You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Group forms in opposition to $65M bond proposal for new downtown Ann Arbor library

By Ryan J. Stanton

A grass-roots group calling itself Protect Our Libraries has formed in opposition to the bond proposal for a new downtown Ann Arbor library.

The group plans to campaign leading up to the Nov. 6 election to defeat the proposal, said Kathy Griswold, a former Ann Arbor school board member and the group's treasurer.

The Protect Our Libraries group filed paperwork with the Washtenaw County Clerk's Office late last week to form an official campaign committee. Another group called Our New Downtown Library filed paperwork back in July to form a committee supporting the library's proposal.


The Ann Arbor District Library is asking voters to approve $65 million in bonds for construction of a new downtown library, demolishing and replacing the current one at Fifth and William.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The Ann Arbor District Library is asking voters to approve $65 million in bonds for construction of a new downtown library, demolishing and replacing the current one at Fifth and William.

The estimated millage to be levied to pay off the bond is 0.56 mills. That would cost the owner of a home with a $200,000 market value and a $100,000 taxable value about $56 per year.

"It's very expensive to the average taxpayer with only a marginal benefit," argued Griswold, who was one of the leaders behind the Citizens for Responsible School Spending group, which worked to defeat a Washtenaw Intermediate School District millage in 2009.

Griswold said more information about the Protect Our Libraries campaign will come out later this week, and the group will have a website at

Griswold served as campaign manager this year for Sumi Kailasapathy, who is set to join the Ann Arbor City Council in November. Kailasapathy told on Monday she's not a member of the Protect Our Libraries group and didn't feel comfortable commenting on the issue.


Kathy Griswold

David Cahill, who served on the library board from 2000 to 2008 and is the husband of City Council Member Sabra Briere, said he'll be actively working with the group to defeat the library bond proposal.

"The proposed new downtown library would cost about $130 million after the financing cost is included," he said, factoring in interest on the debt. "The new library would provide only marginal benefits to the public. It is not worth the expense in these financially difficult times."

Library officials argue the current building has insufficient meeting space for community events and large presentations, and no space for children's programming and services that reflect the needs of contemporary families and students.

Among the 10 items library officials note are possible with a new building is a 400-seat auditorium to comfortably accommodate the crowds that the library's lectures, movies, discussions and performances bring to downtown.

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
  • An array of meeting spaces that can simultaneously accommodate events that range from messy, hands-on programs to formal public assemblies
  • 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

Local voters approved the establishment of the district library in 1994, at the same time approving a 2-mill levy in perpetuity to fund library operations. Due to Headlee limitations, the library is allowed to levy up to 1.92 mills right now, and it's levying only 1.55 mills at the moment.

Library officials theoretically could increase the levy up to 1.92 mills without a vote of the people, but they say the 0.37-mill increase — about $1.6 million in annual revenue — would not be enough to fund the kind of library they want to build.

Members of the Our New Downtown Library group include Ellie Serras, Mike Allemang, Sally Allen, Janis Bobrin, Leah Gunn, Debbie Herbert, Norman Herbert, Pat McDonald, Paul Morel, Omari Rush, Paul Saginaw, Ingrid Sheldon, Robin Wax, Peter Baker and Donald Harrison.

Gunn, a former librarian who is both a county commissioner and chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, spoke about her support for a new downtown library in a recent interview with in which she called the current building a disgrace.

"That building is a disgrace and people say, 'Oh, it's fine. We love it. We use it.' Well, it was poorly designed to start with, it just doesn't work anymore," she said. "And a library is more than a place to store books. It's programs. It's computers. It needs electrical upgrades. It needs everything."

Gunn noted library officials have done a thorough analysis and came to the conclusion that it was not worth it to try and renovate the current building.

"It would just be too messy. Too expensive," she said. "It's cheaper and much better to build a new modern library, so that's why I'm active on that campaign committee."

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.


glenn thompson

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Let's remember approximately one half of the present library was built in the 1990?s. The rest was extensively remodeled at same time. We are talking about demolishing a building that is mostly 20 years old. Think how enjoyable Main Street would be if we demolished all the buildings even 100 years old and replaced them with new buildings like the Municipal center and its public art. Can the citizens of Ann Arbor afford the taxes to keep replacing public buildings that are only a few decades old? How old is your house? The proposed new building is is not about embracing electronic media and the internet, in fact it is the opposite. It is about a large auditorium when more and more conferences are now electronic web casts. The library director and the board of directors have refused to even cablecast their board meetings even though the board room is the best audio and camera wired public room in Ann Arbor. A new building with the same people in charge will not change this. The building model with large a large auditorium and meeting rooms is more a conference center than a library. A conference center that the private sector would not build on the lot next to the library without public subsidy because it was not profitable. A conference center that the public was unwilling to pay taxes to build, so now it our library wants to build the same facilities under tax disguised as a library bond proposal. Remember, building a new library will require demolishing the existing building. The downtown library will not exist for a year or more. Will the patrons return, or will they discover the internet at home or at the branch libraries? Money spent for auditoriums used a few times a year will diminish children's programs and other traditional library programs. I believe the opposition is correct in their slogan "Protect our Library".


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Seems like the AADL could put some money down and make payments like the rest of us. The following is from the June 2012 minutes of the AADL meeting. Associate Director Nieman reported April showed unrestricted cash balance just over $9.7 million. Tax receipts just over $10.9 million, reflecting 98% of the budgeted amount, have been received. The Fund Balance reflects just over $8.1 million. Two line items are over budget, but will come back into line later in the year.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

I'd also like to point out that the Ann Arbor District Library has already won a Library of the Year award (1997) and has been a national leader in public library services, programming, and collections. Unfortunately, once you get an award like this, it doesn't mean you can quit working hard to serve your public. Public libraries are leading the charge in sustainable buildings, but unfortunately our downtown branch is in mighty need of renovations (heating/cooling, infrastructure (both physical and computing), ADA compliance, safety, space allocation are just a few areas in need of improvement). Folks might want to look at some national public library trends across the country and in communities both better or worse off than Ann Arbor is:


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

The present building is fine... in these troubled times it is ridiculous to squeeze more money out of the taxpayers.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

You know if they had done this at the same time as the library lot big dig, I might have been able to get behind it, but not now. Not when the area is just returning to normal for the local businesses. Herb David and others close to the library deserve a couple years without a major construction project closing roads and tearing up the neighborhood. This is also another "nickel and dime" millage - there are at least 7 that are coming this year from the one that passed for AAPS technology to the county wide enhancement millage (try #2) to the AATA millage to...take your pick. give me a choice to fund an infrastructure upgrade to the existing building and I will vote yes in a heart beat. Wait 3 years and I will vote yes. Right now the answer is no.

Stephen Landes

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

Here we go with piecemeal "planning" for downtown when a comprehensive look is required. The Library folks are looking at their own little piece of the world and thinking that they need to have all these features to serve what they perceive as the needs of the community. DDA is also looking at adjacent property for private development. What would really make sense is to fold in the future needs for library facilities into a comprehensive downtown plan. My proposal is that the current library be torn down and the entire footprint area of the new garage and the existing library be considered for commercial development. Within that development we should specify that the AADL will lease a specific number of square feet for narrow library purposes and wishes to have other facilities in the commercial structure that they can rent on an as-needed basis. If we specify the kinds of space we are looking for we may well be able to get someone else to build it. For example, if we believe a 400 seat theater is needed and we are able to attract someone to build a conference facility on the larger piece of property that facility could include an auditorium, meeting rooms, etc. In this scenario the construction would be financed by private investors with a guarantee of a cornerstone tenant. Such an arrangement could be attractive to investors. Before we decide to borrow $65 million and pay all of that plus interest we should at least investigate a private investor alternative.

Jon Saalberg

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

If the city can rationalize building an unneeded $50M parking deck, how can we not support upgrading a facility that is used by the majority of Ann Arbor residents? And I wish people would stop saying they don't want it because their taxes are "too high". Compared to what? It is meaningless to say your taxes are too high unless you have some benchmark that you consider to be just right, taxwise.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Above, I used the benchmark of long time Ann Arbor residents whose property taxes are now higher each year than their mortgage payments for the year were. Should we push people out of their homes because we want a new building instead of retrofitting the existing building (that doesn't seem to old to people over 50)? It reminds me of the congregations of St. Clares Episcopal Church and Temple Beth Emeth (sharing a building) shunning having an "edifice complex."


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Here's a little history about spending for the AADL (Ann Arbor District Library) after it separated from being considered part of the school district. First, remember that the library was considered and funded as part of the school district until about 15 years ago (I may not be exact about the number of years). Second, remember the fiasco about lack of oversight of accounting during the early years of the AADL (after changing to AADL from AAPL or Ann Arbor Public Library). That was costly to taxpayers and hurt the ability of AADL to spend money on other needs. That's a little bit of history that many may not know.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

Do Ann Arbor citizens realize the size of $65 million? Let us put it into perspective: The Ann Arbor Municipal Building cost $50 million. The proposed 12 story 150 room Valiant Partners luxury hotel that could have been built next to the library would have cost $50 million. The Ashley Terrace building was built with a $20 million loan. Has anyone seen an artist's rendition of what the actual $65 million library will look like? Has anyone seen a detailed listing of expenses that will add up to $65 million? Is the interior planned to include gold leaf walls and ceilings? Will the building challenge the New York City library or the Library of Congress in square footage? Peter Baker has not provided the details that justify the size of the requested bond issue even if everyone were to agree on the need for a library replacement? By the way, the major contribution of a new library as described and defended by Peter Baker is to provide meeting space that would have been provided by the Valiant Partners hotel and conference center for which the library would have had a shared usage agreement (see the original RFP).


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

WE need to be careful about adding to property taxes. It's not a pay once situation. Each millage continues for a certain number of years. There are long time Ann Arbor residents, especially among seniors who are earning next to nothing on their life's savings, who are paying more in annual property taxes than their annual mortgages were. Piling one millage after another onto property taxes could price some people out of their homes. It's necessary to pay for police and fire protection and for education in property taxes. It is NOT necessary to replace a structurally sound building built 40+ years ago. It's like someone replacing a house instead of replacing kitchen appliances. I don't know if there is less use of the downtown library than there was a few years ago, but if so, here are some variables to consider: 1. With the lovely, newer branches, are fewer people going to the downtown library? 2. Are more people accessing information on-line at home? 3. Did construction of the underground parking garage discourage people from going to the downtown library? Will these people return to the downtown library or are they satisfied with branches, etc.? Frankly, I don't think the taxpayers of the city of Ann Arbor should be saddled with the costs of constructing a new downtown library building when the current building can be retrofitted to meet all reasonable needs.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

Oh, and for meeting events, don't forget they're putting a nice nig one of those meeting rooms in the new bus station that we already got fleeced for. You know, the bus station right across the sreet from the library, the one they're going to tear down and build up again? That one will apparently have the big meeting space you're all concerned about getting. In case you still don't know the new bus station I'm talking about, it's rigth across from the library, next to where they tore down the YMCA and are now making interest only payments on the land with no clear plan for it. Across from the $154 million underground parking structure.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.

Library usage is up because of the remote sites. I haven't been to the downtown library in forever. It was way too inconvenient and I had to pay for parking. Now I can order my books online and pick them up at the Pittsfiled branch which is close to my home. The downtown site should be maintained but any expansion should be outside downtown where peoole can actually get to the library.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

Substitute "Mallet's" for "Pittsfield" and that could be my comment!


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

Oh, so library officials have done a thorough analysis and decided we need to levy a new tax to tear it down and build a new one for them? Well, there you have it. Every person I speak to about this desire to build a brand new library thinks it's insane for anyone to build a new library in this day and age. Top that with the bad economy and being taxed out of minds already. Then I tell them how they actually want to tear the existing one down in order to do it. Then they tell me something along the lines of how glad they are they didn't get a house in Ann Arbor (and more often than not cite the already-high property taxes). I also read through the plea for this when it was reported earlier. I saw a lot of talk about a leaky room where the air conditions, or furnaces or whatever are kept. That was about the most convincing they had. A leaky room. Then I went and walked around every publicly-available space in this building. It all looks quite fine and has QUITE A BIT OF ROOM, folks. I encourage EVERYONE to go walk around in there; go to all the floors, and just walk around. Take a look. Kick the tires. Seems just fine to me. Look, I like the library. I think it's great. I use it a lot. They do not need a new building.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

At least the Library Board has the decency to put this on the November ballot, instead of hiding it in an off cycle election like the school tech bond and the county-wide transit proposal. Still, I will be voting NO, my taxes are high enough. In fact, I would say Ann Arbor leads the state in high taxation and low respresentation.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Good post!

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

Just to make sure people don't dismiss this as a typical liberal tax & spend scheme, the Our New Library campaign has received statements of support from many leaders in Ann Arbor, among them: Albert Berriz, McKinley Real Estate Ingrid Sheldon, former mayor (R) of Ann Arbor Carolyn Grawi, Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living Steve Dobson, Dobson-McOmber Insurance Agency Russell B. Collins, CEO, Michigan Theater Paul N. Courant, Professor of Economics and Information, University of Michigan Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's Community of Businesses Peter Allen, Peter Allen & Associates ... and many others.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Maybe we need to start collecting signatures on petitions from people who don't think it's a good idea to build a new downtown library building.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

This sounds like the biggest reason they want to spend "MY MONEY" "An environmentally sound, comfortable, efficient structure accessible to all" Go Digital or Go Home!


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

If David Cahill is against it, I am for it.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

I fully support the proposal to build a new downtown library. I rely on the downtown branch for meeting spaces, access to my books and media, to attend events and to access computer equipment when I don't have my own with me (even though I'm a U-M employee). I especially like these two points on vision for the new library: "An accessible downtown location for AADL's Local History collections, specifically the collection from The Ann Arbor News" and "An environmentally sound, comfortable, efficient structure that is accessible to all" ( These things are not available to us as citizens in the library's current building.

Brian McClatchey

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

If you go to Europe, you can see buildings 300 years and they can keep them up to date, add modern HVAC, modern electrical systems and keep the old. Why does this country like to discard everything like it is a disposable Bic lighter? I really think that the current library could be used efficiently, but I do not know that we need a cafe as there are so many cafes and coffee houses in walking distance that we do not need municipal buildings competing with our merchants. I do not think we need a childrens play area as it may be better to take your children to a PARK....and let them play in a place that is appropriate. A library is not a play area and children really need to learn boundaries. It is absolutely wasteful to tear down a sound building to put up a replacement.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

I forgot to mention that the Vision document ( states: "The work that was done in 2007/2008 included a thorough review of many options that had been brought forward by staff and consultants. ... It was determined through construction cost modeling that the renovation option cost would save less than 10% of the cost of a new facility." It might make sense to do an expensive reno with a 300 year old landmark even if it was not economical.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

As far as I know the 'cafe' would be rented out to a private operator, so it's not really a case of public buildings competing with merchants. Part of the new library vision is a separate children's area that wouldn't disturb patrons in the reading room. My experience of the children's activities in the current building is "crowded", but more than that I just object to this idea that 'learning' and 'playing' are two separate activities. Just this Saturday I took my daughter to a barn raising at AADL Pittsfield branch ( where a 1/4 scale timber frame barn was assembled in the multipurpose room, mostly by 7-12 year olds. It was just a phenomenal event. They were learning history, they were using their hands, and they were working together. When I arrived an 11 year old explained to us the intricate details of the timber frame construction we had missed with enough command that I asked if he was part of the crew holding the event. "Nope," he said, "this is my first barn raising."

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Europe often spends MORE on updating 300 year old building than would be necessary to build new. If the downtown library was 300 years old and architecturally and historically significant, I'd be all for it.

David Cahill

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

Much of the present building is scarcely 20 years old. It was added in 1990, and the older parts were renovated then.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

Thanks for reminding us. Yes, the downtown library was so different then. That's an argument for sticking to internal changes instead of replacing the building.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

We have a great library but it is time for it to change to ebooks and magazines which takes less space then books and hard magazines and newspapers. So the existing building should be just fine for renovation into the new library. What I don't like and oppose is the use of millage to do any work. Less then half of Ann Arbor is taxable because of the Universtiy and other institutions and the City continuing to buy green space. It is time for an income tax to spread the responsibility to every income earner including those who live outside of Ann Arbor. I oppose all millages not because I oppose taxes but I believe everyone earning an income should help pay for everything that a millage supports. This also puts the burden on people who are working and have an income. Library changes yes but millage no.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

UM is only spending 60M to renovate a whole big dormitory. I'd like to see a breakdown of the cost the library proposes. And where did they get those figures.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

I'm not sure how those compare. Do you know what kind of renovations they are doing to the dorm? As for the figures and where they got them, the library board has already gone through an extensive process of soliciting construction cost estimates from builders, and whatever money is not used in the final building cost will be used to pay down the bond early. It's all on the AADL Director's blog:


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

I have visited family in Arlington Hts., Il and was amazed at the services their multi-story library offers. They have lower floor parking and a drive in attended window for book PICKUP and return with an elevator up to the library levels; a very wide selection of books on all topics. I would like to see Ann Arbor be able to offer the equivalent services. djm


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

Would you also like the commuter train service Arlington Hts. has? These are two different communities. Should we compare branches, etc.? The example of Arlington Hts., Ill. isn't the model for Ann Arbor.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

I think an important concern is that we're in tough economic times right now, and this might not be the best time to make an expenditure for a new library. I'd like to speak to this financial point, and leave aside for the moment the need or uses of a new building. The cost of the library will be spread over 30 years via the bond, and the business cycle will have it's ups and downs in that period, good times and bad. But through those times and beyond we'd have the use of a dynamic and nation leading public library facility. We wouldn't be paying for it all now in the midst of tough times. Indeed, interest rates are at unusual lows right now, so picking this moment to invest is, in my opinion, a very fiscally adept move. If you believe inflation and/or interest rates will be higher in the future then this is a great time to embark on such a project.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

The infrastructure as in HVAC, electrical, and communications I'm sure can be brought up to spec in the existing building for far less. Not all the building is 60 years old. The library does not have to be a meeting center. Another thought... if the current building was in one of Ann Arbor's historic districts, tearing down the old wouldn't be an option.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

Absolutely. Even people not in historic districts don't tear down 54 year old houses and replace them. To a 20 or 30 year old, a 54 year old building may seem ancient, but there are many Ann Arborites who live in houses and buildings 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years old (considered modern) and have not thoughts of tearing down and replacing an edifice.

Jeremy Wheeler

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

The AADL is one of the top forward thinkers on the role of Libraries in the digitial age. If you are on the fence of that particular aspect, a nice place to start is to open yourself up to Associate Director Eli Neiburger's thoughts on the subject in this video on the main branch's new Music Lending Library ( Smart, articulate and inspiring.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

"400-seat auditorium to comfortably accommodate the crowds that the library's lectures, movies, discussions and performances bring to downtown." All of these items will greatly increase the operational cost of the library on an a continual basis(heating, lighting, etc.). Where do those additional costs come from as they will surely be more than the current electrical bill of the library. As well as continually upgrading new and more computers, projectors, air filtration systems every few years. So the cost for a new library is just the beginning. This will in turn create the need for additional staff and maintenance crews. Which in turns creates the need for additional funds every year for healthcare coverage and pensions as well as 2-6% raises in salary yearly. UM has plenty of rent able space to show movies, or have presenters, etc. at a fraction of the cost of building a new facility. It would make much more sense to hold off 6-8 more years and allow alternative energy some more time to mature and then maybe look at having a fully self sustainable library. I'd easily throw $56/year at that. Whats the rush? We just had 2 years of battling construction at that spot, do we want that to continue for another 2 years? If they move ahead with this, will they have to shut down E William in addition to 5th? Here is where local business can really show how capitalism is king. Start up a $1 for $1 program and start raising funds now. Local members and advocates of the Downtown Development Authority can match 1 for 1 every dollar raised to help fund and get the project off the ground. Once that money is raised after an 18 month period, then lets revisit putting on a tax for residents to pay for this. A fancy new building would look nice and be great for the DDA and help their businesses look more attractive, so let's ask them to step up and help out. -just my $.02

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

I think that on the other side of the ledger though, you have the current outdated and convoluted mechanical plant being replaced with much more efficient mechanicals, as well as more sustainable design in general. I don't have any numbers, but I have to think that would more than account for operational costs of the increased space. In terms of personnel, one of the items spoken to in the vision document ( is better sightlines in the building so that a safe environment can be maintained in the larger space with about the same number of staff eyes.

Bob Heinold

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

Talk I have heard: 1) This is a fancy scheme to move the library out of town and away from the homeless. 2)Opposite of #1: Why make it so big--so that more homeless can hang out . 3)I may have missed something, but why not put a new extension over the underground parking? Bob H.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

As for as #3 goes, the city and the library board are separate entities, and the library doesn't own the lot next door, nor do they have any say over what happens there (and vice versa).

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

I'll let the library's own usage statistics answer the questions regarding the worthiness of continuing to have a downtown library: "Over the last 10 years the AADL has seen a 12% growth in usage district wide with 1,792,596 total visits in 2011 including 627,196 just to the downtown location. The downtown location averages over 1,000,000 annual checkouts which is 32% of checkouts district wide. It holds 56% of AADL's total collection. The downtown library supports over 75,000 internet sessions annually. And since 2009 there has been a 21% increase in scheduled use of the meeting rooms by outside organizations. AADL produces over 500 downtown events per year with a total of over 26,000 attendees." We're seeing MORE library usage, not less.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

The increased library usage is from the remote locations and the online catalog. There is no valid reason for most people to go downtown (unless you're within walking doistance) as opposed to using one of the remote sites. Hey, first you do the right thing by building remote locations and then you want a massive expansion in the most inconvenient location possible? Build more remote locations as they're cheaper and better serve the vast majority of customers.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

...and how many of those "check outs" are from online e books... 500 events per year? Love coffee and book Tuesdays...(sarcasms)


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Please post the link to the library stats. I'd love to see a breakdown of this increase and see if it shows the increase in DVD/Blue ray rentals since the closing of Blockbuster and Hollywood video, and if this is the primary contributor to the increase in library usage. I still feel larger events can be accommodated at current event buildings, UM facilities, high school auditoriums, etc. We can literally rent the power center out every day for 6 years and it would cost 3.5 million, saving the city over 60 million from this proposal. Additionally, we now have use of great out door events right next door on top of the new parking garage. A lot of would be events goers can fill space there, and just rent large tents if needed. For meeting rooms, we have 2 almost brand new libraries that can be used for meetings. Or, as mentioned previously, UM libraries. World class facilities at our disposal in our back yard, which additionally are already being funded by our tax dollars. So feel free to utilize them as needed!


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

What is the plan for managing those 627K visits per year for the two years (or more) that the downtown location is closed for reconstruction? Where will the 56% of the total collection be stored, and how accessible will it be? Where will the 75,000 internet sessions be located? And what of the 500 events per year? There must be some interim plan to bridge the gap. Could that not be the basis for the longer-term plan in lieu of a massive expenditure?


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Before I can wrap my mind around the idea of the additional dollars, I am still stuck on the more fundamental question: does a large, centralized "main" library building make sense going forward? Will the kind of use the library experiences still be best served by this model of information delivery? I am sure that there are valid pro- and con- arguments, but I'm not sure that this question is clear. And until it is, spending huge money on what could well be very much the wrong answer is not very smart. The irony of the proposal, as I understand it, is that the central collections, meeting space, and so on are the 'heart' of the system, but yet we'll close down the main library (set the heart on the operating table) for two years, possibly to learn that it is more like tonsils....

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

One of the significant uses of the downtown library is larger events and programs that cannot be accommodated at the smaller branches. Some current programs are very well attended, for instance The Story Collider has been getting held at other downtown locations (at expense) because they can't fit in the multipurpose room anymore. Secondly, the current building is very much designed to warehouse books, it has massive concrete walls that are good at holding mass but difficult to reconfigure and drill for ethernet cabling, etc. From the materials I've seen, a key goal for the new building is one which is more easily reconfigurable for the unpredictable future of libraries than the current building is. Also, there is a plan to keep all services open during construction by utilizing multiple temporary locations for the books, for computer access, for programs etc. They aren't planning to close up shop during construction.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

NOTE NO!! 130 million? What does a new library provide that is worth even half of 130,000,000???? Really, let me know!! There are many many better uses for 130,000,000 of OUR money. There are many, many other places for meetings and programs... And is library use increasing or DECREASING?? Socialism is great, spending other peoples' money... how about 130,000,000 used for: MORE POLICE, LOWER taxes (Gasp!!), Better PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING all the libtards love to complain about... this is nutz, pure nutz...another feather in someone's cap.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

I think the confusion is that the $65 million number is analogous to the purchase price of a house for a 30 year mortgage, and the $130 million number is someone estimating the total cost when interest is included. However, by my calculation, at 3.5% interest it's more likely to total $105 million including interest, the $130 number looks more like 5.5-6%, which seems high to me, but I'm not an expert in this area. At any rate, (no pun intended), it seems that the clearest way to discuss the issue is to use the $65 million projected construction cost plus the knowledge that 30-year financing will be acquired at market rates, as opposed to the questionable $130 million number.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Bcar, I did read the article, and the bond proposal language, and have talked to the library director. It's for $65 million dollars. David Cahill made up a number that he thought would sound bad.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

At peter, did you even read the article? Where do you think the other 65mil comes from? Money tree? @Ryan, correct, but as a property tax payer i would rather have my money go to the other areas I listed above vs. A new library. How nice would a law be that only people who actually pay property taxes get to vote on these issues. Hell, i'd vote for everything under the sun too if it wasn't my money...

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

Police, low taxes, and public school funding are all important issues but they fall under the City and the School board, and I'd point out that the AADL is a separate entity with separate taxation authority. Operations by the AADL don't have any bearing on those functions. I think you bring up important points of public policy but the issue in this current millage proposal is just "would we like to build a new library", yes or no. No matter what your vote those other issues will not be affected.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

The bond proposal is for $65m, not $130m.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

A couple of non-biased building reviews (one from an HVAC person and one from an "Internet person) would help this voter make a decision. I really love the library and utilize it almost weekly. I DO want to do what is best for the library, but also what is fiscally responsible for the people of A2.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

"It's a disgrace." Did she really state that? There are other libraries in Washtenaw County of which she could avail herself. Yes, in our other county towns and campuses can be found libraries.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

" However, many people outside the district pay $150 per year to use our library system, because it offers such superb services." If our library system is superb, why not update the building instead of building a new one? Also, is there data on whether those from outside Ann Arbor who pay to use AADL services do so at branches and not downtown?

Leah Gunn

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

When I said, "It's a disgrace" I was referring to the main downtown library building, not its services. The case has been made for the building's inadequacy, which you can read about by going to the web site The building simply does not serve the increased and growing needs of the community. Using another library is not an option, as libraries serve only the population in their districts. You cannot get a library card unless you are a resident of the specified district. That is why it is called the Ann Arbor District Library. However, many people outside the district pay $150 per year to use our library system, because it offers such superb services.

Keith Hood

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

I just hope that any new library includes a prominent stairway like the current one. Stairways in most buildings are in hidden stair wells that do not encourage physical exercise. The library's central stairway just invites you to take the stairs and I think that's grand.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

Our current library includes a prominent stairway. That's great and another reason to update the current facilities.

Joseph Welch's Ghost

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.



Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

Wait a minute..... The proponent of spending all this money admits that the users of the current library say "we love it, it's fine", but she thinks we need a new one anyways????? This is insanity.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

with Libraries going high tech soon - we will need a different type of library - books are soon obsolete and we will be able to download everything from books, music DVDs etc, I think a building of 65mill is not justified or needed for the future needs of the Ann Arbor residents -

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

[Reposting this comment in the main thread in case people don't look at the reply] The library gave some tours of the infrastructure this summer; the inability of the current building to support new communications and electrical capacity is actually one of the biggest reasons the board has decided to ask the voters to support a new building. There is a short version of the library infrastructure tour video available here, where you get to see how the behind-the-scenes aspects of the library really are limiting its continued use: Many of the other things like a new reading room and children's area are necessary as well, but are secondary to the very real limitations of the nearly 60-year old building.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

The thing is, do we really NEED all that new stuff for the library? (cafe, play area etc) thats not a good enough reason to get a new library. If there was a better reason for building a new library then maybe. Unfortunately, this millage is going to pass, there are a lot of "Vote yes! for a new library!" signs all over Ann Arbor. I don't think its necessary, I go to the library to do homework and study all the time and I go in the Teenage Reading Center, and it is really quiet there!


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

"Protect Our Libraries" seems to be a very misleading name for a opposition group. Confusion is always a good tactic to use when you don't have any actual facts to stand behind.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

I wish you'd grabbed another comment from the story, from George Hammond: 'So "Protect Our Libraries" is really "don't replace our 54 year old main branch building"? What obnoxious doublethink.'


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Agreed. I'm suspicious based on the naming of this group alone.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

I've read through the rationale (albeit in bullet-point style) behind building a new library, and I have to say I just can't support it based on the evidence presented. If we were being told that the physical infrastructure of the library is such that it cannot support high-speed communication or the electrical capacity to run a bevy of computers, that's one thing . On the other hand, "a play area" and a "grand reading room" (among others) just aren't reason enough to belly up to the taxpayer bar and order another 0.56 mills. In these tough times, money is obviously tight and must be allocated to the areas where it can be best utilized. The marginal utility suggested by this new library just doesn't clear the bar, in my opinion. Unless something changes, this is a "no" vote.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

@ Ryan Burns - Thank you for the correction. Please understand "the City" as I use it to mean the city/municipal/governmental agency/agencies relevant in this situation.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

I'd like to respond to GoNavy's statement "Perhaps the city will proceed to make a better case for itself going forward than the one made here." by pointing out that this has nothing to do with the city. The AADL is a separate organization from the City of Ann Arbor and has it's own board, and is supported by it's own property tax millage. In fact, AADL regularly levies less than it's allotted millage rate for operations and has also managed to construct the newer branch libraries within this amount. They thus have a history of fiscal responsibility, in addition to their excellent programs and resources.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

GoNavy, you're probably right, but the nuts-and-bolts stuff never sounds as good as the new features (to some at least, I love infrastructure improvements).


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

I should add that I did watch the video in the link, which was helpful, but there must be half of the AAPS schools that are in this same (or worse) position with regard to retrofitting their systems and physical plants. (please correct me if I am wrong)


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

Peter Baker- Thank you for the video. I think that - if in fact what you're saying is correct, and an infrastructure upgrade is desperately needed - has done the city a disservice by publishing 9 *other* reasons (most of them unconvincing) for the library to be built. As you're likely aware, I noted that such a need might change my own (as well as that of others) perspective on this issue. Perhaps the city will proceed to make a better case for itself going forward than the one made here.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

Peter Baker (or anyone else who knows): Do you think you could elaborate on this? What does "incapable" mean? You can't put WIFI? (I'm not being sarcastic. I really want to know, as do others, I think)

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

The library gave some tours of the infrastructure this summer; the inability of the current building to support new communications and electrical capacity is actually one of the biggest reasons the board has decided to ask the voters to support a new building. There is a short version of the library infrastructure tour video available here, where you get to see how the behind-the-scenes aspects of the library really are limiting its continued use: Many of the other things like a new reading room and children's area are necessary as well, but are secondary to the very real limitations of the 60-year old building.