opinon: Residents must decide the value a new library will to their own lives when considering bond
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
In regards to its re-purposing, library officers note that the library's largest meeting room in its lower level has a capacity of 135 persons. On 11 occasions last year, many more patrons wished to attend functions there as could be accommodated. Therefore, the new library will have a 400-seat auditorium along with other smaller meeting rooms. Besides supporting the local demand for meeting space, the library staff hopes to expand its own educational, cultural and entertainment programs that will benefit from additional meeting space. Advocates of a new library point out that additional meeting rooms will fill a need in Ann Arbor for inexpensive meeting space centrally located with easy access by car and bus.
The library officials do not consider meeting rooms available elsewhere in Ann Arbor (e.g., the Michigan Union, Michigan League, Towsley, Michigan Theater, North Main Street Community Center) as competitive because of higher rental cost, poor access and parking issues.
The auditorium will likely require 8,000 square feet out of the additional 50,000 square feet of planned new library space. No plans for use of the majority of remaining space were divulged by library officials. Of course, no architectural designs are available.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The other advantages accompanying the new library include meeting all American Disability Act requirements (at this time an ADA-compliant elevator requires installation). Expansion of technology to allow more patrons to connect to the Internet is desirable as well. And a new building can be built using latest energy efficient and environmentally-friendly materials. Of course most of these desirable library changes can be done with renovation and at a cost savings.
Predicting the changing functions of a library due to advances in technology is impossible though the trend at this time is a move towards more digitization and miniaturization, which do not demand increased physical space. Access to the Internet, books, periodicals and audiovisual materials by patrons, who can not afford purchasing of personal Internet connections or of printed works and audiovisual products, will be maintained.
Deciding on whether to approve the $65 million bond issue (which will cost more than $100 million with interest over 30 years) depends on how important is a transformation of our present library into a larger civic center offering additional meeting space. None of the changes sought by library staff and supporters are urgent and the present library remains functional.
Approval of the bond issue will be followed by a millage of at least 0.5 mills (depending in part on the interest rate guaranteed to bond purchasers). Other millages for a parks maintenance renewal, for purchase of public art and for a four-county transit authority will appear on the ballot in November and in the spring.
Donald J. Salberg