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Posted on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

$65M library bond proposal worth resulting access to information, culture it would bring

By Guest Column

Ann Arbor is not a “make-do” kind of city. As citizens we're engaged, thoughtful, and civic-minded. By almost any standard of measurement, Ann Arbor is a leader.

For decades the Ann Arbor District Library, or AADL, has helped lead the way in making information and culture widely accessible, serving as a home for learning, and providing a diverse range of valued resources. The AADL is nationally recognized for its cutting-edge programs, award-winning initiatives and efficient delivery of services. In 2010, the AADL’s circulation (57.97 items per capita) was three times that of the public libraries in the comparable cities of Berkeley, Cali., and Madison, Wisc., according to the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

The downtown library building was designed in the 1950s. Already added to and renovated twice, the facility - which annually hosts more than 600,000 visits (about 1,700 people per day), more than 75,000 internet sessions, and over 500 events - lacks in many critical, structural ways and cannot provide the foundation to serve our community into the 21st century.

The AADL has shown exceptional fiscal stewardship by building three state-of-the-art branches - on time, within budget, and with public input. In 2007, the AADL began extensive analysis of the downtown facility and, with public discussion and objective cost modeling, determined a new building will provide the best investment of our taxpayer dollars. In July, the AADL Board unanimously voted to place a proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot to ask Ann Arbor area voters to approve a $65 million bond to rebuild the downtown library.

041912_library4.JPG file photo

Despite the AADL’s outstanding track record of fiscal responsibility and leadership, there may be some opposition to the proposal. I would like to address several possible assumptions and arguments:

Argument #1: The downtown library is fine just the way it is. This simply is not the case. On many levels - technology limitations, structural inefficiencies, insufficient meeting and event spaces, and inadequate bathroom facilities and disability access - the downtown library is no longer able to continue providing the high quality service its citizens expect.

Argument #2: Tearing down the building is environmentally unsound and anti-preservation. The AADL Board is committed to recycling and reusing materials from the current building while honoring its existing commitment to ecologically sound construction standards, as evidenced by the three newest AADL branches (Mallett’s Creek, Pittsfield, and Traverwood). The standard for environmental excellence does not always demand retaining an existing building and every building does not merit preservation simply because it is old. If that were the case, most of us in Ann Arbor would be living in barns and blacksmith’s shops.

Argument #3: A new downtown library will lead to the development of a downtown convention center on the adjacent parking lot. The AADL solely is focused on rebuilding its downtown library to better serve the community. Period. The plans for the facility in no way resemble the specifications of a conference center. One is categorically not equivalent to the other. Furthermore, the future of the neighboring parking site is not controlled by the AADL. That site is controlled by elected and appointed officials from the City of Ann Arbor and the Downtown Development Authority.

Argument #4: A larger library auditorium is unnecessary and would compete with other facilities already in town. Many AADL events attract an audience exceeding capacity of the current facility. This means people are sometimes turned away or events have to be hosted at off-site locations. Many leaders in our arts and cultural community and local businesses have recognized the need to increase our facility’s capacity and support rebuilding the downtown library.

Argument #5: There has already been too much construction-related disruption downtown. Investing in the future is not always convenient. The logistical challenges of building a state-of-the-art downtown library will be more than offset by the new facility’s ability to better meet the needs of the greater Ann Arbor community. The AADL is committed to minimizing the disruption by providing a temporary satellite location in the downtown area and will not lay off any staff during the construction period.

Argument #6: $65 million seems too expensive. Through extensive research by the AADL board and staff - using an apples-to-apples comparison with other public libraries recently built - the cost of $65 million ranks in the lower-middle range. This includes all the costs of the entire project from conception through completion.

Here’s the bottom line: Libraries symbolize a community’s commitment to sharing resources, increasing knowledge and investing in its own future. Thank goodness we do not live in a “make-do” community! A new downtown library will not only solve our current building’s many critical shortcomings, but will also continue to provide our community with a facility that is designed to adapt and serve all of us well into the 21st century.

For these reasons, I am voting YES on Nov. 6 for the bond proposal to build a new downtown Ann Arbor library. I encourage you to read more about it here. If you believe libraries are valuable to our community, please vote YES and continue to invest in the future of Ann Arbor.

Ellie Serras is the Chair of the Our New Downtown Library Campaign committee.


Richard Wickboldt

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

I will be voting a resounding NO and urged my fellow citizens to do the same. There is one thing that doesn't change with technology. Steel and cement which make the foundation and structure of the present library and it doesn't need to be replaced. The idea to use 65 million dollars and tear down a structurally sound building and rebuild to meet changing technology needs is a fools dream. The only time you need to tear down a building; is when it's structurally deficient. I ask where is the Historic Commission? Technology will have advanced dramatically following Moore's law in the same time it will take to rebuild the library and complete the project. Within ten years the new library would most likely be obsolete. All data and information will be generated digitally at time of conception and legacy data in libraries will also have been digitized. Google and UM are doing that right now. Individuals will actually have a fully functioning library in their hand held devices. If not ten years; then it will be in fifteen or twenty years. We wouldn't even have paid off the bond debt before it would become obsolete again! This is a total waste of money. We could refurbish the library for a third of this cost if not less. The people proposing this project are out of touch with reality! I wouldn't want to be in a library and have four hundred people come barging in.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.



Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

Ms. Serras - If yours was the only tax I might vote yes, but it is not, it will be one of 8 millage requests that has been requested or will be requested by next May. If you had decided to do this at the same time that the library lot was under construction, I might vote yes, but you did not, you waited until the area was actually open for business again. If you were actually be effective in the use of the money I might vote yes, but your estimated costs are just about double what an average library build has cost over the last 5 years in the Midwest. In fact on a per square foot basis you will have the highest cost of any library build in the Midwest in the last 5 years based on what I can find in public records. In short, three strikes and you are out. I am voting no. Fix the costs, wait three years and you can have my yes. But Herb David and the other businesses in the area who have had to deal with construction for the several years deserve to have no new construction for a while.

Donald Harrison

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:14 a.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 of Jerusalem Garden

Peter Baker

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

Don, take a look at the cost per sq. ft. comparison here: The proposed AADL project comes in at less per sq ft than recent library projects in Des Moines, San Mateo, Jacksonville, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Boston. Significantly less. As for the businesses around the area, there are statements of support from many proprietors, including Ali from Jerusalem Garden, that see a new library as a positive step forward in the continued desire to attract customers downtown.

Stewart Nelson

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

Libraries are used by the less fortunate among us to put together resumes and to facilitate their job search by using the library's computers. Libraries are used by parents of all means to meet with others and to teach their children the importance of reading. The library could even act as a forum where could all sit around and discuss the pro's and con's of a new library in person. Please consider voting for the new library millage.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Arguments in favor of a new downtown library building inevitably cite the heavy use / high number of visits downtown, and the necessity of access to the largest portion of the collection. I have not heard anywhere, however, what all of those users are supposed to do during the 2+ years that demolition / construction remove the downtown library from circulation. And if there is an interim solution (anyone?), does it not speak to the reality that the interim solution might be satisfactory for a longer term? In other words, could we not do as well to build a branch on the NW side of town, or to locate the bulk of the collection elsewhere?


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

So, the plan is to develop a plan? Seriously? While I happen to think that remote warehousing with items available at request is fine, I'd bet a lot of users wouldn't find this satisfactory. Somehow, the whole thing feels a little too impromptu -- as though the alternatives haven't been explored and the possible unintended consequences are still unknown.

Donald Harrison

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

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

Peter Baker

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

It's been said elsewhere, but the collection will be available throughout the construction period at temporary locations.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

I know my kids think this new library is terrible idea because we are such active users of the downtown library, they will be sad to not have the use of it for the 5 years it will take to replace it, should this pass. We were down there last night, getting books and admiring the metal staircase, when he suggested that instead of tearing down the library, the library board purchase the William Street surface lot, build their expanded facilities (conference hall, whatever) there, and connect the two buildings with a wide, enclosed pedestrian bridge like they have at the airport. That way the building stays in use, it costs less to build a new structure, and the lot is used in a way that is good for the community. Maybe there can even be some green space worked in between the two buildings. That seems like a decent solution for a 12 year old to hit upon.

Peter Baker

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

2 years Bud, the library estimates it will take 2 to 2.5 years to remove and replace the library building. All the while, there will be temporary locations downtown for uninterrupted services.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

The notion of borrowing $65million dollars to tear down an existing building and build a new palace to house information on hunks of dead tree strikes me as laughable. Is this 1912 or 2012? What purpose does a library serve in a digital age? Why would we invest more money in infrastructure to support a business model that is clearly in the decline? By the time they build the new library, it will be obsolete. But, Oh yes, we're going to borrow money to build a new choo-choo train station, too. How progressive! Why don't we borrow money to build new horse stables while we're at it? How about a new blacksmith's shop, too? The "progressives" in Ann Arbor crack me up.

Peter Baker

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

The library is a feather in ALL of our caps.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

increased usage...I keep hearing about that, but have YET to see any FACTS about how much of this usage is online or e-books... we dont need another feather in the DDA/mayor's hat...

Anti Crankypants

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

The library is one of the last shared public commons and it's clearly not in decline. If you read the facts, you'd know there's increased visits and usage and needs the AADL is trying to meet, but you seem like you're against the library already. The future is going to happen and we're either going to sit on our hands and wait to see what happens, or continue to be a leader and invest where it matters. Libraries and public transportation are only going to increase in importance in the coming decades. Horse stables - not so much.

Peter Baker

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

If this were true, there probably wouldn't be an increasing number of people visiting the library. Have you noticed that the library lends music instruments and telescopes now? Bet you can't download those.

Tex Treeder

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

Seems to me that the downtown library is doing quite nicely as it is. Every building needs constant maintenance, but this building has plenty of life and years left in it. Another reason to oppose this measure: Look at the recently built branches. The Traverwood branch is a hideous building, rusty on the outside (yes, I know it's supposed to look that way) and aesthetically cold on the inside; the West branch is awkward and unappealing; and the Malletts Creek branch, while interesting ecologically, is similarly cold and uninviting. Focus on the "mission": providing books, music, etc., to the public. That's where the money should be spent.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 10:26 a.m.

"Please remember that the library is a separate insitution with its own millage and in no way is responsible for city functions such as police and fire protection." No Leah, that would be YOUR political birds of a feather on Council and the DDA who screwed that up, wouldn't it?


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 2:30 a.m.

Wow, I have been reading these comments for a while and am quite surprised to see such resistance to a project that seems to be all about caring about our culture and that of our kids. Since I moved to this town, the library has been on my list of the top things I will miss if I leave. There seems to be a true and continued effort by this organisation to keep this town among the few that still enjoy intellectual stimulation. In these hard times in our world History, we should not underestimate the importance of knowledge and of sharing it. To this day, it appears the decisions made by the AADL board have typically brought the people of Ann Arbor closer to being part of the World's honorable thinkers. My vote would clearly be to trust the AADL once again to take us to the next level and continue to make being educated and informed a "hip" thing. I want my kids and all of yours to love reading, learning and being exposed to World culture. America's schools cannot do the job alone, and unlike them, the AADL is a place the youth and eager adults can go together as a community and grow. Let's hope for more good decisions, and expect a responsible upgrade for our collective treasure: shared knowledge. Build a new library, it cannot hurt. Money should not be a barrier, or else, let's put down our books and go to sleep under the veil of ignorance. For those of us that are worried about a yearly budget we are stuggling with, start by cancelling the cable TV bill, and drop some of our mindless habits. Blessings to All.

Donald Harrison

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

DJBudSonic, the library is one of the public's investments that gives back the most. Many people who cannot afford cable/internet get free access at the library. Many people save money by borrowing books/music/movies so they don't have to rent or buy them. The library provides computer training, social and cultural opportunities, and many programs for kids - free to those many participants. The library is a lifeline and important resource for many people in our community. A new downtown library would provide greater access and opportunities for learning, growing and sharing. This was the theme of Papillon's message - focusing on what's positive and worthwhile in our community.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

What if I cancelled the cable years ago, have not dined out in three years, never buy a new item of clothing, not even shoes, have not had health insurance for 12 years, and still are having trouble paying the high taxes in Ann Arbor? Is it ok if money is a barrier then? So many people praise the library and library system like you do, and still, it is not good enough for you? You still need more? You still need more, and better, and bigger? To try to characterize those of us who question the constant need for questionable civic spending as ignorant, mindless and dishonorable (your words) is pretty sad, and pretty telling of the mentality of the "haves" in his town.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

"Build a new library, it cannot hurt" A compelling argument if ever I heard one. Is it too early for me to vote YES?


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

It's really amazing how easy it is to take more of people's money in Ann Arbor. Just absolutely amazing. 25 square miles of denial surrounded by reality.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

You could always move to Ypsi.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Or, 25 sq miles of low unemployment, high graduation rates and valuable property surrounded by Michigan.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

$65 million is simply an inaccurate figure. Over 30 years, the total financing is double that: $130 million. My own opinion and that of many of my friends and acquaintances is that taxes in this town are being used innappropriately, to put it mildly. Bring back honest governing and basic services. Vote no.

Peter Baker

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

Brad, these plans were originally underway in 2008, and they decided to hold off because of economic circumstances. And besides, they're asking the community to vote on the proposal. This is hardly a project thats being railroaded against popular opinion.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

And if the economy was great right now construction and borrowing costs would be higher, but they'd still be saying "it's the perfect time to build a new library". It's always the perfect time to do something with someone else's money.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 12:19 a.m.

Anti Cranky, that actually WAS determined to be misleading, and the federal government MANDATED that lenders not only make available the total cost after all interest is paid, but that they point out the figure to you, verbally tell you the figure, and have you sign that you both saw it and understood what they said. It is ILLEGAL for them NOT to do this. It's called Truth in Lending. So yes, it IS misleading to only quote the initial no-interest cost, and often does not convey the actual cost to people.

Leah Gunn

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

The total financing is the cost of borrowing money. At this time, both consruction costs and the interest on bonds is low, so it is a perfect time to build a new library. It is a worthwhile and necessary investment to secure the future quality of life for the citizens of the Ann Arbor library district. The opinion among my friends and acquaintances is that the library not only governs honestly, but it provides excellent services for everyone. Vote yes.

Anti Crankypants

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

Do you say that $200K home is inaccurate because it doesn't include the interest? C'mon, that's just misleading the facts. Financing for a $65 million bond, which is the actual amount we'd approve the AADL to borrow, would benefit from some of the lowest interest rates in our lifetime. If we're ever going to address our main library's critical facility needs, now would be a prudent time to do so.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

From what I understand, the majority of the library is approx. 20 years old. Only. The architect lives in town, was a runner-up in the Vietnam Memorial in Wash. DC, and one of premiere Mich. architects. I'm no expert, but I've talked to one who is - he maintains that the building has a lot of interesting design aspects and is one of the great A2 buildings. Making it rubble and starting over seems totally unnecessary. I'm immediately suspicious when the DDA, Zingerman's, and Main Street Ventures are strong backers. It's the commercialization of the library. I'll vote no.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

Mr Harrison - On the internet point you are completely wrong. MacTechnics leadership, Merit Networks leadership and others spent many hours working with the library and the architect to make the 1990s addition to the library ready for computers and networking. They may scream that it is not but the reality is a lot of people spent a lot of time trying to future proof the 1990s addition and refit of the 1950s portion of the library, including taking into account AOL, networking and the fledgling Internet. It is a pure fabrication that library was designed without regard for the Internet.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

It's funny that people cite the advent and continuously increasing use of the internet as a check in the PRO column for a brand new library. Well, not really FUNNY, more like ridiculous and depressing.

Donald Harrison

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

The building has gone through three phases of construction over fifty years, since it was initially designed/built in 1958. None of these phases were during an era that considered the role of the internet and how digital technology would impact libraries. The AADL is at the forefront nationally for providing value to its patrons, yet recognizes the need for fixing the many shortcomings of its main facility (you can see some of these illustrated in a brief video: The AADL is a shared resource and rebuilding our main facility would better serve this community. To have business leaders' support does in no way commercialize the library. Supporters also include many non-profit and civic leaders, such as John Weiss (Neutral Zone), Barbara Niess-May (SafeHouse), Carolyn Grawi (Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living), and more you can see here:

Leah Gunn

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

The Ann Arbor District Library is an institution which adds greatly to the quality of life in our city. It is a wonderful repository of information, which is free to everyone, and the staff are knowledgable and helpful. The library has definitely outgrown its space, and a new library will bring more resources to all of us. Remember that not all people can afford a computer, and access to one is an important part of the library's service. They also have classes to teach patrons how to use a computer. In addition, it provides recreational reading for a large segment of our population - the downtown library alone has 600,000 people walk in each year. That is about six times the population of our city. The per capita materials circulation is among the highest in the nation. The AADL also serves us with the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled with top notch service delivery. Please remember that the library is a separate insitution with its own millage and in no way is responsible for city functions such as police and fire protection. It does, however, enhance educational functions by welcoming students from all schools to use its facilities. All that is necessary to obtain a card is to prove residence in the AADL District, which includes not just the city of Ann Arbor, but parts of Scio and Pittsfield Townships as well. I urge everyone to vote YES for our new downtown library.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

Commissioner Gunn, you may have more credibility if you did not have a conflict of interest being a DDA member, a commissioner, and voted to increase property taxes without electorate approval therebye circumventing the democratic process. You also were part of the Sylvan Township fiasco where you dedicated and commited tax dollars to a failed development water project that Sylvan county property owners must pick up the tab for. Your politics aside.....lwhy arn't you talking about the specifics of the financing involved in this proposition if you are so interested in educating the community? I see this proposal as putting property owners further at risk for over ambitious political agendas. I urge everyone to vote no until all the details of funding are revealed instead of emotional pleas that could lead to financial ruin because of an interest rate swap. I'm listening.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:45 p.m., Id like to see another poll about this with 4 categories. Property owners/tax payers voting YES Property owners/tax paters voting NO Non tax payers/free loaders voting YES Non tax payers/free loaders voting NO I bet I can guess how this one will turn out.... read my lips, no more taxes!!


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

The idea that renters are "free loaders" is maddening. I would love to hear of all the landlords who don't pass on the cost of their property taxes. Renters do not technically pay taxes directly, but they sure as heck to indirectly. I am voting YES! And AM a home owner/tax payer


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

Wait, so there are 3 other state-of-the-art branches nearby? Hmmm... Wish there were other large 400 seat off site locations nearby people could hold large gatherings...(Power, MI Theatre, State, various UM halls etc...) Technology limitations? Wonder how much it would cost to do wi-fi for the whole downtown... bet its less than 65,000,000 NOT counting interest... or we could just do wi-fi for the library... We do NOT NEED a new library now, after we get public safety back where it should be, the economy turns around, then we can talk about spending $$ on a new library or more art... SAFETY FIRST! Why do we NEED this now? Really, is there a reason it can't wait another few years? It is clearly operating now. For these reasons im voting NO on Nov. 6 and encouraging everyone else that I can to also vote NO.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 10:44 a.m.

@Peter, nope, im still against it unless they find a way to make it tax-neutral (i.e. reduce another property tax). Just because something is "on sale" doesn't mean we can afford it (we can't) or that we should buy it (we shouldn't), you sound like my wife ;) j/k! This city (and country for that matter) needs to learn that we can't have everything, that everything is not "free." Thankfully I think our country will "get it" in Nov, but I have little hope of A2 ever getting it... @papillon I agree, but the type of education needed to reduce crime starts AT HOME, not at a public library where these low-lifes don't bother to go regardless... I hope you're one of the lucky ones who owns a home near one of the soon to be remaining 3 fire stations... I'm more concerned about fire protection, thankfully the right to self defense has not been outlawed (yet) in this city. I have yet to hear why we really "need" a new library, but I have heard a lot of why we "want" one... NO MORE TAXES!!


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

you will only get safety if you educate your people. force and surveillance will only increase tension.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

Bcar, would you support it if it were put off for 3-4 years? That seems to be your concession, just "not now". If you otherwise support building a new library, why wait 4 years? If the economy does improve, it will only cost even more to build as interest rates go back up, and we'll have wasted 3-4 years of operating expenses on the current building. Not to mention, the library first starting talking about this 4 years ago, and decided to wait until conditions had improved. They DID wait 4 years already, now is the time.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

@deann, And how much do you think it would cost to maintain a large 400seat center that is not used daily? Heating/cooling perhaps? how many events do they have that require 400 seats? Not to mention the cost to build that part of the project... I bet they could rent out these other places for far less, esp being a non-profit. Or maybe working out a deal with the U to rent for free or for very, very cheap?? I bet my tax rate that it will be less than $65,000,000 withOUT interest. Yes, the other branches are close, within walking distance and for sure within bus and bike distance. Oh wait, I know, what about the few disabled people, yep, they will be slightly put out, but what about the vast majority or having them use bussed? If they want a better library there are plenty at the U that we have access to, or could, gasp, travel 2 miles to another one... How is public safety a different topic? It ALL has to do with "taxes" being paid out of my pocket for services offered to all. It doesn't matter what pot the taxes are going into, they're all coming out of our collective pockets, so it is the same. I still haven't heard why we need this now? And why the sky will fall if we don't wait another 3 or 4 years... I don't feel complete on this website until I have at least a -10 rating, that way I know I'm being logical...alllll-mooooost-therreeee.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

The Power Center, Michigan, State, UM etc are NOT FREE. The AADL can not simply rent a huge space in downtown at will and still keep their programming free and open to the public. This argument just doesn't hold up to reality. Having branches "nearby" is only true if you consider driving distance "nearby". The downtown library IS the closest and most heavily used location for many residents. Wanting public safety to be addressed (I am not in disagreement) is a completely different topic, as funding the library is a completely separate taxing authority. Want to raise taxes for more police and fire?- no disagreement from me. But that is NOT the question at hand.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

As a frequent patron of both Mallets Creek and the Downtown Library, I enthusiastically support this proposal. AADL is a visionary library that is taking the lead in the national discussion of the future of the library. It's excellent print collection has recently been augmented by telescopes and electronic music tools, providing a great value to patrons. It hosts a number of innovative and educational programs that are very well attended and help cement Ann Arbor as a community of learning. Finally, it has constructed a number of branch libraries in budget and has also recently (2009) decreased it's operational millage by 0.39 mils because it can provide good service at a lower tax rate. I think AADL has shown it has the vision to construct a 21st century downtown branch and the track record to do it in a fiscally responsible way. I could not be more excited about this.

Jeremy Wheeler

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Well done. A fair-minded position that acknowledges the complaints, yet counters with level-headed reasoning.

Adam Goodman

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

In the coming decades, backward-looking libraries with a narrow understanding of their mission - i.e. those that see themselves purely as repositories of books, CDs, and DVDs - will face an existential crisis. It's a slow process, but the trend is clear: physical media is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Instead, we must consider libraries more broadly - as centers of knowledge and learning for the communities they serve. From what I've seen and heard, the proposed plans for the new downtown library embrace this notion, and I applaud the AADL leadership for their forward-looking vision. (I'm not surprised, though; they have been *nationally recognized* as thought leaders in defining the future of public libraries - e.g. I believe that anyone who wants to ensure the future of the AADL (to "Protect our Libraries", if you will) should vote YES on this bond proposal.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

I am in full support of a new downtown library. For those who are saying "let's make do", I am sorry that the points in this article didn't win your vote. I, for one, believe very strongly that "make do" is not an option unless we are willing to allow the public library to go the way of the video store. Continuing to offer amazing programming free of charge is in no way "overstreching" the library mission, but rather showing tremendous vision in what the needs of our community are. The need for a large meeting space and/or auditorium is obvious to anyone who has attended programming in the windowless, much too small basement of the current building. I am hopeful that the AADL will no longer need to rent space in other locations constantly as the demand for their programs continues to grow. Yes, yes, and yes on election day! I will only be voting once of course.

Donald Harrison

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

I continue to be impressed with the leadership and service the AADL provides our community. They have recognized the downtown library facility is no longer up to the task of properly serving patrons and now's the time to rebuild for the future. Support for the new downtown library is far ranging across this community and many of the reasons why are posted here:

Donald Harrison

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

Roger, I think the same questions are true every time we're faced with decisions whether to pay more taxes. Is it worth it? In the case of the AADL, I think the answer is yes. AADL leadership has a very strong track record of giving value to this community and demonstrating fiscal stewardship. Rebuilding the downtown library will greatly enhance the number of opportunities the AADL provides for learning, culture, events, sharing tools, accessing history and engaging as a community.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

Roger, the library is one of the only taxpayer funded resources that is free to use for everybody. I feel that it's a relative bargain compared to many other costs we are contending with. The dozen or so books and movies my family has borrowed from the library recently have saved me more than the library's entire share of my property taxes.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Yes but what about the hardship of paying high property taxes for those Ann Arborites who are having a hard time in this bad Economy?

Stewart Nelson

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

I am planning on voting for the proposed new library. I cannot think of a more democratic use of tax dollars than a library that residents actually get to vote on and that serves all of the people that visit it whether they are residents or not. I consider reading one of the critical skills that will be necessary for members of the information economy to possess. I grew up in Ann Arbor in the 50's and 60's and frequently used the library even when I was in college here. Let's make sure that all our children have the skill sets necessary to be successful in an information economy. Please vote for the library mileage. -Stew


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

The tax increase that will result from a yes vote on this proposal might be, proportionally, small change for the more wealthy of Ann Arborites, but for the rest of us, which I think includes the majority of downtown library users, it is a big deal. We don't need a new library, and we don't want to pay for a new library. I have yet to talk to ANYONE outside of library board members who supports this tax. No, thanks, I count myself as firmly among those who would prefer to "make do" with the existing building for a while longer.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

We already support this important resource, and many others. Everyone who owns property in this town supports the same things. Many of us support much more, through charitable giving and acts. Many of us think saving for the future is as important as spending for the future.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

"They are looking to the future of this community and want to support this important shared resource..." What good is it if you cant go out after dark? Maybe start with police and fire, then all the frills...

Anti Crankypants

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

And I have talked to lots of people outside of the library board who are strongly in favor of rebuilding the downtown library. They are looking to the future of this community and want to support this important shared resource. Seems we run in different circles.

David Cahill

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

Someone named Maria Serras made a $5,000.00 personal contribution to this ballot question committee on July 19, according to the County Clerk's office. I assume this is Ellie Serras. This is a huge political contribution. It is enough to run (and win) a contested City Council race all by itself. Such a contribution is legal. But is it appropriate?


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

Mr. Baker - Take a look at what a Mil brought in 1999 and what it brought in in 2009. Property values grew faster than the rate of inflation - in total - because of all the new building that went on in the AAPL service area. While they may have reduced the millage rate, I suspect they still got more money in 2009 than they did in 2005 in constant dollars.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Yeah, she's totally buying influence from those oh-so-powerful librarians. First step, the book geeks, next step, THE WORLD.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

Roger, the AADL absolutely does run a lean operation. From a comment below: "it has constructed a number of branch libraries in budget and has also recently (2009) decreased it's operational millage by 0.39 mils because it can provide good service at a lower tax rate." This is not a frivolous organization, they VOLUNTARILY reduced their operating revenue.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

She is buying influence and I don't think it is appropriate. Legal Yes, Appropriate No. Why didn't she start a voluntary library building fund and seek others to make other large contributions to it through donations.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

AAPL should run a lean operation. When it wants to add frills, it should seek the money from persons who want and benefit from these added frills not taxpayers in general. Doesn't AAPL realized a lot of Ann Arborites are facing tough financial times in the current economy?


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

Money is free speech. The SCOTUS says so.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Yes, it is quite "appropriate" for an individual to donate to a cause they believe in.

Peter Baker

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

David, what on earth is inappropriate about that? Ellie (her first name is Maria) is not connected in any way to the library or it's board, why can't she contribute to a cause she believes in?


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

In addition to the library, I think we should increase taxes to pay for other things that would be nice to have, but are not needed. Examples would be: a new bus station, additional school board retreats, performance art(why pay for something that can be enjoyed all the time when we can pay performance artists to do something once, and never see it again). I'd rather my taxes go towards these unneeded things than to go towards making sure fire stations stay open, or that we have sufficient police coverage. It'll be nice for our out of town friends to come to Ann Arbor and enjoy our new library and art, and have the added advantage of getting their cars broken into. Good things are ahead for A2! Unfortunately, the people that actually pay the taxes won't be around to enjoy what their tax dollars brought as their taxes will be too high and they'll be forced to move. Allowing UM to purchase additional houses, that they won't pay taxes on, and in turn will push the taxes for others even higher. At least Ellie and the other down town business owners will have a great place to woo would be investors to the city. With all the ties to the DDA, I'd think a creative approach to financing this would be to have a partnership with local business owners. Fund raisers during restaurant week, lobby it on NPR for donations, match 1-1 for tax dollars. Anything but hitting up tax payers to pay for the whole project. According to the DDA website, their 2012-13 budget is just over $24 million. Seems a decent base to start up fundraising project for this.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

I agree with Itchy, I am all taxed out, too. I'm a 20 year resident in a est. $280,000.00 home paying $9,000.00 in taxes annually. I love the library, the schools, the parks, but the taxes have increased beyond what I can handle. I don't WANT to vote no, I HAVE to. This is part of the reason that I have been so upset at what the mayor and council do with our existing tax dollars. Yes, I'm again ranting about the art "tax" and how much they spent on the art for city hall. Wouldn't we all rather have adequate fire safety or a "state of the art" library to serve the citizens? I can't vote yes on increases to the taxes because I would be agreeing to an expenditure I cannot afford. Bummer.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

@Elena: I'm in a similar situation and enough is enough! @Bcar: I agree, I'm tired of being taxed out of my own home so that renters and homeless people have somewhere to hang out.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

What, you dont want to pay more so renters can have a nice library?? 9k/yr is crazy, more fitting of a $600k house in B-ham...sorry... @deanne, it all adds up! and then more, and then more and then more...


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

I am sorry that you will vote no, and understand your predicament. I urge you to check out the aadl site to see exactly how much more your taxes would go up.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

I'd like a new library downtown AND a convention center downtown. Please keep it vibrant to stave off the tax-free UM purchases, the "smoke" shops, the thong shops, and possible casinos.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

If Ms. Serras will support abolishing the DDA and the system that allows them to skim off tax dollars for their own special interests, then I'll gladly support the new library millage. Deal?


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

yeah, screw the library unless something completely outside the library's control is changed... deal!

Tony Livingston

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

I have a house that would sell for around $200,000 in today's market. I pay almost $7,000 in taxes on it. It is just out of control and too much. There comes a point of no return where no matter what the tax money brings us, it is not enough to offset the high tax rate. There is a negative effect on property values as a result, not to mention our pocket books. We have fantastic branch libraries and I use them often. I will vote no on this one.


Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Well said Mr. Livingston! Why would I go to the downtown library where I have to pay for parking and dodge homeless people cursing at me when I have a new branch (Traverwood) within walking distance?

Alpha Alpha

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

Many opinions, few facts. Where is the evidence? The evidence supporting a need for library changes? The ONDL's own study (biased no doubt; the buyer of a study can set parameters to influence the results) shows a renovated structure as being 10% cheaper than a new structure, saving $6.5 million. One of the more frustrating aspects of this issue is that the 1990's renovation was to be good for 'many decades', not less than two decades. Perhaps key players would consider interviews with the 1990's renovation architects, to get their opinion on whether or not the current building is a 'disgrace'. We have a fine library in place. Let it be...

Anti Crankypants

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

I like that you start out asking for evidence instead of opinions and then close by asking for the original architects' opinions. You didn't even last more than two paragraphs, let alone more than two decades.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

A library auditorium to host cultural and art events? Why? The AAPL needs to stick to its core mission of providing library services of books, dvds, and music. The AAPL needs to know its limits.

Tex Treeder

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

It's been my experience that organizations with "Vision Statements" or "Mission Statements" rarely heed them in practice and are usually the ones that would most benefit from actually reading them. Those with both types of statements? You do the math.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

The AADL's mission statement (from their website): The existence of the Ann Arbor District Library assures public ownership of print collections, digital resources, and gathering spaces for the citizens of the library district. We are committed to sustaining the value of public library services for the greater Ann Arbor community through the use of traditional and innovative technologies. The AADL's Vision Statement: The Ann Arbor District Library provides collections, programs, and leadership to promote the development of literate and informed citizens through open and equal access to cultural, intellectual, recreational, and information resources.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Great post!

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

We absolutely do not need to build a new Downtown Public Library. The facility we have now is perfectly adequate. This quest for the latest and the greatest and the state of the Art is wasteful and extravagant. We should not be treating the Library like some people treat IPhones and run out and get a new one whenever the newest version comes out. The Ann Arbor Public Library must know it has to operate within appropriate bounds. It should not try to be everything to everybody. A being everything to everybody philosophy costs a ton of money and all of it comes from the taxpayers of this city. Maybe you have not heard or don't care that raising taxes--that all Ann Arbor government institutions [school system, city art fund, AATA, AAPL] either are doing or want to do--is very hard on many Ann Arborites on fixed incomes or smaller salaries.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

Mr Burns - The library works, it is not falling down, it did not burn down. There is no good reason to rush to replace it. Remember the library used to be part of the school district, and they jettisoned the library and kept the tax money, then forced the library to ask for more millage. So our taxes went up when the library became independent. My taxes for the library are far more than a "couple of best sellers" most people's are.

Ryan Burns

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

This is an extremely important concern, and I think it deserves careful consideration. Tax rates and levels of service related to the A2 city government are also an important issue, but I'd stress that they're separate from the issue at hand, as the library is totally separate from the city. I similarly wouldn't think it makes sense to link discussion of policy at the state or federal level to the local library. For those on fixed incomes or smaller salaries, AADL provides incredible value for you hard earned money. For the price of a couple of best sellers a year you can buy a library. An awesome library, with a quiet reading room, fantastic programming and events facilities, onsite access to the local history collection from The Ann Arbor News, and a strengthened culture of learning in this town. If you think this is a bad deal you should vote No. If you think this represents a huge opportunity to get great value for your tax dollars at a time of historically low interest rates, vote Yes.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

I'm all taxed out. I am voting no.