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Posted on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

Library board have exhibited sound strategy in approach to bond proposal

By Letters to the Editor

The Ann Arbor community is privileged to have elected a library board that takes its responsibilities seriously. In responding to the wishes of library constituents, three accessible and functional branches were built without borrowing.

The board feels it is now time to replace the main downtown library. Carefully researched plans based on identified needs were developed in 2008 but set aside due to the economic downturn.

They also wisely feel that expensive architectural drawings should not be rendered until financing is assured. It is now 2012. The plans have been re-evaluated and affirmed by local experts.

Retrofitting and enlarging the existing building does not make construction or dollar sense. Our local economy has improved and stabilized. Low interest rates and available skilled labor make construction of this new community asset a sound strategic and economic decision for the benefit of greater Ann Arbor. We have waited long enough.

Join me in investing in an accessible, fully-functioning downtown library by voting yes on Nov. 6.

Ingrid Sheldon

Ann Arbor


Jamie Pitts

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

Editors, join the rest of Ann Arbor and vote for not wrecking a fully-function library, and vote for solving these needs by other means. These offerings at can be addressed without going all Godzilla on downtown Ann Arbor again and again. - A coffee shop? A children's play area? Come on, put that stuff on the dull parking lot next door, and call it Library Plaza. - The auditorium, meeting rooms, computer workspace for people in the area, etc... put that in a Community Center. We do need one. But if we don't, why are we voting for this bond to turn our library into a LibraryCommunityCenterStoreCafePlayground? - Grand reading area. A book is a small world. We need light, quietude, and a safe place in order to read. Grand is for people who are not reading. But for people who need that, well, spiff up the current place. - Auditorium. Get the local tech firms to pitch in for this. They are the ones who will want to use it most often. - Media Production Lab. I am writing this comment on one. This stuff does not cost $65M with interest.


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 4:02 a.m.

I just realized that lack of specifics about the design and appearance of the new library may have nothing to do with production costs. Instead, library, DDA and government officials who desire a new library may be borrowing successful campaign strategy from Rick Snyder and Mitt Romney. Both Republicans gathered significant followings by being vague about what they intend(ed) to do. Rick and Mitt know that the more specifics that you provide the more you will polarize voters, with some favoring and others rejecting the candidates' positions. But you will likely do well if you tell the electorate nothing while playing to preconceived notions (e.g., "What's not to like about a new library? and "They wouldn't propose it unless it is really needed"). I do not believe that Ann Arbor voters will allow themselves to be manipulated this way. Thus the library advocates' stealth plan is convince voters to approve the bond issue purely on trust with the idea of voting against a new library hopefully being repugnant or even considered anti-patriotic.


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Veracity - I agree but... Let's not forget "Hope and Change" lots of specifics in that one too.


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 3:26 a.m.

The most important improvement anticipated for the new library by proponents are the 400-seat auditorium and a number of additional meeting rooms. The auditorium could occupy 8,000 square feet out of the 50,000 square feet of new space that will be added to the 110,000 square feet in our present library. How will the remaining 42,000 square feet of new space be used? Let's examine the schematics. What? No architectural designs exist, not even preliminary renderings on the back of paper napkins? Too expensive when the total project will cost tax payers over $100,000,000 to pay for it? Apparently, library advocates are trying to create a convention center that will replace the 26,000 square foot one proposed by Valiant Partners that never got built (the library would have had access to that conference centers meeting spaces). A cafe and catering facility would allow the library to schedule large professional meetings. The DDA and some other city government officials would like to be able to sponsor large professional meetings which would bolster a second effort to justify building a luxury hotel on top the the Library Lane Parking Structure. Thus, the defeated Valiant Partner's 12-story 150 room hotel will be resurrected but likely with slightly different design and developers in order to hide its origins. No matter how disguised the hotel may be, Chuck Skelton's scathing feasibility report remains valid. Hopefully, Ann Arbor citizens will be able to bury this zombie project just as it did several years ago.

Peter Baker

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

As a matter of policy, all library events are admission-free, event ones where space was rented for money. Conventions will never happen in a space that is required to be free. This is not some conspiracy. Lot's of libraries have auditoriums (Jackson, Dearborn, Adrian, Livonia).


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 5:35 a.m.

That's a good point. The extended version of a library proposed is eerily familiar to some proposals for the convention center that Ann Arbor voters defeated. I hope more voters realize that before filling out their ballots.


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Ryan, Would you pay for a new house without a drawing.

Ryan Burns

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Oops, here is the list: • A destination, multi-age, youth area that can simultaneously accommodate open play, story times, and other youth programming • A grand, quiet reading room • A 400-seat auditorium to comfortably accommodate the crowds that AADL's lectures, movies, discussions, and performances already bring to Downtown • An accessible downtown location for AADL's Local History collections, specifically the collection from The Ann Arbor News • Individual and group study and workspaces 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 café 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 that is accessible to all


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 3:37 a.m.

But, Ryan, how will all these improvements be laid out in the floor plans? How will all these different use spaces mesh together into functional units? When I think about how all these plans will appear as composites of metal, wood, plastic and painted surfaces I see only "blank." I do not want to pay big money for "blank" and, no, I am not going to just trust our library, DDA and government officials to "get it right."

Ryan Burns

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

Actually there is quite specific information about what is possible in a new building but not in the current building from

glenn thompson

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 11 p.m.

This opinion piece makes it very clear how much the library proposal is "trust us and give us your taxes" A vote for the proposal is a vote to pay thousands of dollars in additional taxes over the next thirty years. Yet we are not given any specific information about what we will receive for this tax increase. In fact, Ms Sheldon tells us they are wise not to provide even conceptual sketches. Lets be clear there is a very large difference between the concept drawings that any project asking for financial or other consideration must provide to the city when the project is proposed and complete construction drawings. Why is it that the voters that are asked to finance this project but are not shown concept drawings? Would any bank finance a building without out drawings? Why should the taxpayers of Ann Arbor?

Ryan Burns

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 1:25 a.m.

Aside from the cost of commissioning such drawings, they plan for a year of public input into the design and features, which would be needed before doing the drawings, if those drawings were intended to resemble the finished building.

Richard Wickboldt

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

I will not join you in this investment. I do not have the money to pay for this investment. We should be truly innovative and find a cost effective way to do something with the library which seems to be functioning just fine. I ask my fellow citizens in joking me to vote NO.

Stephen Landes

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

I believe in libraries. I also believe in responsible management of the resources taxpayers devote to public purposes. Tearing down a perfectly sound building for no good reason simply does not make sense. If the current downtown library is inadequate, unsafe, or impossible to renovate, then we absolutely must hold the members of the library board accountable for their actions. I find it absolutely unacceptable that a building as new as the downtown library was so poorly designed that it needs to be totally demolished and replaced in order for us to have a functioning library. To assert that we need a new building is to put the creation of a memorial to the library board -- the latest new shiny thing -- ahead of the contents and real purpose of a library. The bond proposal means that we will spend about $130 million to building an unnecessary $65 million building. We would be better off spending the $65 million in interest payments over 30 years on increasing library personnel and their salaries as well as renovating the content of the library -- new books and research tools. That's something I would spend money for. This board, like so many local political institutions, is part of a political class that simply roams from one board or commission to another. The same names keep showing up over an over. It is time for Ann Arbor citizens to throw out the incumbents regardless of the board, council, or commission on which they serve: thank them for their past service and say "NO" in a loud and clear voice. We can begin by saying "NO" to another pet project of the local political class: say "NO" to the library bond proposal.

Richard Wickboldt

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

I agree 100%. We already pay too high taxes from these people.


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

If a new library is built, will they need to do it all again in 20 years? The way they think, their not about to fix anything.

Jeff McCabe

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

I would like to support the downtown library replacement campaign, but find I can not at this time. I consider myself an Ann Arbor enthusiast and supporter of smart development, but the cost/benefit aspect of this project simply does not add up in my estimation. According to the library's website, the current library was built in 3 stages starting in 1957. Half of the structure was added only 21 years ago in 1991. Another quarter of the total current structure is an addition that was added in the 70's. Although I know this is not a perfect analogy, this sounds like several houses I have lived in around Ann Arbor. Often originally constructed even much earlier, and added on to or updated over time. I would have found it simply out of the question to tear any of these houses down and started over, even though this would have offered the possibility of really "getting it right". It certainly would allow one to build it up to the best standards and add great features. yet if I had taken this step, it would have been a clear statement of how the original construction and subsequent updates were short-sighted and/or faulty. The current library proposal is for a 30 year bond, yet half of the current library is only 21 years old. Are we to then draw the conclusion that even before this new library is paid for, we may be asked to tear it down once again to build something else? My main concern is with the cost of this project. If I am reading the library's materials correctly, many Ann Arborites will be paying hundreds of dollars a year, for 30 years to pay for this initial construction cost (let alone the up-keep and additions/modifications that are clearly a precedent in our history). I am not sure what the median household will pay, but it looks to be nearly $100 per year. This is hard to swallow personally, but I am more concerned with those who can least afford this. More taxes right now will clearly make our city un-affordable for those just g


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

Mr. Harrison, the AADL's OWN WEBSITE describes the 1991 addition as "doubling" the space. I agree with Mr. McCabe that it makes little since to destroy something that's only 21 years old.


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

Also, during the 30 years of such a bond, urgent needs of the city could need the money we'd be paying toward the library.


Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 5:27 a.m.

Was it part of a strong track record when there was no oversight over finances at the beginning of the AADL management and large sums of money that should have been available for material library patrons wanted was needed to fill shortfalls instead? Wasn't that due to poor oversight? By the standard of age you refer to, some vibrant neighborhoods in Ann Arbor, including entire swaths of housing near Thurston and Clague schools should be torn down and replaced. The library board is asking people from such neighborhoods to pay to replace a building similar in age, with an addition that is much newer. The people who would provide the funds are the people to need to decide how they want to spend their money because they don't have money for everything. Soon we'll find out whether such Ann Arborites, want to allocate disposable income that way. Also, as a supporter of Ann Arbor's parks, I'm concerned that the aggressive promotion of the library bond will deter some from voting to renew the renewal millage to maintain and improve our parks. I support the park maintenance and improvement proposal and would hate to see aggressive selling of the library proposal turn away voters from both proposals. I would also hate to see some long term residents have to move because property taxes price them out of houses they've lived in for many years. Please remember that Pfizer was Ann Arbor's largest property tax payer. the former Pfizer property is now part of the U. of Michigan and Ann Arbor needs to stop spending as though Pfizer was still paying property taxes.

Donald Harrison

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

Hey Jeff, I respect your opinion and this thoughtful explanation, but wanted to correct a couple of things and provide my perspective. I believe rebuilding the downtown library is a better option for the future of our community's main library than trying to renovate the current structure again. - The original downtown library was built in 1958. The back 2 stories were added in 1974 and the top 2 floors on that back section were added in 1991. You can see this all marked in the changes in the brick. I don't know the exact % for each section, but the 1991 addition is well less than 1/2 of the facility and didn't provide a lot of functional public space (mostly administrative space on the 3rd floor with no bathroom and a UN-style meeting room on the 4th). - All of these 3 buildings happened while our public library was part of the Ann Arbor Public School system. The AADL became its own elected governing body in 1995. Over the past decade, current AADL leadership has a strong track record of delivering value to tax payers, constructing 3 satellite branches on time/budget and excellent fiscal management. This proposal is their recommendation to best serve our community after extensive analysis: - Also, here's the actual cost per year for homeowners - "annual payments will by funded by a millage rate of .47 - .56 mills per year, meaning the cost to the owner of a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value will be between $47 - $56 per year:" - If you haven't already, I'd recommend reading through AADL's top FAQ on the bond proposal (includes a bigger table of the cost to property owners) and their rationale for proposing it to greater Ann Arbor area voters: