worse case and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised. But when opponents pretend that the 5% is a solid fact, locked in and unchangeable, the actual current rates are relevant to the discussion -- especially in the face of all those dubious signs trumpeting that the library will necessarily cost $130M. And a 2.5% rate, consistent with the current historic low rates, would cut the interest payment projection (based on the assumption of 5.3%) by more than half. (2) As things go forward, the AADL may have received more current estimates of the likely interest cost from its financial advisers. As noted, the recent quoted estimate of 2-3% seems consistent with the current muny bond market.

Kathy Griswold

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

The $130 million total cost was taken from the AADL board discussion on July 16, as reported by the Ann Arbor Chronicle. Also note the discussion about 25-year vs. 30-year terms that increase the bond interest cost by (an estimated) $13 million. "A 25-year, $65 million bond would have an estimated interest rate of 5% and a millage rate of 0.59 mills. A 29-year, $65 million bond had a higher estimated interest rate of 5.25%, but a lower millage rate of 0.56 mills. It's better for taxpayers to pay a lower millage rate, Surovell said, even though the total interest payments would be higher under the longer-term scenario – $64.669 million in interest for the 29-year bond, compared to $51.478 million for the 25-year term. [Details on the interest and millage rates will vary, depending on market conditions when the bonds are issued.]" I agree 5% is high, but this is the interest rate the AADL board members used in their discussion prior to the bond vote, as reported by Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

Only the top half of the back half of the building is 21 years old. You can see it clearly written in the brick. The majority of the building is 38 - 54 years old. And all 3 of the building(s) were built when AAPS was running the show. AADL became its own governing body with publicly accountable elected officials in 1995. Current leadership of the AADL has an excellent 10+ year track record. They balance their books, built 3 satellite branches on time/budget and deliver tremendous, innovative programs and services to the greater Ann Arbor community. The AADL is one of the most respected civic and cultural organizations in the region for good reason.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

About half the library is only 21 years old. At the time of the addition completion in 1991, it was acclaimed in the press as providing great flexibility for future technologies and changes in library mission. They were probably taking their cue from Library Staff and supporters. Can we be so sure that a new Library will be meeting the community's needs 20, 40, or 60 years in future? Better a quality renovation then a costly white elephant.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

I'm torn about how I feel about this. If you watch the video from the June 12 meeting, you can see it's basically about getting a nicer space. I wish they'd be more honest about it. $65 Million is alot of money, but a nice library space is, well, nice. The Bloomfield Township Public Library was recently renovated for $17 Million, but they had more space to play with, so they could that with basically one level. I wish the money spent on updating City Hall (where no one wants to go) had been directed to the library (always a fun place to go), but that of course, didn't happen.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

Mr. Baker - The tax payers only have one wallet - money that one taxing authority takes vs another all comes from the same place. There is a limit to the taxes many people can afford to pay. Remember 24% of the children in the AAPS school district (which mirrors the AADL's service territory) get free or reduced lunches - where do they get the extra money to pay YET ANOTHER tax?

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

"I wish the money spent on updating City Hall (where no one wants to go) had been directed to the library (always a fun place to go), but that of course, didn't happen." That couldn't happen, because they're separate taxing entities. The library operates under it's own millage and essentially has nothing to do with the city. I'm not sure what wasn't honest about the campaign, there's both a mix of need and aspiration in almost all materials put out. Even the headline of the site says "Ann Arbor deserves a great downtown library! Please vote YES for the $65m bond proposal to provide Ann Arbor with a world-class building to match its world-class library system."

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

In case anyone is interested in seeing some of the raw numbers, here are a few numbers I was able to glean looking at AADL reports for the past decade: Items Circulated Systemwide 1999-00 — 1,526,211 2000-01 — 1,479,124 2001-02 — 1,657,290 2002-03 — 1,899,389 2003-04 — 2,431,745 2004-05 — 3,234,113 2005-06 — 5,202,103 2006-07 — 7,118,376 2007-08 — 8,173,534 2008-09 — 9,260,596 2009-10 — 9,079,268 2010-11 — 8,862,538 2011-12 — 8,863,600 Items Circulated Downtown 2001-02 — 937,963 2002-03 — 1,095,084 2003-04 — 1,454,894 2004-05 — 987,292 2005-06 — 885,497 2006-07 — 985,131 2007-08 — 1,052,796 2008-09 — 1,117,301 2009-10 — 1,204,414 2010-11 — 1,123,493 2011-12 — 1,034,544 Door Counts Downtown 2002-03 — 473,588 2003-04 — 510,995 2004-05 — 559,577 2005-06 — 583,479 2006-07 — 579,394 2007-08 — 600,696 2008-09 — 614,533 2009-10 — 649,231 2010-11 — 590,362 2011-12 — 576,043


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

These numbers are very illuminating. They support the idea of another branch, rather than a demolition and reconstruction of the downtown location for two reasons: 1) the existing branches clearly couldn't handle -- even at equal shares -- all of the additional traffic displaced by the closure of downtown, and 2) another branch would better support door count and circulation than the addition of the same sq ft space to the downtown location. Why is that option not on the table?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

I think the most interesting figure is that only about 2.5 million of the items circulated in 2011-2012 were circulated through the AADL branches. This raises several questions for me: * Does the total # of items circulated systemwide include every transfer between branches, thus inflating the total #? * Do out of the AADL system circulation requests by entities such as MEL really account for 72% of AADL libraries circulation? Aside from explaining those numbers, just a comparison of the circulation numbers between the AADL branches shows me that the smaller satellite branches are accounting for a much higher percentage of circulation based on square footage and collection size. Perhaps renovations and expansion are more appropriate at those locations than at the downtown library. Yet more evidence that not enough real research has been done and/or presented to the community that they wish to pay for this white elephant.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

"Not a huge amount of growth in the downtown library." The numbers for the last two years were presumably reduced by the blocking of Fifth Avenue. But as the article tells us, the numbers have rebounded since the reopening of Fifth and the opening of the parking garage. It looks like the uptrend has returned, at a steeper slope.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Thank you Ryan Looks like the branches are where much of the activity is per square foot of building. Maybe that, rather than downtown is where the focus should be? I note door counts are about what they were in 2006-7. Items circulated downtown are less then they were in 2002-3 Not a huge amount of growth in the downtown library. I have to wonder - is this an attempt to try to lure people into the building to build numbers downtown and justify a higher operating millage later?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

Items Circulated at Mallets Creek Branch 2008-09 — 704,812 2009-10 — 742,142 2010-11 — 799,297 2011-12 — 806,603 Items Circulated at Pittsfield Branch 2008-09 — 527,812 2009-10 — 521,044 2010-11 — 512,032 2011-12 — 470,349 Items Circulated at Traverwood Branch 2008-09 — 686,111 2009-10 — 646,401 2010-11 — 665,719 2011-12 — 642,394 Items Circulated at West Branch 2008-09 — 385,887 2009-10 — 421,090 2010-11 — 439,665 2011-12 — 444,228

Jeremy Wheeler

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

I'm voting Yes.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

1. Not a dime for the DDA - This request is being asked as money for a Library! Sneaking funds for the DDA into it is unethical and should be illegal. 2. Spend the money on a Library, not designing a ugly (traverwood branch) showcase for somebodies opinion of a building as art. This library truely gets a lot of use and in my opinion is a very good use of taxpayers money.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Who is Peter Baker and why does he seem to be the (self-appointed?) spokesman for the AADL?

Peter Baker

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Also, Stephen, I'm not connected to the library in any way, other than as an enthusiastic user of it.

Peter Baker

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

David, I told you I built the website. I don't work for a software company, and the campaign is paying for its own hosting.

Stephen Landes

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:51 a.m.

Ryan/David, Thanks for the feedback. I was curious as he seems to be very active on this topic. For all I knew he could have been an AADL employee, board members, staffer.

David Cahill

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Peter Baker told me that he works for the software company that hosts the "yes" committee's website.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

He's advocating on behalf of the Our New Downtown Library campaign. He's been a regular commenter on for a long time.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

How about a competition? RFP for the best renovation of the current structure. I don't believe the figures they're using claiming a renovation would cost 90% of a new structure. That's ludicrous. There are many degrees of renovation. Updating the heating/cooling infrastructure is something that is done every day, for instance, so that's doable. Just having that done could potentially save a huge amount and would eventually pay for itself. Lots o' roof space for solar installation.. I would imagine that there is ample current space that is not being fully taken advantage of. How could it be best rearranged/repurposed? And so on.. On another topic: Is there any difference (siphon-wise) between new construction, and renovation, as far as the DDA is concerned? If so, how much of the desire for a new structure is being driven by a gluttonous DDA?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

timjbd..".gluttonous DDA," good analogy, i love it!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

timjbd - No study on a pure renovation was done. The study the AADL refers to started from "tear down at least this much". I suspect that a pure renovation could be done for between 5 and 10 million dollars with little disruption to the library. Key activities: 1) fill any outside cinderblock walls with insulating foam - needs holes approximately 1/4 inch in diameter drilled into the blocks. Can be done at night - moving shelves away from the walls would be the hard part. 2) pull old low amperage wires from conduits, replace with fewer higher amp wires and add distributed breaker panels. Cluster outlets near the new breaker panels as needed. Again night work 3) move the infrastructure for Internet to a pure wireless environment - use the lastest standards to maximize bandwidth 4) Compare floor based heat to the existing heating and cooling system - if it makes sense - move everything out of one room at a time and add the heat - it would raise the floor level by about 1 to 2 inches and allow for all new plumbing for heat and cooling to be put in place. 5) Replace existing heating and cooling equipment with more efficient units 6) Replace windows with higher efficiency units 7) Replace lighting as needed. I suspect that most of this would end up paying back in 5 to 8 years in reduced operating costs for energy.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

A 50 year old library with a 20 year old addition is NOT like a 50 year old car. I drive a 2007 car (5 years old) and live in a 45 year old house. Though I didn't have a car 50 years ago (my parents had a Dodge with tail fins), there are some who would love to restore a 50 year old car). That aside, a 50 year old library with a 20 year old addition we were told would last for 50+ years, can be rewired with much less disruption and at the a reasonable cost. Gee, it must be easy to plan on spending money when most of the money is OPM (other people's money). The library doesn't need large auditoriums and meeting rooms. There are more than enough rooms nearby that can be rented the few times a year they are needed. Besides rooms that nearby churches may rent out, there are the Michigan Theater, Rackham, Power, Hill, etc.. I'm sure others can list many other places. Besides the yearly cost, committing to have that millage for the next 30 years, squashes the flexibility Ann Arbor may need for future needs that become urgent. Besides, we can't afford the fire and police services that more Ann Arborites consider urgent and that cost would be far less and more flexible (not tied down for 30 years). Don't let unelected officials and even some elected officials hold us hostage. I'm in the 2nd Ward and we have completely changed our representation on City Council. There have been some other wonderful changes in City Council and I think much of this is related to the misdirected actions some have made in the past.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Yes, but the DDA isn't elected.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

The library board IS made up of elected officials.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Please carefully check out accurate information about the proposed new library before making up your mind and voting on Nov. 6th. Look at the very informative web site at Ann Arbor voters are too smart to fall for the misinformation being published by Kathy Griswold and bloggers to Ryan Stanton's article. For example, a library upgrade would cost 90% of a new library and take just as long to build, having a community space for seniors and students to gather is vitally important to our community. Local businesses support a new library regardless of the disruptiion building would cause. My heart goes out to the local students lined up to use library computers in the late afternoon because they don't have internet access at home. The library can't add more access, the current server is overburdened, in the basement, emiting so much heat the ceiling above it has water sprinklers. Last week a pipe broke in the children's section. The infrastructure is inadequate and can't be updated due to the nature of the building. Check out the truth on the web site, don't believe the nay sayers, do what is right for our community. AND check out the public libraries in communities nearby, you will be embarrassed by what we have in downtown Ann Arbor.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

rjwax - You have obviously stopped at reading the Pro-new library website and not actually spent time reading the documents behind it. Take the time and read the "renovation" study. 1) It starts by assuming that at least part of the library will be demolished. There is no Renovation in the study. So the 90% is based on tearing down, hauling away and starting over on much of the building. 2) 90% is based on what? There are no plans for a new building, no prelimary estimates based on that plan. 3) The numbers are all very high based on going to the largest construction costing database and looking at Midwest costs for libraries. 4) Only 1 business actually close to the library supports it and if you actually read what the owner said - he said - so long as there was NO disruption to his business. 5) The server in the basement is without proper cooling - it is also older. It has nothing to do with Internet access - that is provided by the routers in a different closet. More access is easy. Updating the server to a higher power machine will end up with more power with less heat. 6) The sprinklers are required by building and fire codes - not by the heat the server is emitting, if they build a new building they have to put the sprinkers in. There is little or no "truth" in either side's website, only items they think will appeal to voters. This is poorly thought out, poorly planned and even more poorly timed. Let's try this: 1) we are still paying for the 1991 upgrade 2) we will pay taxes for between "18 and 24 months" while they decide what to do 3) we will then have no library for about 2 years 4) we will continue to pay for the now demolished 1991 library for an additional 5 years after the new library is up So for 8 years we will pay double for a library and for 2 of those years we will have no library.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

@rjwax - where are these businesses who you claim support construction "regardless of the disruption"? Is this all the local businesses, some of them, maybe one?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

@Peter - does that even remotely sound like "support a new library regardless of the disruptiion building would cause"? You don't think he is talking about construction-related disruption?

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

"With thoughtful consideration to its neighbors, users & staff during construction, I believe a new downtown library would only help to invigorate & enrich our city for decades to come." - Ali Ramlawi, Owner, Jerusalem Garden


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4 p.m.

"Local businesses support a new library regardless of the disruptiion building would cause." Not all of them, particularly J. Garden which has stated otherwise. What you said simply is not true.

Adam Goodman

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

I'll be enthusiastically voting YES. Over the past several years, the AADL has developed a strong track record in building new facilities - without any debt financing, they built three beautiful new branches on-time and on-budget, all the while maintaining one of the highest per-capita circulation numbers in the country. However, while the new branches are wonderful, they need an awesome main branch to anchor them - and more broadly, I believe that a continued focus on keeping downtown Ann Arbor strong an vibrant is crucial to its continued success as a city. I think it's unfortunate that the leadership of the Library is effectively barred from participating in this debate; it's difficult for regular citizens like me to articulate as clearly why the current facility is inadequate. Still, after several years of study, I really don't doubt that the AADL board has reached a sound conclusion. As far as I can tell, it seems like - beyond major architectural concerns that prevent any substantial changes to the existing building's layout - it's a case of death-by-a-thousand-cuts. Sure, fixing any problem individually would cost less than $65 million - but if you add them all together, then the cost of renovation is substantial, and really, we'd get a lot less for the money. However, the real reason I'm so excited about the prospect of a new downtown library has less to do with the past than the future. The existing building was built mainly to house books - but for libraries to remain relevant in the decades to come, they really need to consider a broader role as a center of knowledge and learning for a community. The AADL has - through things like innovative programs, nontraditional collections, and content *creation* - already gained national recognition as a major thought leader in defining the future of public libraries. I can't wait to see what else they can come up with!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

$65 million could do a LOT more for the public schools (and their libraries), police and fire protection than any benefits from a new library. I'd much rather shore up what has been cut, cut, cut- to the dismay of EVERYONE. Sparkling new libraries are for boom times and gifts from wealthy benefactors (Alfred Taubman, are you listening?). Not for times of enforced austerity from above. Times of economic downturn are when creative re-use blooms out of necessity. I am not a fan of this building architecturally, it's a mess, but the arguments that it is not renovate-able are BS.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

It is funny to listen/read all the reasons why we need to tear down this existing structure. I have one pressing question. If the need was this great, why wasn't this proposed to coincide with the building of the underground parking structure? You are now asking businesses, if this passes, to once again have their street closed for approximately 2 more years. Should have put it before voters to be built while the street was closed already. Hope it goes down to defeat. My no vote has already been mailed in by absentee.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

Why pay big money just so people can check their email on the free computers and wifi? Isn't that what Panera and Starbucks is for? Also, what about the fact that the downtown library is a collection spot for the homeless. Why not spend money on addressing that important issue first instead of building a library with new tables and chairs for people to sleep on. Why not sell the land downtown and develop the other 4 branches around town further, if need be.

Robot Charles

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

How soon after the major 1990 remodel was it know that the project failed? Where are the people that lead the 1990 project? Were they fired for creating such a catastrophically messed up building? Are we again setting ourselves up for failure by trying to construct a single build that is a library, restaurant, historical record showcase, entertainment center, child care center, civic center, computer laboratory, professional video and sound editing laboratory, high speed wifi center, company startup incubator, and a store? Why not add some dormitory rooms while were at it and give the student high rises are run for their money?

Robot Charles

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

So you're saying the people who did such a poor job on the library are now responsible for teaching our children? Good god!

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

The 1990s remodel and addition (2 floors on top of the back section, mostly non-public space and no bathroom on the 3rd floor) were led when AADL was part of the Ann Arbor Public School system. They split in 1995 and AADL became its own public entity with an elected board and open public meetings. Current AADL leadership is one of the most respected civic and cultural organizations in the region with a great track record of building successful satellite branches and providing tremendous value to Ann Arbor area tax payers.

Anti Crankypants

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Where were all you "stop" downtown development people when the 7-11's and CVS's landed in our city? This is the LIBRARY and a good investment in one of our few remaining shared resources.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

I'm voting YES. Why put money into a building that, even with billions of dollars invested in 'updating' it, won't serve our needs? That makes no sense to me as a taxpayer in Ann Arbor. The library board IS looking into 21st century service models, that enable physical space to be a hub for community engagement, activity, and cultural enrichment. Libraries provide access to information and knowledge, regardless of format. I share a lot of information and knowledge in coffee shops and I'd love to have one in my downtown library (that I use on a weekly basis, even as a university employee). This isn't about building a 'cool' library, it's about continuing to be a model of library service, not just in Michigan, but across the country. And I'm not willing to throw away money on a floundering building. I'm willing to spend money on the future to make our community stronger.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 10:54 a.m.

Using you logic, UM should have torn down the Hatcher Graduate Library years ago and built a new one. But they didn't and it has all that @Emily Puckett Rodgers mentioned plus more.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Billions? You're kidding, right?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I'll be voting YES! The AADL has a PROVEN track record of responsible leadership, fiscal responsibility, and genuine community support. It's easy to put off big investments (does anyone really look forward to spending this kind of money?), but the long-term payoff is worth it. Yes, technically, we could limp along and "make do" with what we've got. But what happens in the mean time? Fewer people will use the facility, maintenance will become more expensive, and AADL will have a harder time attracting top staff. Make the investment, and the building becomes an even greater non-restaurant draw for residents of all ages and people who want something inexpensive and interesting to do in the evenings. I don't hold anything against the "anti-" groups—I know from experience that these are folks who do not spend time downtown or want to invest in anything beyond their driveways. That's fine, it's just not my vision.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

that's quite a statement:people who don't spend time downtown,nor get beyond their's a good thing the vote is a simple Yes/No and judgements about other people aren't part of the vote.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

I just don't want to invest in THIS library Again we see that knowledge and experience are two different things.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

How often does the government think they can go to the well? Just for once I wish they would consider the taxpayer. It's only "$56 dollars per year", plus the 1.55 library operating millage. Now your at $211 per year for 30 years...$6330. Then you adjust to realistic taxable values for the Ann Arbor area and you get to numbers that are double, triple or more. In 30 years I'll be 72, maybe I could use a few bucks in MY pocket. If this passes just remember, the government didn't build a library...we the taxpayers did.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

JK - excellent comment. This proposal is a glaring example of public-private partnerships - arrangements where businesses are enriched through the use of taxpayer money. The reporter doesn't mention that Ellie Serras, chairwoman of the Our New Downtown Library campaign, is owner of Main Street Ventures - a group of restaurants. After the crowds attend all of the events at the new Event Center (sorry, I mean Library), they'll be hungry... An oversized "Vote Yes" sign has been placed at Carson's on Plymouth Rd., one of Ms. Serras's restaurants.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

God forbid a library attracts more people to local businesses.

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

cindy1 - There are many supporters of the library bond proposal who use their real names, including Ellie Serras. They represent a diverse spectrum of our community, including small business owners, teachers, arts & culture leaders, non-profit directors of human services, environmental leaders, students, artists, geeks, liberals, moderates and conservatives. Many of them have statements of support here: There are many people who care about this issue, because investing in our excellent AADL system means significantly improving an important community resource. The downtown library provides critical resources for people seeking employment, access to knowledge, inspiration from arts/culture, places to convene and collaborate and tools/materials to share. The library is not a luxury. It's for everyone.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

The argument for this bond is not compelling. A new library building would be nice and shiny, of course, and only a fool would build a new building which was less energy-efficient. But the fact of the matter is that there is a zero-sum game when it comes to taxpayer pockets. And sucking a 33% increase in taxes for the library system out -- to demolish and replace an existing building -- makes supporting other growth of the system much more difficult. I am not interested in subsidizing the DDA to cover over their financial problems. I am not interested in losing access to the lion's share of the collection for 2+ years. I am not interested in paying too much for the wrong resource. Keep the existing building, get creative about maximizing its value, and build another branch location, all for a whole lot less money, and you'll have my support.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

Hoo Boy! I'm voting yes but I'm just not that hopeful it will happen.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

If this proposal fails, it is highly probable we will see another proposal in the near future with a wiser economical and conservational approach for any truely neccesitated updates. It's not about if we support our Library or not. It's about overbuilding Ann Arbor and overspending. It's about spending $65 million to fix the underutilization of the City's new $12 million underground parking structure adjacent to the Library, and if the Library is suited to be a Starbucks, Michigan Theater, convention center, and Rackspace data center on top of its current functions. The draft wording of the Library proposal that was shared with me is misleading as it says nothing about a multifunction City building. Turnout will be high because of the Presidential election, and voters won't know exactly they are voting for. I find it sad that the Library Board has resorted to such measures to trying to get money for what they want.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

The cost is too high. $65 million bond, before the financing over 30 years. How much will that $65 million cost at the end of 30 years? For those of us in the Ann Arbor library district with low home values, $1 per month is to pay for the new building, but we already pay $10 per month for library operations. Plus, we're paying for the new AAPS technology bond and the parks millage is up for renewal too. Don't forget that AA taxpayers pay for AATA bus service and WCC and WISD - all important to our community. Just because you can afford to pay more in taxes, remember that many people in the Ann Arbor community are struggling financially. Please vote NO on the new library.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

You know that everyone is wealthy in Ann Arbor!-:)

John Roos

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

This is an essential public education and community center that enhances our downtown and our civic life, especially since we no longer have bookstores downtown. The original construction in 1958 was a long time ago. The library has served this community well with 2 remodels but now it's time to build a new library.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

where Roos Roast coffee can be served in the cafe to be open before, during, and after hours...


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

A new library is probably a better use of our money than turning sought after real estate into a park.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

Our "five star" library should be focusing more resources on delivering online content - many other libraries provide free eBooks through Amazon to patrons, and perhaps even allowing the checkout of Kindles and iPads. Drop offs in checkouts in recent years are likely to be due to thriving online content providers such as NetFlix, Amazon video, and Apple along with devices like iPads, Kindles, smartphones, and smart TVs, not changes in the Library's hold system most people haven't noticed. The physical checkouts will only drop off further. I hope the message is getting through to the Library Board that although people love the AADL, that this proposal is like giving a $65 million blank check. Unfortunately, many supporters of this proposal also do not realize these extras like the performance hall/auditorium, catering kitchen, cafe, and meeting spaces will divert resources like staff and funding from true Library functions like providing information content to the community. Likewise for building data center space -- if their current space is outdated, they should be looking at remote hosting do that the Library IT staff can focus on developing data services instead of babysitting servers. Time to move to a 21st century model!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Not sure what the link was cut off - but here is is again:


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

JK: The library already offers online content - the same as the other libraries you refer to. Only one company currently offers this service to libraries to offer to their patrons - Overdrive. Info at aadl here: Keep in mind however that publishers are still grappling with this issue and libraries have no control of who allows them access to these books. Also please note that the AADL is a leader in the country for finding alternative avenues for digital content - like the deal made with Magnatunes described here in an earlier article And here's another nice take on what AADL is doing in regards to digital content - which goes into more detail on the struggle libraries have with ebook lending


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

JK - You are wrong. The truly non-library functions, which will predominate in the new "library," will not redirect employees from true library duties because new employees will be hired to provide "other" functions. Patrons can hope that the new library saves enough money through its energy efficiency to offset the increased costs of operation.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

Is it just me, or does the fact that the anti-group's big homepage cartoon spells library as "LIBARY" tell you everything you need to know?

Kathy Griswold

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

It is the character's name.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Spelling mistake as pun?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

I took it as a pun... Bury the Library in debt

Ron Granger

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

From the new library info page: "A Media Production Lab that provides high-­-end computer production bays adjacent to larger, comfortable, public computing areas" What is that, specifically? Why must taxpayers finance a "high end media production lab"? Shouldn't that be a function of private industry, or an individual's whims? What other luxurious pork is part of this plan?

Ron Granger

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

@Peter: 'I don't think there's anything in the proposal to indicate that it's going to take "lots of expensive tech".' Indeed - there is a profound lack of detail and transparency in the proposal. How much are they planning on spending on this? Why isn't that in the proposal? Where is the detail. Etc.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Also, it's not just for the library to produce podcasts and videos. A library media lab would be open to the public. Information in every form is absolutely a primary library function.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

A quick google search leads one to this:


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Since when is producing podcasts and videos a primary library function? Where can a patron find a listing of the podcasts and videos produced by the library staff and are they available for viewing in the library or at home (if they are allowed to be checked out)?

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

I don't think there's anything in the proposal to indicate that it's going to take "lots of expensive tech". You're right, it probably won't cost that much, but it requires dedicated space.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Isn't that why we pay for the CTN studios? Podcasts and video don't have to be produced with lots of expensive tech. That's part of the beauty of it. Maybe Library media production should be merged with CTN's...

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

The library produces podcasts and videos. A media production lab is pretty standard in a lot of public buildings that work in different mediums.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

maybe these officials should spend some time in the travel section and look at the greater than 50 yr old buildings [churches/museums/homes and more] that people visit/enjoy and cherish every day all across the globe. Things can be done with what exists to get closer to some of the goals. The all or nothing arguement which puts forth an expensive tear down and build new, is unfair:I'm voting many more articles will we have in the next 10-12 days?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

Ms. Rodgers - Ask the children that walk or bike to the branch library if they would go downtown instead. Then ask their parents. Also with the main library closed for 2 years - 24 months - two full school years - expect that the branches will see an even bigger load.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

mtlaurel, your argument that the Traverwood branch is 'too small' (or will soon be) is exactly why we need a robust downtown branch. A downtown branch serves as an anchor institution to the physical surroundings and to its library system. The library buildings all don't need to provide exactly the same functions but we need one central building that can provide space for robust programming. That's the focus of this building and it can't provide that right now. I'm voting YES.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

as far as" amazing " a visitor there at different times of day/eve and you can quickly gather how soon the space will become too small. The seating outside the computer zone is often completely occupied. For what was spent on the naturalistic beams and materials, a smarter choice could have been to look at seating availability/arrangement/overall sq footage. I'm not too impressed with "amazing"


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

I would agree if the current building had been built well. Most of the grand old libraries of ages past were built to last for centuries. Even the architects of this library have said the School System cheeped out when they built it. The 50s weren't exactly an inspiring era for municipal architecture. Now that the AADL is not part of the Public School System, they've built 3 amazing branches, and I have total confidence they'll do something similarly amazing downtown.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

"If the bond proposal passes, library leaders plan to spend the next year soliciting public input and planning what the next library would look like. Once the designs are in place, construction could take about 18 to 27 months, said Library Board President Margaret Leary." And how much money did the Law School lose when it was chasing Italian architect Renzo Piano for a new library building? Lots of trips to Italy for "consultations," etc.

Margaret Leary

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Although I see no connection between the Law School's hiring Renzo Piano (who came up with an impressive plan) and the AADL project, I am qualified to respond to this because I was involved in the Law School project. It was not for a new library building: it was for a building to hold the functions now in the new South Hall. The AADL will continue involving the public in its planning (as it did with three public forums this summer).


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

Eh, I've read over these proposals with an open mind, and I'm with those who see this library as failing to provide enough *marginal benefit* for the price. No question a new library would be "great," especially for those who really want it. However, I just think the money could be better spent (or, here's a shocker, *not spent*) elsewhere. I'll be voting no.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Many of the often asked questions about this project are addressed both by the library and the Our New Library campaign. I encourage everyone to look to these two pages for many of the Frequently Asked Questions:

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

One thing missing from this article is an indication of the range of community support this library has. Supporters of the proposal are as diverse as it gets: - The Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce - Carolyn Grawi, Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living - Ingrid Sheldon, Former Mayor of Ann Arbor - Ray Detter, Historical Preservationist - Rich Sheridan, Menlo Innovations - Russ Collins, CEO Michigan Theater - Ali Ramlawi, Owner Jerusalem Garden - Albert Berriz, McKinley Real Estate - Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's - Robb Woulfe, Ann Arbor Summer Festival - Stewart Nelson, Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and City Council Candidate Among many many more here: I believe that most voters in Ann Arbor realize the necessity of a world-class library in a town like Ann Arbor that is focused on education, imagination, and progress.

Stupid Hick

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

AADL is a great asset to our community and a new main branch would make it even more awesome.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

Between them, and all their rich friends, they should be able to self-fund it, if it is THAT important to them. It is not important to me, at this point in time, so I will still be voting NO!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

Proponents of any project have many diverse reasons for expressing support for it and many reasons can have nothing to do with objective benefits to the community. I can look at a number of names on Peter Baker's list and imagine self-serving reasons for backing a new library. We need to understand the definitions of "world-class" in reference to the library (The New York City Library is a world-class library but Ann Arbor does not need one of that size or fame). Furthermore, we need to define other terms including "education, imagination and progress" as related to our library.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Well, sure. Even MY support has conditions; that the library be open, trustworthy and efficient, listen to community feedback, and don't screw over Jerusalem Garden. So far, they've indicated that all of these things will be taken to heart.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Read carefully what Mr. Ali Ramlawi said in his statement, it was not full support, it had conditions. No one else is close enough to the library that their business functions might be disrupted.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

And I'm guessing that those in opposition are just as diverse. So what?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.

No to a cafe, theater, and play area. We already have really nice cafes, theaters and parks!

Ryan Burns

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

The AADL has amazing programs, and downtown library in need of more capacity and capability. They have a track record of designing three beautiful and green branches within schedule and budget, in fact within their operating millage. This resource is so important for all of us and ensuring that it improves and innovates is essential to this community. I'm super excited about this project.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

Mr. Burns - travel to any of those libraries at between 4:30 and 6 PM and tell me they are functional for the load they carry. The branches are undersized for the post school time period, and poorly laid out for the load they carry. Pretty - maybe - functional - not


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

they have a track record of designing buildings that do not meet the needs that they are looking to address now.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

"It's just like having a car that's 50 years old," Serras said. "It might run, but you're just throwing money into it." Since when is a building = to a car? Should we then tear down the churches and cathedrals? They are all over 50 years old? How about the Michigan Theater? It is more than 50 Years old? Most of the UofM Central campus buildings are more than 50 years old. The AADL did NOT look at a pure renovation of the existing structure. Every scenario in their report includes tearing down at least part of the existing building. This mentality of "the city got a new building, the school district got a new building, a new building...we should be next" has got to go.

average joe

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Don, Don't forget the most sacred building in town. It's on the corner of Stadium & Main.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

nicely stated DonBee. I believe you.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Mr Harrison - Having been given the tour, I can tell you from professional experience there would be very little needed to fix the electrical system, beyond pulling wires from existing locations and replacing them with larger wires and distributed breaker panels. No core sawing required. Faster internet is easy as well - in today's world is it called wireless - and that opens more space for electrical wires. The cost to do the rewiring right, might be as much as $1 million dollars, but since the library discarded this option before any study was done - we don't know. Fixing the electrical issues are easy, there are two dozen professional sites on the web with information on how it is done. Hundreds, if not thousands of civic buildings have taken advantage of these techniques. A 30 year bond - to run when the last bond still has not been completely paid off to raise $130 million dollars (this includes interest, financing and other charges that the supporters avoid talking about - the real cost of the library) to fix a $1 million dollar problem is DUMB. If this is the only problem - bad wiring - it can and should be fixed. I know at least 3 area companies with the expertise to do this at night - and mostly avoid any disruption to the library services, it takes careful planning - but it can be done with very little disruption. High velocity ducts for air conditioning (with large defusers to reduce the "breeze") can carry 4 to 10 times the air in less space then most conventional ducts and be more energy efficient because of room to insulate. Insulation of existing cinder block walls is also now easy and cheap to do, again something that can be done at night with little distruption to the daily routine of the library. The technology exists and local firms are good with it. I don't buy your "tear it down is the only option" no other option has been explored.

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

That's because to actually renovate the current building requires major infrastructure work. You want many of the electric outlets working again? We're talking core sawing. Improved lighting? More computers and faster internet? The conduits can't accommodate any more. To properly renovate the current building means significantly tearing into it. It would costs nearly as much as rebuilding and we'd be left with a far inferior facility. The AADL's one of the most respected civic and cultural organizations in our region. They have a great track record of building our 3 great satellite branches and strong fiscal management. They have proposed rebuilding the downtown library to better serve our community, including many who depend on its free services. A library is not a luxury. The AADL has proven itself to provide us with tremendous value for our tax dollars.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

One idea could be to build a new building on the parking lot location where the old YMCA once stood and house the Ann Arbor News collection and a few other functions. A bridge from the second floor could be done. This could cost much, much less than $65,000,000 (count those zeros) Once something else is built there, this option is gone foreve

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

Jim, that is addressed directly by the library here: "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 build-able 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 the AADL will 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. "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.

Ryan Burns

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

This would require more staff for the library to operate, because the building would then consist of 3 separate collections of floor plates that all require staff to monitor for service and safety. Building on the current site allows a floor plan with open lines of sight which will allow fewer staff per sq ft than the current building, and a larger building with similar staffing levels as today. It also wouldn't fix many of the deficiencies with the current building.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

"It's just like having a car that's 50 years old," Serras said. "It might run, but you're just throwing money into it." Buildings and cars are not the same. I will be voting no as will my wife. I will encourage my adult children to vote no as well.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 10:45 a.m.

Wrong, her home only needs to be over 21 ears old, as this is the ave of half of the library

average joe

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

I wonder how old Ellie Serras's home is; If over 50, I would assume she will be demolishing it also....

Jim Osborn

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

The present downtown library should be kept. Most of the reasons are either false, or empire building, at my expense. It "is past its prime and should be demolished" Using that logic, so should the Michigan Union and Hill Auditorium, or the Michigan Theater. Josie is so wrong. Half of the library is only 21 years old, for heavens sake. If the library board were serious about quiet reading spaces, why did they allow three branches to be built w/o any? This is a false argument.. . "…the building has inadequate capabilities for meeting patron needs for safe, quiet reading space…" I laughed when I read this, since none of the new branch libraries have this either. They all have an open design so staff can see everyone; there are no nooks to hide. To make things worse, the Pittsfield branch has a classroom in the center that disrupts things. Just in case it is not noisy enough, they have a kid's contraption that sends an object to the ceiling, making noise as it descends. The board seems to think that Ann Arbor has a shortage of auditoriums to have meetings. Instead of taxing me to build the U of M and then have its halls sit unused in the evenings, for the occasional event, UM has a wide selection. Or, the Michigan Theater is a wonderful option, and if it they receive a fee of $500 to $1,000 or so, this helps support a great old building and is far less expensive than $65,000,000 Count those zeros.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:15 p.m.

I beg to differ Mr. Harrison - Mr Dow, a wonderful architect drew the plans for the original part of the library. Next time you are in the library, take a good look at how it is laid out and understand the master plan in that part. I would be more inclined to vote yes if the library were smart enough to save that piece, but they are not, and the supporters don't recognize what they have in this part of the library.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

Jim Osborn - The motivation for building a new library is incestuous, coming from library staff and especially its executives. Until the idea of replacing the library was placed before the public recently I did know that the library is dysfunctional. Certainly no articles appeared at complaining of the inadequacies of the downtown library. At recent informational meetings sponsored by executives of the library, the library board and the Ann Arbor Friends of the Library, Josie Parker announced that on only eleven occasions last year did the 135-person capacity lower level meeting room have overflow attendance. And the overflow for at least one event was accommodated in another meeting room within the library (with closed circuit TV coverage I assume). The advancement in technology does not require enhancements at the library and probably allows many library patrons to obtain their resources outside the library, in their homes and at the many WIFI hot spots throughout the city. Voters must determine if they want their downtown library to be transformed into a civic meeting building because the 400-seat auditorium is most important element in the new library, at least for library executives. But if the primary purpose of the new library is to provide much more meeting space and all other improvements are less consequential then the new building should be presented to the public as a community center with library functions.

Donald Harrison

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1 p.m.

It makes good sense to keep investing in buildings that are either architecturally inspiring or functioning well. The current downtown building is neither. The front section was built in 1958, the back 2 floors in 1974 and then 2 more floors were on top of that in 1991 (mostly administrative space built when AAPS ran the library). The deficiencies of this cobbled together facility are extensive and the costs to operate, maintain or try to upgrade it are wasteful. Rebuilding would provide our community with a much more accessible, efficient, comfortable and technology-ready main library, with more room for youth programs, study areas, lectures, hands-on activities, archives, specialty tools, high speed internet and browsing the majority of AADL's growing collection of books and physical materials. We're fortunate the AADL has a great track record of building the 3 new satellite branches, all on time, within budget and ecologically sensitive. I just went on a bike tour of these new branches a few days ago and saw quiet reading rooms at each location (completely full of patrons, I might add). Keep in mind, these branches are 10% the size (or less) of a new downtown library, which serves as the heart of the AADL system and host to the most visitors, materials, training and events. The downtown library also serves as an important partner for many social services, schools and area non-profits. As for an auditorium, AADL regularly goes over capacity with a poorly equipped basement multipurpose room. There are terrible sight lines for any type of movie or projected presentation. Going off-site for events is not a wise long-term strategy, as the costs to coordinate with other facilities go well beyond their rental rates (which usually go well beyond $1,000) and are based on limited availability (eg., Michigan Theater already has 365 days/year programming).

Jim Osborn

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Another reason for the library is to have yet another restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. The private sector seems to do this quite well, and I do not need to be taxed to have yet another.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Ryan Burns - A "cafe" is a restaurant. By the way, the Traverwood branch library has a vending machine that provides (among other specialty coffees) an excellent tasting vanilla coffee for 50 cents (the large size costs 75 cents).


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

I'm pretty sure he'd still have to pay for his own coffee.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

And, you want to tax ME to help pay for YOUR coffee. Nice.

Ryan Burns

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

I for one would love to be able to get a coffee and browse the stacks. A cafe isn't a restaurant.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

...with intelligent voters VOTING NO!! Just because something is "on sale" doesn't mean we can afford it. The TOTAL cost will be OVER $65,000,000. Bad for the environment There are several other 400 seat facilities with 1 mile to use/rent for less than $65,000,000 wireless tech anyone? The library is not a hang-out or child care facility. The data is faulty until I see how ebooks change the numbers.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

Mr Rodgers - I don't expect there to be wings and curtains in this auditorium, I could be wrong because there are no plans yet. If there are wings and curtains, then this auditorium should be about 14,000 square feet in size, based on averages from the best national construction database, or about 9 percent of the finished building.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Ryan - library "use" includes downloading ebooks for your kindle; something Ann Arbor does not need a $65 million facility to provide service for.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

WildSwan Theater continues to look for space to put on their plays. With more departments at the university putting on productions, performance space is becoming more limited. This isn't a matter of WANT more a matter of NEED. I vote YES.

Ryan Burns

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

The kindle was released 5 years ago and library use has been increasing.

Albert Howard

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:44 a.m.

Let's be patient & wait. Spent several hours @ the AAPL last week. The original ambience will never be captured in a new building. LOL= Love Our Library

Dave DeVarti

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

Peter: After reading several of your comments I am wondering if you even actually use the downtown branch of the Library. If you do, can you tell me what exactly you find inadequate about the current library? I use the library fairly regularly. It is a comfortable place to peruse magazines,browse for art books, etc. My daughter has regularly had several books and movies checked out at a time. We almost always use the downtown library, but have found the other branches to be very useful as well. Peter, what exactly have you been unable to do with the very successful Library System that this community has created with the support of a generous annual millage? I am very proud of the tremendous Library we have and I respect the staff that works hard on behalf of the community of Library users, but I will be voting NO on this over-priced unnecessary bond issue.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

Wait for what? The entire operating budget to be sunk in to maintaining a building that isn't allowing the library to operate at it's full potential?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.

There are a lot of Vote No signs around town. Interestingly, most are in yards that also have signs for Obama and things like Vote Yes on Prop 2 (collective bargaining). It appears that many of Ann Arbor's liberals and lefties (that includes me, btw) have seen through the library's transparent rationale for the new building.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

I think anyone could do the math on this and smell a rat at the same time. Like walking and chewing gum.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

@ Ryan: There is most definitely a partisan split when it comes to support for public educational activities. Dems, especially liberal leaning ones, are most likely to back them. Conservatives, especially the reactionary tea party element, are more likely to oppose. What I find interesting on the new library vote is the extent to which the traditional split has broken down. More specifically, indications that a lot of Dems are planning to vote no. I base this not just on the large number of no signs I've seen in yards that also support Dem candidates/causes, but in discussions with friends, most of them liberals.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

I do not view the library bond issue as involving political partisanship.

Ryan Burns

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

I don't think there is a partisan preference for educational resources. My neighbor has a yes on prop 2 sign, an Obama sign, and a YES on the library sign. But that shouldn't sway you because it's completely anecdotal.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

...and there is hope afterall for A2 ;-) Thanks for voting no northside!!

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:37 a.m.

Serras and Parker were on board with the 'coference center' next door on the 'library lot' parking and the 400 seat 'auditorium' is a backdoor way to make that happen. Parker also whinned that the Westside postage stamp branch in its cramped rented strip mall space couldn't be replaced because land was just too 'expensive' on the westside. We need to stick with expanding the branch locations, renovate the current space and keep the DDA and Mayor from hijacking the library process for their own business as usual. We've had enough blank checks for City officials who are only concerned about downton and nowhere else in this city.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

We do not need a new downtown library. Vote no.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:26 a.m.

I think part of the problem with this proposal, fairly or not, is that it's coming right after and right next to the $50,000,000 parking lot fiasco. A lot that wasn't needed, cost a ton, and disrupted local businesses.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

I think Veracity is on to the real reason behind this project.

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

Fifth STREET was never closed because the underground parking structure was built on Fifth AVENUE. Fifth AVENUE is also about to see more disruption for the construction of the new, and also unecessary Blake Transit Center project.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Can't wait to see what the DDA finds to initiate or support at that point.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

The DDA has to pay for servicing the library parking structure bond issue which may amount to $5 million a year. Unfortunately, parking fees and area TIF payments, which provide revenue for the DDA, have been insufficient to cover servicing the library bond issue and all other DDA expenses. The DDA's reserve fund will be depleted in the next couple of years and then the DDA will have to find new revenue either from a millage or a city income tax or it will become insolvent. The DDA can not become insolvent and continue to exist so it may face disbandment in a couple years with its obligations passing on to the city.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

The city is the only governing body in control of the streets. They can close them whenever they want. The library board doesn't have that kind of control.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

That's what you keep saying, but where did you hear that? From a construction engineer orfsome sort? Or is that just your observation/opinion?

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

Fifth street was closed because they were tunneling under the street. Building a library doesn't require tunneling under a street.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

He has a CONDITIONAL statement of support contingent on his business not being disrupted, which remains to be seen. As far as your claims of 5th being closed or not, do you have anything to back that up, or is that just a layman's opinion? I notice that the other regular pro-library commenters use the same argument, so it would be nice to know if there is anything objective behind it.

Ryan Burns

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

I can see how people might think that. However, the parking lot was not a library project. The AADL is a separate entity with a history of fiscal responsibility and on-time projects. Also, 5th was closed because they were tunnelling under it, which won't be the case here. Ali from Jerusalem Garden has a statement of support up at

Chip Reed

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:19 a.m.

"Right now, it's like the community is punishing the library staff...". Is it just me, or is Ms. Serras being just a teensy bit insulting?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

"punishing the library staff??" Non-endorsers of this vote are not punishing the staff. The log of employees/their activities/salaries/etc is not what the public is focusing on. Makes me think the planners of this have these issues as part of the mix. A good library staff with a good skills/experience and paid appropriately is what we all expect-but do you expect extra embellishments in some way out of this plan?? Very odd.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

I've been to that library many times this month and I can tell you the staff are not working in 3rd world conditions.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

I agree with her. Do we want our library staff putting more time and effort into trying to maintain and workaround a dysfunctional building or do we want them to put time and effort into providing apt, thoughtful, and engaging services and resources for our community? I'm voting YES.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:35 a.m.

And her comparison of building's aging to a car is ridiculous. If that's true then we need to replace all buildings every 10-15 years.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:16 a.m.

We don't need a new Library. Vote No.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Canada will pay for the entire bridge. There won't be any U.S. taxpayer money. Canada would recoup their cost by collecting all the tolls for a few years, but we don't get the tolls anyway. Now the private owner gets the tolls. With the new bridge built by Canada, we would get money from tolls later (something we won't get from a private owner).


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.

I agree. But we do need a new bridge. Vote no on 6.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:16 a.m.

There was an interesting question posted on the library site to the effect of "Will all the borrowed money go to building the new library, or will some be siphoned off and funneled to the DDA". The answer isn't exactly clear (never a good sign), but it seems like, yes, some of the $65M would actually be taken by the DDA. Can anyone explain this? Any idea how much for the money the DDA would take? The comment is here: It's about 4 comments down.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

I wonder how much of the "urgent need" for this project is being fueled by insiders wanting to keep the DDA fat? I'm assuming the DDA will make nothing if the current library simply gets renovated? Is that the case? I don't know the answer..


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

As I understand the DDA gets 1% of of millage revenue though I would hope that the library's status as a non-profit might insulate it from such a gorging ($650,000 to DDA based on $65 million bond issue). The DDA is unlikely to give the library millage an exemption since the DDA is facing insolvency in the next couple of years and money from the library millage may reduce this possibility, although I doubt it.

Margaret Leary

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

The answer is clear but not simple: some of the tax revenue generated if the bond passes will go to the DDA, and that this is not under the AADL's control. All tax revenue generated within the DDA's geographic is subject to capture as "tax increment financing." At you can learn more: The site says: "TIF is derived from taxes generated by new building construction in the DDA District since 1982. This is not a special assessment; rather, these are tax revenues created by new development that are then directed into downtown purposes. The A2 DDA TIF is fairly unique among Michigan DDAs as it does not include tax increases created by property value escalation or by inflation. Thus, as the Ann Arbor DDA works to generate increased economic activity in the downtown, one of the important offshoot benefits is tax revenue growth through increased valuations of downtown real and personal property. " The AADL ballot proposal specifically includes language to let voters know about this. This is out of AADL's control as it is set up under Michigan state statutes and City of Ann Arbor ordinances.

Linda Peck

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

This is news to me and thank you for pointing this out, thorj97. I am voting no and will still vote no, but the fact that this has not been brought up before here in this news blog is interesting to me. It seems to be an important item to know.