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Posted on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

'Save the Ann Arbor Library' committee forms in opposition to $65M library bond proposal

By Ryan J. Stanton


The downtown Ann Arbor library on a recent afternoon.

Ryan J. Stanton |

A second campaign has been launched in opposition to the Ann Arbor District Library's plans to demolish the downtown library and build a new one in its place.

Ann Arbor resident Doug Jewett, a self-described "library aficionado and public nuisance," filed paperwork with the county clerk's office on Tuesday to form a committee called Save the Ann Arbor Library, arguing it's a mistake to tear down the aging building.

So far it's not clear if the committee's membership includes anyone other than Jewett, who has started a blog at

Jewett could not be reached for comment. But in an open letter to AADL Director Josie Parker on his blog, he calls the downtown library "the true civic center of Ann Arbor."

He argues "tearing down our magnificent library would risk deeply offending the gods." Describing its potential demolition in graphic detail, he compared it to an act of terrorism.

"If terrorists were to accomplish the same end result there would be rage and weeping across the land," he wrote to Parker.

Library leaders are asking voters on Nov. 6 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.

A grass-roots group calling itself Protect Our Libraries also formed recently in opposition to the bond proposal for a new downtown Ann Arbor library. There are now two formal committees against it and one committee called Our New Downtown Library in favor of it.

In his most recent blog post, Jewett notes a good portion of the library facing demolition actually was the result of a renovation a little more than 20 years ago.

Supporters of a new library argue the current building is past its prime. They've posted an "under the hood" video online to give the public a glimpse of what they mean by that.

A library facilities committee report states the current building — first constructed in 1958 and updated twice, most recently in 1990 — has inadequate capabilities for meeting patron needs for safe, quiet reading space and has outdated heating and air conditioning systems.

It also found the facility lacks sufficient meeting space for community events and large presentations, needs capacity for additional infrastructure to meet growing computer use, does not have space for children’s programming and services that reflect the needs of contemporary families and students, and does not have an auditorium. After reviewing renovation possibilities, the committee determined that a new facility built on the site of the existing building was the most cost-effective solution.

Peter Baker, a member of the Our New Downtown Library group, responded to the latest showing of opposition via email Tuesday night.

"While we take no joy in seeing buildings of any era discarded, there comes a point when usage has changed so significantly, and the option of retrofitting a twice-already-retrofitted building becomes untenable, that it simply becomes more than some buildings can adapt to," he said.

"We would like to see the library saved by investing in it, and making sure it remains a useful and relevant resource to current and future generations."

Jewett acknowledges on his blog there have been concerns about problems with the existing building for several years now, and he said those deserve continued discussion.

"But for me the inconvenient truth is that the proposed remedy requires smashing the existing building to rubble," he writes. "If the voters of Ann Arbor and surrounding townships vote NO on the bond issue, the discussion continues and may lead to a broader and more nuanced consensus."

Jewett plans to keep yard signs and stickers at his home at 404 W. Keech Ave. He said he will be there every Sunday between about 4 p.m. and sunset if anyone is interested in his campaign.

Some are wondering what will happen to the downtown library's collection during construction if voters approve the bond proposal. Parker said on her director's blog the staff will be considering all options for maintaining services during construction.

"We intend to keep the collection status available online for requests, but most of it will not be physically browsable," she acknowledged. "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."

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.



Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Is Doug Jewett actually serious, or should I be reading his comments in a Colbert voice? It's hard to believe this could be anything other than parody of the new library opposition. Personally I think our current downtown library is a public humiliation, and further duct tape upgrades is simply throwing good money after bad. Before voting "yes" however, I would like to be assured that neither the architects responsible for the "Justice Center", nor the contractors behind the underground parking structure will have anything to do with this.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Vote NO on the new library bond. There simply is NOT enough valid justification for tearing down a perfectly good building.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Libraries are changing fast from repositories for books to sites for computerized research, and people are doing more and more online reading. Tearing down and rebuilding a main library in 2012 is like building a brand new horse stable just as autos were taking over the scene in 1915. Monitor the users of the library for a few weeks to assess who is in the building and what they are doing: what is the purpose of a library now? Rehab and make do.

Dog Guy

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

The proposed new library building is projected by the board to cost much more than twice the $65M bond issue . . . all local property taxes. The board members know that this expenditure, in collaboration with other government waste, would cause more hardship for many and foreclosure for some. It's not just their edifice complex: part of the joy of being on top ot he economic heap is that others are crushed on the bottom


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Really? Librarians are the 1%. Nice try.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

A "committee" is formed........ one guy is a "committee" ??? Is that possible.?

Greg Sommerville

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

The arguments for tearing down the library and building a new one don't stand up. If the server room is a problem, move the computers off-site. Setting up a wireless network for the library is a simple solution, and doesn't require running any new cables. Computers and networking is a non-issue in my opinion, and anyone saying it's a reason to destroy a building is seriously deluded. If the heat and A/C need work, then fix them - don't tear down the entire building. And if the goal is to get more meeting space, sorry, but that doesn't fit into my idea of the core purpose of a library. Libraries may end up serving as ad hoc social centers, but that's completely secondary to their main purpose. They are supposed to be a repository of books, magazine, CDs and DVDs. It's a place to obtain publically-owned resources, not a community center. Finally, if you're going to argue that libraries change over time and we need to adapt, then ok, how about adding a basketball court? That's something the community would like. Of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with libraries, but hey, things change, right?


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

I read - or, more accurately, "tried to plow through" Doug Jewett's open letter on his website. It truly smacks more of sentimentality and Grandpa Simpson's rambling reminiscences than it does a rational argument, and I gave up after the eighth paragraph or so. It is a wall of text in its most basic definition. Fortunately, there are plenty of other reasons to oppose. My major beef is quite selfish: I do NOT want 5th Ave to be closed for years again. What a pain in the canardlies. Maybe we can revisit this again in the future.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

He argues "tearing down our magnificent library would risk deeply offending the gods." Describing its potential demolition in graphic detail, he compared it to an act of terrorism. "If terrorists were to accomplish the same end result there would be rage and weeping across the land," he wrote to Parker. ... This guy sounds like a real even-keeled, circumspect concerned citizen. Building a new library is exactly like terrorists attacking Ann Arbor.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

What is the net environmental impact of demolishing an existing building and then building another, versus building another and selling the existing? Given the AADL's previously demonstrated genuine concern for sustainability, is this not a concern in this case?


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

What isn't being told here is that when the parking lot next door was being built, at about 100 feet down the earth from under the library started leaking uncontrolably into the new parking lot. So badly in fact that some were concerned that the libray may slide off into the hole where the parking lot was going to be. I would wonder at this point what we are not being told about this whole situation.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I think you are confused. The sinkhole opened up under the parking area behind earthen jar, as I recall. (the opposite side of the parking lot)


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

@braggslaw..... "What happens when we run out of other people's money?" Hopefully we are about to find out. @mw...... "The idea that we need to rebuild the library to accommodate additional computer network infrastructure for servers and desktop PCs is simply ridiculous......We're talking about a $65 million dollar expenditure to tear down a perfectly usable building and replace it with one to house technology that will be obsolete before the project is done. Vote no." Really good point.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

I am so thrilled to read all the common sense, practical and fiscally responsible responses above. What a breath of fresh air! Please vote NO, our library system as a whole is way more than adequately serving the population.

music to my ear

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Jose Parker,comment about terrorists is a little extreme .get the library a do over a face lift it just needs a lot of attention you should have seen my kitchen cupboards before we had an independent contractor come in and do a little magic at a fraction of the cost to replace them Ann Arbor reminds me of some moms (including me) when a toy is broken "oh honey we will get a new one"that got to be pretty expensive. then we were like lets try and fix it, and it worked again, (unless it was a made in china toy) get some fresh new artitect will great ideas to face lift and make it safe and Quiet .

Peter Baker

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

Josie didn't say that about the terrorists, the guy starting this new anti-campaign did.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

If the supporters of a new library want to pay for it, great. I don't. News flash: Internet use is up, library use is own. If you want a place to hang out, go to Starbucks. If you need an auditorium, rent one from one of the schools in Ann Arbor, and funnel some needed money back into the schools. Vote NO!

Peter Baker

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

Library use is up actually. 12% over the last 4 years. And "Since 2009, there has been a 21% increase in use of meeting rooms by outside organizations; 364 such uses, about one every day in 2011-­?2012." []


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

*library use is down


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

This is all ridiculous! After all the money/time spent on that underground parking, if there was need for new library why wasn't it all done at the same time! I still find it hard to believe that the city let them have 5th Ave closed down for as long as it was! Why didn't they have to make due with leaving at least one lane open while doing that...No new library, make due with what we have!


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Honestly, another building could be bought or rented for what the library people want to have done. This is just a wish list, and not necessary at this time. Better the money be put toward increased police presence, or for increased firefighters in the city. An auditorium? Really? A new building because of an outdated heating and cooling system? Really? How have they possibly have managed all these years? No, I won't support this millage.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Since I am a resident of Pittsfield Township I am unlikely to be able to vote on this ballot proposal. However I would vote no on the premise it doesn't make sense to tear down the mail branch without having a suitable backup; the outlying branches would be overloaded. If the parking lot of the old YMCA were to be the site of the new building I would vote yes, but the current plan makes no sense.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

If your house is in the Ann Arbor School District and you live in Pittsfield Township I'm fairly certain you vote on this. Please do go to polls and vote NO!


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

My Gosh... the building is fine. The library has plenty of space and it is very functional. What happens when we run out of other people's money?


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

The idea that we need to rebuild the library to accommodate additional computer network infrastructure for servers and desktop PCs is simply ridiculous. That era is rapidly drawing to a close. We are already well into the transition to wireless networking and lightweight, low-cost mobile devices. Fixed PC stations are becoming anachronisms. And why is the library planning to operate own data center? Forward-thinking organizations are rapidly switching to cloud-based servers (operated more reliably and at lower cost by organizations that are much more efficient than the AADL at managing data centers). We're talking about at $65 million dollar expenditure to tear down a perfectly usable building and replace it with one to house technology that will be obsolete before the project is done. Vote no.


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

Most library computer users are searching for information, reading (or viewing media), they're not writing, so a tablet that they could use anywhere in the library would be much more useful than a fixed PC. But there's no reason that the library cannot have a few portable notebooks with wireless networking available for patrons to borrow and use. The main point is that there is no need for more costly wired network infrastructure. The pretext that we should build a new building to accommodate fatter conduit for more obsolete physical cables is silly.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

MW I do most if not all of my actual work on an "anachronism" and don't intend to write documents on a phone now or in the future. Ditto an Ipad.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

The notion that a building built in 1958 is unacceptable today is an unacceptable concept.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

$65 million should go towards keeping a fire station open. We have a sufficiency of libraries, not enough fire stations.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

My aging house (built in the late 1950's) lacks a mudroom -- the kids take off their shoes in the dining room and leave a mess. It would be nice to have a larger living room for entertaining. These are not arguments for tearing down the house. Isn't there an opportunity to place a new building on one of the downtown properties under discussion (the old Y site, for example), and sell the existing one. The net funds could be used to build another outlying branch, in addition to a downtown location. It isn't that we want a first-rate library. It's that this plan is proposed as the 'only' solution without any clear sense that anyone has explored the alternatives. Thanks, but no.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : noon

"My aging house (built in the late 1950's) lacks a mudroom -- " Have sledge hammer will travel.

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

There's nothing special about the library building. It's not like one of the old depots or Hill Auditorium. I'm not saying we should spend the money on the new one, but opposing it form an architectural angle is just silly.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

Yay! vote NO! we dont NEED a new library.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

Dear AADL board: Why not swap your library site for the city lot across the street? Then, the city could repurpose and use your building, sell it, or combine the site with the underground parking lot next door. What do your think? Also, consider common advice from a2 Planning Commission to those wishing to demolish perfectly good buildings: "Please find another way to preserve the tremendous embodied energy present in your current building." I haven't decided how to vote on this proposal. It's been a puzzle and a struggle to reach a clear decision.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

I wonder if this new protesting individual is purposefully making himself ludicrous to do damage to the other opposition group merely by association. Also, I watched the video. To anyone who has been to the library and has common sense, this is NOT a convincing argument for the complete destruction of a building to build a completely new one: 1) The server room's a mess because they let it get messy. And that's the only problem in the server room; mess. Fire suppression systems can be changed, and can also be one-room only; you CAN put halon fire suppression in one room. And even if you couldn't, for the cost of tearing down a building a building a new one, you can replace every server every time there's a fire in that room about 1000 times. 2) While it may no be EASY to replace conduit, it CAN be done. Just because you can't fit any more wires in a conduit doesn't man you tear down the building. Run NEW conduit in addition to the old; place some servers and routers in other areas where running conduit seems impossible; there's nothing wrong with server closets, I see them all the time. 3) Older boilers and outdated heating/cooling is NOT justification for the COMPLETE TEARDOWN AND REBUILDING of a public facility! Residents of Ann Arbor, when you are told your older furnace just cannot handle the added space from an addition in your house, do you tear down the house and build a new house to accommodate a more efficient furnace? OPEN YOUR EYES, ANN ARBOR!!! Stop being completely snowed just because someone uses the word "library." Not everything with the word "library" is a wonderful idea. I've seen infrastructure repalced and modified in businesses ALL THE TIME. In a business, though, they don't have an inexhaustible source of funds from taxpayers, so they have to be careful and make well-thought-out-decisions. Seems to work great.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Thank you. very good arguments.

average joe

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

"A library facilities committee report states the current building — first constructed in 1958 and updated twice, most recently in 1990 — has inadequate capabilities for meeting patron needs for safe, quiet reading space..." A 'committee' has found that this 54 year old library doesn't have safe, quiet reading space? How did we let this go on so long...? LOL


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

Safe, quiet reading space= stay home. Or go to Starbucks.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:01 a.m.

Ryan Stanton, I think maybe it's inappropriate for you to use the phrase "aging building" in this article. It very strongly implies that the library is suffering from age, and indicates a definite leaning on your part in terms of the "sides" of this issue. This can also sway readers who may not have been to the library recently and do not know that the library actually appears to be in fine shape, especially to the layman. I realize that technically it could be correct to describe ANY object as aging, but in this story, for this issue, I think your duty as a journalist is to not push the agenda one way or thr other.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.

Are you kidding me. That is the only way can write any news story. Their side.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

So all we need to get the lead byline on is start a website with our personal rant? Is it possible to have a "group" with one member?


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 10:23 a.m.

If this had been done when the "big dig" was done, I could have voted yes. If this was a cost efficient design, I could have voted yes. If this was the only request for more taxes in 2012-2013, I could have voted yes. In all 3 cases it is not. Three Strikes - I am voting NO! On a per square foot basis - this is the most expensive library proposal that I can find in the Midwest since 2006. In the 1990s both the Internet and Computers were taken into account in the design and rehab of the library. Yes, the library is an independent entity, but they were part of the school district and got their own taxing authority when they were spun out so the school district could keep what we had paid for the library. Now both the school district with 2 new taxes and the library want more. Several years of disruption for businesses and home owners in the area just finished and now they want to do it again. OH - and that telephone survey - I actually took it - talk about biased questions - boy were they loaded in the library's favor.

Chip Reed

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 10:18 a.m.

This sounds like the guys who come around and tell me my windows need "updating". It would certainly be a fine thing to have a new facility there, but perhaps we should consider waiting until things are a little bit better, economy-wise.