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Posted on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Residents: Library proposal too expensive, too soon after current building construction

By Letters to the Editor

I'm a typical Ann Arbor resident — I love my libraries, and use them. That said, the idea of spending $65,000,000 on a new main library and destroying the existing one is spending like a drunken sailor. Yes, the main branch could use some renovations and upgrades — but the building itself is in good shape overall, and only 20 years old. For bricks and mortar, that's a teenager.

Last but not least, the city's taxpayers could probably spend $65,000,000 more productively on other things — or even better, not put the next generation into debt at all.

Ray Digby

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor’s cultured electorate votes reflexively for library proposals. I hope they are more circumspect this time. The proposed new palace is too showy, too commercial, to conference centery, and far too expensive. Has the library board contracted a DDA virus with a profiteering sense of its institutional mission?

The underused third floor is already a quiet reading area. Rarely do library programs seat even 100. A costly 400-place auditorium and pleasure dome will starve the neighborhood branches, which should be featured in library planning. Out from the congestion and increasingly expensive parking, they are convenient, democratic, and inviting to children. The longer I linger in the downtown facility, the louder the tick of metered parking dings in my head.

Using the library as a commercial draw to the business district flies directly in the face of library patrons’ interest. We are taxing folks of modest means out of town, and should not add $65M + interest in library debt to the momentum of capital extravagance in city hall and the subterranean parking fiasco.

Gordon E. Bigelow

Ann Arbor



Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

This is about whether or not spending $65 million is appropriate to fund a new City building that will replace the current Library. Do not be fooled into thinking that this is about whether you want a new Library, because it is not. The building will house the Library, but part of the expense is due to the current considerations of including a 400 seat auditorium, conference rooms, and catering kitchen. The proposal does not take into account any projected cost recovery from event generated revenue either. The focus of modern library use has changed much in the past decade and will continue to do so. It makes little sense to invest $130 million over 30 years in a building with functions that might be obsoleted within a ten years. Point in case, one of the listed reasons for needing a new building is the installation of cable trays for computer networking and telephony. Networking and telephony has all shifted towards wireless based technologies, rendering the cable trays obsolete even before they are planned. If this bond vote fails, it will not impact the Library's current funding cycle and we will see a more reasonable proposal for constructing a new Library come forth with greater respect for the economic climate and hopefully greater fiscal responsibility.

Anti Crankypants

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

And Austin's spending $120 million (not including interest) to build a new downtown library. If you look at the complete picture, instead of recklessly throwing some of the #'s around, you'll see AADL's done their due diligence and proposing something with long-term value for this community. Investing in our library system is a good investment for everyone.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

$65,000,000 (but $over $100,000 after including interest payments) Can you believe that building a new library which will be only 50% larger than the present library will cost $52 million (160,000 sqft versus the present 110,000 sqft)? (NOTE: $13 million of the $65 million bond referendum will be used to store library resources and operate the library out of temporary rented quarters during the 30-month construction period). $65,000,000 (but $over $100,000 after including interest payments) The new Municipal Building cost $50 million. The Ashley-Terrace apartment building cost only $20 million. Many of the new student resident high rise buildings cost $20 million or less for each one. And yet each building mentioned is many times the size of the planned new library. $65,000,000 (but $over $100,000 after including interest payments) The new building that will be built with $52,000,000 can not even be described and no artist rendition or architectural drawing is available for examination. $65,000,000 (but $over $100,000 after including interest payments) The new library will promise a 400 seat auditorium, because the present 135 seat meeting room in the library's lower level frequently experiences an overflow of patrons. More space will be dedicated to quiet reading and maybe a cafe will be present as well. Another T1 line will be included to increase the bandwidth available to allow more patrons to connect with the Internet. A much needed new ADA compliant elevator will be purchased as well as upgrades to the building's heating and cooling systems. $65,000,000 (but $over $100,000 after including interest payments) Does it seem like Ann Arbor will get so little for such a large sum of money?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:08 a.m.

ADDENDUM: The "$100,000" figure should be "$100,000,000" wherever it appears in the above comment.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

What happened to that caveman guy?

Dog Guy

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

The library board knows the total cost of the proposed new building would be at least $140 million. This bond issue is a low-ball scam.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

The $65 million price tag represents the principle that is being borrowed. As a bond issue interest must be paid to bond holders semi-annually at a rate that will be determined only if the bond referendum passes. If the interest rate that will attract bond purchasers is 5% then a mortgage calculator will determine that the accumulated cost of servicing the bond issue (that includes part principle as well as interest payments) will be $125,614,800 over the bond's thirty year life span. At 4% the thirty year accumulated costs will be $111,775,200, still a sizable figure.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

Where did you pull that number out of? Show your work.

Jamie Pitts

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

The library proposal is visionary. If built, it would create many unanticipated opportunities for the city. But spending 65M and wrecking infrastructure are not the way to go. What we're talking about here is re-creating what Borders solved for us years ago. Unfortunately, this much-celebrated social mechanism was destroyed by technological change and business logic. A set of community services that includes a social medium (cafe, playground, etc), meetup spaces, and a public lecture space must now be solved by public and non-profit institutions. Unless you really think that B&N will go as far with it as Borders did (they won't). Perhaps the city should instead copy some of the vision in the Library Bond Propsal, rent out some floor space, and create... something new and useful. This would cost a lot less and waste a lot less.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

I'm voting for the new library. Progressives dig progress, you dig?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

With very few details about what will be offered with the new library (other than a 400 seat auditorium, quiet reading room and a cafe) what is it about a new library that excites you? What progress do you think it will offer ( and "think" is the operative word since no details about the library have been revealed, certainly not enough to justify $65 million)?

Linda Peck

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 6 p.m.

Good points, gentlemen. I completely agree and will vote "no" on the new library proposal. I like the building as it is and think it is very useful. I like the new libraries that have recently been built and visit them, too. Let's not get out of control on this issue of spending. We need good and safe roads and more police and fire protection in Ann Arbor. Let's spend money in those areas.

Jack Campbell

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

No to a new library. No to reckless spending. The DDA needs to be thrown out.

Anti Crankypants

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

You've got your acronyms mixed up. DDA isn't the AADL, though they share some of the same letters.

ronald sharp

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

I thought the price tage was a misprint. $65 Million?!!!! Remember the wordS BOOKS and READING? I love the library but that is an outrageous amount of money. We should be able to build ten libraries for that price with lots of books but no auditoriums or cafes. Get real.

music to my ear

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

they want a state of the arts. so can the arts.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

"Rarely do library programs seat even 100." That's because it only seats 100.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

Plus, you have to reserve it two weeks in advance, and you can only rent twice a year. This makes it one of the most useless spaces in downtown.