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Posted on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ann Arbor library board candidates offer opinions on $65M proposal for a new downtown library

By Ryan J. Stanton


From left to right, library board candidates Lyn Powrie Davidge, Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal participate in a League of Women Voters candidate forum in Ann Arbor Tuesday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

In addition to deciding on a $65 million bond proposal for a new downtown Ann Arbor library, local voters get to elect four library board members on Nov. 6.

Five candidates are competing for four seats on the seven-member board of trustees that governs the Ann Arbor District Library.

Four of them already are current trustees: President Margaret Leary, Vice President Prue Rosenthal, Rebecca Head and Nancy Kaplan.


Nancy Kaplan, left, and Margaret Leary chat before the start of Tuesday night's forum.

Ryan J. Stanton |

All four incumbents believe a new downtown library is sorely needed, and they made that clear during a Tuesday night forum hosted by the League of Women Voters in Ann Arbor.

Lyn Powrie Davidge, the fifth candidate in the race, is hoping to unseat one of the incumbents. She's opposed to building a new downtown library at this time.

"I'm the renegade in the group, I guess," Davidge said.

Voters will see all five names appear on the Nov. 6 ballot and will get to pick four.

The four-year terms for the nonpartisan library board positions begin Jan. 1.

Davidge identified herself as a former school teacher and retired University of Michigan librarian who also worked 12 years as a substitute librarian at AADL.

"I am not in favor of this particular proposal at this particular time, which is not to say that I will never be in favor of a new library," she said. "But I do not think right now the case has been fully made."

All four incumbents painted a picture of the AADL as a fiscally responsible agency, one that already has successfully built three neighborhood branch libraries on time and under budget.

"The library is at an important juncture," Kaplan said. "With an excellent record of fiscal responsibility, the library now wants to invest in its future."

The library at Fifth and William, which AADL leaders want to demolish and replace, traces back to the 1950s and has been renovated and added onto at different points over the years.

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.

"Our current building is really three buildings, and all three of them are worn out," said Leary, the former director of U-M's law library.

"They are about to experience expensive repairs and the board has studied this for a long time," she said, arguing a complete renovation of the library to bring it up to modern-day standards would cost about 90 percent of what it would cost to have a completely brand-new library that is bigger.

Head said the downtown library clocked about 600,000 visits in the last year and the numbers keep growing, but the building has a lot of problems.

"I support the millage because the current library building, as it's configured and constructed, doesn't really meet the needs of the current residents," Head said.

Kaplan, who has a background in teaching and physical therapy, said she wants a new library that is "lighter and brighter" and has "all of the technology that we need."


Rebecca Head, right, is one of four incumbents defending their seats against Lyn Powrie Davidge, left.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"The whole building should be ADA-compliant, whether you are a mother with a carriage or you're someone elderly with a walker," she said. "The building should feel comfortable and accessible to all."

Rosenthal agreed the building isn't accessible enough to handicapped people, arguing it doesn't have enough bathrooms or elevators.

"Meeting rooms are used beyond capacity," she added. "We turn people away constantly. We need an auditorium where everyone can see and hear presentations being made

"We have outgrown the building," Rosenthal concluded. "The town has grown and the library usage has grown 12 percent in the last 10 years. We need to double the space available."

Davidge said she's concerned the AADL is going to the community for approval of a new library building that hasn't been fully planned out yet.

"I understand the need not to spend a whole lot of money before you have it, but there is no real specific plan for the building and there are a lot of unanswered questions," she said.

"For one thing, I've looked at the statistics for the meeting space downtown known as 'aadlfreespace' and it appears to be very much underutilized," she added. "So I would like to see us step back."

Davidge previously ran for a two-year term on the library board in 2010, but she pulled only 19.8 percent of the vote compared to Kaplan's 55.6 percent.

Whether the library bond passes or fails, whoever is elected to the library board likely will be involved in major discussions regarding the future of the downtown library.

"I think it's critical for this bond to pass, but if it doesn't pass, the board will have to decide what to do next, and that will depend on what the conditions are," Leary said. "If it fails by only a little bit, that will be one situation. If it fails by a great deal, that would be another situation."

But if the bond fails and library leaders don't try again, Leary said, the AADL will end up spending more and more of its operating budget on maintaining "that inadequate building."

"We will have to replace an elevator for $1 million," she said. "We will have to replace a roof. We will have to repair damage done from internal leaks. We will have to replace parts of the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system. The building is worn out."

Davidge said she thinks more public input is needed.

"I think if the proposal should fail, that is a signal to the board to take a step back and a deep breath and to have a close look at things," she said. "I think it means that the community does not have enough information and is not ready to move forward."

Rosenthal said she's proud of the AADL for maintaining a healthy fund balance while levying only 1.55 mills of the 1.92 mills it's authorized to levy for operations — saving taxpayers $1.6 million a year.

But she said that fund balance would get swallowed up very quickly if the bond proposal fails and the AADL has to pay for a bunch of repairs to the downtown library out of its budget.

"If this fails, I agree with my colleagues that we will use up dollars that would go for services and programs, and that would be so unfortunate," Head said.

"We have such a sterling library system, I'd hate for it to go downhill."

For more information on the candidates, check out the MLive Voter Guide.

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.



Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

When the Library Board took over management of the library and and skipped a year of audit, they came up a million dollars short. They said they would raise the late fee from 10 cents a day only temporarily. It is still at a higher level. Promise broken. When they wanted to close down the Loving Branch, they said they needed more room for books. When they moved, a several hundred page book about the history of modern europe was moved downtown and so was a biography of Walter Reuther. If the new branch was needed for more room for more books, why were books moved downtown? No matter what the library board says, a new group will always come in every few years and ignore promises from the group before. Whatever they say now about a new building, in a couple years they will completely disregard what was said before. I don't trust much of what they say any more.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

A 20 year old building is in no way "worn out". It does not cost $1 million to replace an elevator. Making a building ADA compliant does not require tearing it down, as has been demonstrated over and over again in other public buildings. This proposal seems more about the glamour elements of a new library and not so much about what actually makes sense to do with a main library downtown that exists in a building that can, and should, be renovated and repaired to enhance the library's mission. A 400-seat auditorium is not a necessity in the library when collaborating with other downtown entities could provide the ability to serve that need when it arises. I have rarely been to an event at AADL that required more seating than was available. Yes, Austin may be spending $120 million on a library, but Austin is four times the size of Ann Arbor, so that doesn't seem like a relevant comparison.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

"Meeting rooms are used beyond capacity," she added. "We turn people away constantly. We need an auditorium where everyone can see and hear presentations being made "We have outgrown the building," Rosenthal concluded. As a question to the commentors/regular patrons of the library, how many times has anyone seen Ms. Rosenthal (or any other board members) at a public event (other than a board meeting that they are required to attend)? I regularly attend public events and go to the library as a member. As a note, I have never once seen the women pictured in this article at any of the libraries or events held there on a regular basis. Where is the information coming from? As a matter of my own observation, I have rarely seen library events so populated that there was not room for seating. In fact the opposite happens more often than not; events are regularly attended by no more than two dozen attendees.


Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

As property taxes (and consequently rents) increase to fund big projects like the proposed new down town library we should ask ourselves how this will affect our ability to remain a city of diverse incomes. Each new millage and fee pushes Ann Arbor closer to the unhappy distinction of being a city where only the wealthy can afford to live. I'll be voting "NO." kb


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Just imagine it......we just got Fifth St. re-opened. How about closing it for another three years so we can further torture the local merchants!! Sorry HD, JG and EJ. Might as well move to Ypsi. I hear they have cheap rents.

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

Fifth Street won't be closed during construction. The parking lot next door will be used for storage of materials.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Regardless of the interest, how is $65 million for a new Library sustainable? As for progressive, how about some sustainable practices like adaptive reuse to preserve of appropriate parts of the existing structure to save labor, materials, and costs? How about an updated analysis by an architecture firm experienced with adaptive reuse instead of a study almost five years out of date? New construction could be added on to or built over parts of the old and we could still end up with a wonderfully contemporary iconic new Library. To put some perspective on this, take a peak at Raleigh's Contemporary Art Museum, a completed $5.8 million adaptive reuse construction project:

Peter Baker

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

"The structural design drawings for the 1991 addition to the building indicate design loads that do not allow for or support the addition of future loads to the structure. Therefore, it is not possible to expand the current facility by adding additional floors to the structure. The only possibilities for expanding the current building on its present site are to 1) push the western front of the building out beyond the current porch/entry area and 2) eliminate and enclose the garden space on the William Street side. In essence, it accomplishes nothing more that replacing one of the independent boxes with another larger one to provide the auditorium and adding a small amount of square footage from the garden. One may question why the building can't be expanded to the east. Expansion to the east would eliminate the service drive which is used for shipping, receiving and distribution for tractor trailers delivering materials and supplies, for the inter-system courier services among the District branches and other libraries in the region, and for District maintenance services deployed from the Downtown facility." - Feasibility Study by Cornerstone Design and O'Neal Construction

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

This information is also from the county website: --- The estimated millage to be levied in 2013 to pay the debt service on such bonds is 0.56 mills ($0.56 per $1,000 of taxable value) and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds is 0.47 mills ($0.47 per $1,000 of taxable value). In accordance with State law, a portion of the revenue collected may be subject to capture by the City of Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Scio Township Downtown Development Authority. --- Note that since bonds have not been sold, we don't know the actual interest rate. Thus, the actual number of mills to be charged each taxpayer will not be known until later.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Regarding whether this is a millage or a bond vote: it is both, but with some important qualifiers. It is not an operating millage with a set amount. Instead, we will pay a millage amount yearly that is calculated to pay the cost of the bond. Here is the actual proposal language: Shall the Ann Arbor District Library, formed by the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the City of Ann Arbor, County of Washtenaw, State of Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed sixty-five million dollars ($65,000,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds, in one or more series, payable in not to exceed thirty (30) years from the date of issuance of such bonds, for the purpose of paying all or part of the costs of constructing, furnishing and equipping a new main library building to be located at the current site of the downtown library building, including costs related thereto? It is on the county website


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Anyone who says the "case hasn't been made" isn't paying attention. You may disagree with the rationale, but the case has certainly been made.

Mary Hathaway

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.

I respect the board members who--unlike most of these critics--have spent years studying the problems and weighing the costs. Do you think they have not anticipated all the questions and denials in this string of comments? It takes courage to ask the community to take a big step into the future. Here is what they have understood: the library of the 21st Century is about sharing information in every way. It needs different spaces and technologies than the old building can provide. A very good 21st Century library is also a community center that brings people together to share ideas, art, argument, performance. As such it belongs at the center of town, and it needs to be a beautiful structure where people like to go. We're going to build a new library some day. Let's do it now before costs go up, and before sinking more money into the old building. I will vote yes.

Emily Puckett Rodgers

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:56 a.m.

Think about it this way: we, as a community, have two choices: we can vote to go ahead, bite the bullet, and build a PUBLIC LIBRARY for the future of our community or we can vote against this bond and continue to pay taxes to invest in maintaining an increasingly inefficient, unsustainable, non-compliant, limited capacity building that doesn't serve OUR needs nor the needs of our community in the next thirty years. I will vote YES for the bond. Let's move forward.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:56 a.m.

And what needs do you see the new library providing over the next thirty years? Can you even imagine future advances in technology in view of the dramatic evolution of technology over the last twenty years. And miniaturization has contributed significantly to the advances in technology so we can do more with less and often at a reduced cost. Please list for me all the goodies you anticipate will be provided by a new library and how much each improvement contributes to the overall $65 million dollar cost.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

Mileage = millage in my post. My apologies for overexuberant autocorrection.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:51 p.m.

The issue here is not whether we need a new library. It's whether we need to spend $65 million that will end up costing close to $130 million over 30 years. Costs of a "new iconic" building for the Downtown Library could be much lower if a different approach was taken. Part of the high expense is that a 400 seat auditorium, meeting rooms, and catering kitchen are being considered as part of this "New Library." If the Library is planning on moving to a revenue generating model, then shouldn't the bond cost be even lower? Taxpayers are not going to be reimbursed for event revenue. The role of modern libraries has shifted dramatically in the past decade and will continue to do so. An example is the need listed for cable trays in the new Library. Internet, video, telephony, and its infrastructure are becoming wireless, meaning the cable trays are already obsolete. Sinking $65 /130 million into a new building that we will be pay off for the next 30 years makes little sense. What of other approaches? We could do two $20 million Lirbrary construction projects, one now, one in 15 years. Or better yet, use an urban architect that will preserve some of the old building and add on or build over the existing building. There can be dramatic savings in labor and materials. As for the Library's funding cycle, I too was concerned, but was advised by a Council Member that this proposal is entirely independent from it. It's actual a bond vote, not a mileage. I am not opposed to a new or renovated Library, but I am opposed to paying $65 to 130 million when our City says it can not fund more police and firefighters. Shouldn't we be looking at a Public Safety mileage instead?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

While Ann Arbor is foremost in trying to accomodate all people equally regardless of minimal requirements by ADA rules, if the library fits in the catagory of being a State or local government entity, then the new ADA building requirements may not even apply. The revised rules do state that expense is also to be a factor in case-by-case consideration for compliance wavers. Does anyone know what is wrong with the current elevator system such that it fails to meet code and whether or not $1M actually has to be spent ? Where's my Tesla ?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

How much for an elevator? Google answer is : 2-3 story home $20k-30k, commercial building $75k-100k. Maybe AA News can investigate what aadl gets for their $1M lift ? As well the other aadl claimed "maintenance costs". Conference hall ? Plenty of roomy theatres and public schools in town. And they still work, too, even after more than 20 years. Data centre ? If an old brewery or a bookstore can handle the latest in technology why not the current library ? Or maybe join the cloud if some heads are not already in it. The fact is the Ann Arbor library system is really great as it stands - now. The feeling is that the local economy will not support another $65M hole - at this time. Infrastructure maintenance should really be part of the MLS degree requirement or librarians get bamboozled into $1M elevators and $65M holes.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

You are quite right. As was requested above, publish the figures (news - who, what, why, where, when, how) and let the public examine these sudden "costs" perhaps in relation to other "expert" estimates (like those unearthed statistically w/Google).. Or, as noted here, by several people,, new costs in relation to administration's past budgeting for maintenance. Maybe not such a wise track record of funding allocation - let's see the facts. The Northern Brewery and the Liberty Jacobson's store were not designed to become hi-tech centres, either.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

That is one of the problems with this bond issue, Andy Crankypants: no experts have been employed yet such as an architect to draw up preliminary plans that can be shown to tax payers. And no detailed listing of what new amenities will be included in a new library other than a 400-seat auditorium, an ADA-compliant elevator, a quiet reading room and maybe a cafe. I do not believe that the desired improvements as so briefly mentioned are worth $65 million. Now, refute my statement but show me the facts that support your position.

Anti Crankypants

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

You're so on it, using Google and everything. Maybe the AADL should try that method instead of working with experts who assess the actual building (which is poorly designed for making these kinds of upgrades). Or maybe the AADL's just trying to bamboozle this community, despite their proven track record to the contrary.

Linda Peck

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

This is very helpful as it tells me how to vote this election time. I appreciate this article very much. I am against the new library proposal.

Ryan Burns

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

We have a library building that is not meeting current requirements, let alone future requirements. It is not efficiently climate controlled due to the multiple renovations and needs a large number of replacements, from elevators to the roof. I support reusing the current building's materials in other construction, and replacing it with an efficient structure that meets current and future needs. A building with windows and natural light, drive up book pick-up/return, a great children's space, a place you can get a coffee without walking a couple blocks, and space for holding library events *at the library* instead of at Live at PJ's like a recent event I attended. A library that people will go out of their way to spend more time in. AADL is a keystone of this community and a critical part of Ann Arbor's intellectual infrastructure. Now is the time, with interest rates and construction costs at historic lows, to invest in our future.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

And how did you determine that the new library justifies a $65 million bond issue? You did not see the plans because none exist. You did not see a comprehensive listing of all the amenities that will be offered because no such listing exists. Go buy a car wearing a blindfold and be willing to pay whatever the seller wants to charge for it.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

The new Library will be more relevant than ever for Ann Arbor citizens: more and better internet access, new auditorium for a wide variety of needs, and completely ADA compliant. It has to be built someday, why not now? It was built originally in about 1956, all the improvements that can be done have already been done. Personally, I would like to see Alden Dow's concepts continued in the new building, I like the front of the current building. I'm voting yes.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

But, BHarding, all the improvements which you list should not require the building of a $65 million library structure. Even the library personnel want a new library that is half again as large as the present one (160,000 sqft versus 110,000 sqft). It is like going to a Toyota dealership and being asked to pay $100,000 for a $20,000 Corolla. The new car will operate better, be more efficient and offer the latest technology but is not worth one hundred grand!

Jack Campbell

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

Why do those who do not pay property taxes get to vote on millages?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

@ Jack: Because we live in a democracy.

Ryan Burns

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Because renters contribute to property taxes through their rent.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

Here's another way of looking at it: My house is worth a little more than $200,000, so this bond will cost me about $60 a year. Just last week I went to the library and borrowed 3 books (2 were picture books for my daughter that are not replaceable by ebooks) and 2 movies. I looked on Amazon, and the cost for me to buy those books and movies would have been $86. Do this a few times a year (our house does it at least once a month), and we're talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars in savings. Hell, borrow a telescope one time and you've got your money back. And that doesn't even take in to account the great free events we go to all the time, that are almost always packed. So sure, nobody wants to pay more in taxes, I'm surely not voting for every proposal we're being confronted with, but when it comes to the library, we're talking about the one part of our property taxes that can really truly save us money. Our library is a bargain, and it's worth investing in.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

You have a good point, onward, except that this new bike wouldn't really have more gears, it would just be an incredibly expensive new bike that worked about the same. Or maybe had one more gear. For 1,000 more dollars.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

"If you paid for your bike, and then after a year calculated all the bus money it saved you, did you then want to pay for your bike some more?" Talk about fallacious arguments. If my bike had been saving me a bunch of money for a long time, and I wanted a bike with more gears, so I bought a NEW bike and still saved a bunch of money versus a car, it's STILL be a bargain. We're not talking about spending more on what we've already got (that's what increasing maintenance costs will end up doing), we're talking about spending money on something NEW and BETTER.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

This is a completely fallacious argument, and is typical of the knee jerk "more taxes please" from those in charge AND the voters, as long as the word "library" or "school" or "public" are in the name of the millage. If you paid for your bike, and then after a year calculated all the bus money it saved you, did you then want to pay for your bike some more? You PAID and ARE PAYING for this library. It hasn't been a zero cost to you this entire time, All those things you did are being done NOW, at the library you are paying for. How about you just send half of all the money you calculated you saved to the library donation every time you save money? THAT's a bargain, right? You want to say you want to pay more to have bigger spaces so they don't run out of room for these events (and you want them to tear down the building and build a new one instead of just shuffling things around, or using external space, which I dont understand is not being discussed), use THAT argument.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Well, I definitely don't spend any more time there than I have to. It's dark and uninviting (I've never seen a building with less natural light), and we've been turned away from events multiple times because they're at capacity. What I get from the library board and director is that for the library to continue to provide the things they've been providing, as well as expand to accomodate the increasing numbers of people using it, we need to invest some money in it and make sure it's still useful and relevant.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

But you see, you did all that at the *current* library. Did it strike you when you were there that the building needed to be torn down and replaced? On the contrary, it sounds as if the current library serves your needs very well. That's the thing that's hard to wrap ones head around about this.

Jamie Pitts

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Many of the basic ideas in this proposal are wonderful, but why do we have to tear down a place we feel connected to in order to fulfill its main goals? The AADL could instead rent out commercial space downtown and create a community meeting center with reading material, a play area, and a cafe. The AADL could upgrade the current library. This would cost a lot less and would be a good way to test out and refine many of these great ideas. I am disappointed that this concept of integrating learning. gathering people together for meetings, and creating space for kids is marred by turning it into another big-dig like that library parking garage.

Jack Campbell

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

I am voting no. A 20 year old building should not be "worn out" and 1 million for an elevator seems way to expensive. Also the cost would be well above 65 mil, try more like 111 mil.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

With regard to meeting room space: the underutilization of the 4th floor board room came up in a conversation with a friend. I'm wondering why that is never discussed. The 4th floor could be made much more usable for a public meeting room and still fulfill its function as a board room for AAPS and AADL boards. (AATA also meets there now.) The current configuration takes up at least a third of the space for an awkwardly inward design for board seating and the public is fenced off behind other desk/counters. With redesign it could serve to house many public meetings.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

Well, we can remove AATA from the list, since they'll have that real big meeting space (or several; one private and others public) in THEIR brand new building.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

It is the former school board room - your description seems about right. I'm guessing the school board still meets there, and both AADL and AATA boards meet there. It is set up for CTN broadcasts and recording, which is valuable. There have been occasional public meetings there, for example the one about the Library Lot RFP, but it isn't designed very well for this purpose.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

*Gasp* Redesign instead of rebuild? There are SEVERAL places where moving things around would create an enormous amount of space. And I don't know if I'm talking about the same place Vivienne is, but that big fishbowl-type atrium thingy at the top seems like a bunch of wasted space also; is that the room whose only purpose is to accommodate library board member meetings?

Anti Crankypants

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:58 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 : 1:53 p.m.

$65,000,000 (but over $100,000,000 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 $100,000,000 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 $100,000,000 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 $100,000,000 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 $100,000,000 after including interest payments) Does it seem like Ann Arbor will get so little for such a large sum of money?

Stephen Landes

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

I suppose I could have torn down my house when I needed a new Heat/AC system, but I considered that required maintenance, not an excuse to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a complete new structure. If the library building is in such bad shape at such a young age I suggest that the AADL Board has been irresponsible in providing routine maintenance over the years. Apparently spending money on operations has been more important to them than maintaining their assets. It won't be long before a new building suffers the same fate as the current building. I suggest to that their reporters take a look at the current and planned public building renovation/replacement actions to see if the AADL proposal makes sense. I am aware of one library renovation for a much older building that will cost substantially less than the AADL proposal. Get out there and seek information.

Ryan Burns

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

From the 2007 Feasibility Study by Cornerstone Design and O'Neal Construction: "While the Administration and the Facilities Department of the Ann Arbor District Library have been excellent stewards of the current building, there are issues of general age related to MEP (mechanicals, electricity, plumbing), HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) and accessibility that cannot be addressed by relocating operations and services within the existing footprint," This isn't just an issue of the mechanicals though, that is one aspect. You can read a more detailed assessment of the current building from that study at


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

No, No and No again! BTW $1mil for a three story elevator replacement is waaay too much. This whole proposal is overinflated. C'mon fellow Ann Arborites, haven't we seen (or should I say "paid") enough of this over the last few pet projects in this town???

Hot Sam

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

I too would love an explanation of the million dollar elevator...

David Cahill

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

I think Davidge is right. We should not build a new downtown library now.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3 p.m.

@ Onward: Your faith that things will be good in the years ahead is higher than mine. Michigan's economy is still standing only because of the massive federal government bailout of the auto industry. If not for that, we're in awful shape. Even with it, things aren't good.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

@Northside, the timing is actually perfect. Interest rates and constructions costs are at all time lows, and the economy is on an upswing, so the vast majority of the time we will be paying for this IS when the economy will be better. It's cheapest now, and we'll pay for it as the economy continues to improve. Win win.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

The timing is perhaps the main reason why I'm voting no. People are still recovering from a tremendous hit to the property value of their homes and the economy remains shaky. If this proposal were put forth during good times, I'd probably vote yes. Now? I can't believe they're even asking.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Vote No for a new library. There are enough new satellite branches around town that we recently paid for.

Peter Baker

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Those satellite branches rely on the downtown building for their books and administration. And downtown is still the most popular of all the libraries.

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

How much book space are they eliminating in the proposed new configuration? Both in terms of square feet of shelving, and in terms of number of actual hard copy titles?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Did anyone ask Josie Parker exactly how many square feet of additional space will be provided for new books in the new library? Don't waste time asking, however, because she does not know. In fact nobody knows. Details will not be worked out only if the bond referendum passes. And have you noticed no mention of new technology or what is meant by new technology and what will be added to the library. Again these details await approval of the bond issue. Ann Arbor citizens have to be entirely trusting that the Josie Parker and perhaps a couple of members of the library board and Friends of the Ann Arbor Library will do a credible job of selecting technology to be installed and along with other amenities will be worth with gargantuan amount of money being requested.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

LOTS of questions answered directly by the director on the AADL blog:


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

I asked Josie Parker the same thing, and was told they'd be adding, not removing shelf space, and are constantly purchasing new books. "Thank you for sharing your enjoyment of browsing the Library's collection of books for wonderful reads. AADL will continue to add books to its collection for as long as books are available and for sale to libraries. I am happy to reassure you that AADL will provide space in a new building for its current book collection and all other collections housed on shelving." – Josie Parker, AADL Director

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

All of those candidates appear well qualified to deliver the harshest of shushings.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

I found the financial arguments made by Rebecca Head to be unsettling. I hope that isn't really a threat to curtail library services if the millage doesn't pass. The AADL board could have been collecting their full millage for the last several years and putting some aside into reserves if they were anticipating either costly repairs or a new building. This would also have relieved the necessity to become indebted to such a large degree. As it is, they apparently wish to borrow from the future in order to keep their current operating millage low. BTW, I believe that they did already replace at least one element of the cooling system in 2010. A responsible board and administrator would have been keeping up maintenance over the years, which I believe they did. The statements that the building is "worn out" do not ring true. This is really about a new library direction (the auditorium, etc.), not about maintenance.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

It's interesting that a 50-year old building is "worn out" while a 50-year old house is desirable because of it's charm and character.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Send 600,000 people a year through a 50-year old house and it'll wear out pretty quickly too.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Do you have to be Female to run for this office? Looks like we need some diversity here. Why should we spend money on a Brick and Mortar facility when we are in the digital age?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

I'm a property owner. Nice try though.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Is A2Onward a property owner, renter, or student?


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

You're welcome to run for the board, then maybe once you're on it, you'll spend some time learning about how popular this library is, even in the digital age, and why it's worth investing in.

Dog Guy

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

Thanks for the photos. I had wondered how it was possible that any library board would put this ruinous tax proposal forward as tax foreclosures increase, until I saw the smug smirks of the incumbents.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

How about a usury tax and not a millage. Why should property owners pay for a facility used by a lot more than local property owners? How about an Ann Arbor sales tax to cover the cost? Or have the DDA put up the funding?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Vote No. We do not need a new library building.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Interesting that only 1 out of 5 believes we do not need a new library. To be consistent in Ann Arbor, only those that believe in wasteful spending need apply. In fact, your chances of getting voted in are very good, if we reference history. You see, the AA voters are totally apathetic and have very deep pockets.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

I don't have deep pockets, I'm retired on on very limited income, I'm not apathetic, but I recognize the need for a new state of the art library. Maybe it's more important to me because I can't afford to buy the books, periodicals and cds, and dvds that I'd like to. The current library can't handle current and future technology, retrofitting it would be throwing good money after bad. They have reached the limit of repairs.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Also interesting that the people that have spent the most time dealing with the realities of running the library know so much about it's strengths and limitations.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

The board has made an excellent case for WANTING a new library building. Even were the proposal dollar-neutral, it would still be tough to make sense of closing the busiest branch of the system on the basis of the argument that it is too busy, too vital, too important to be limited to the current facility. The thing is, it isn't dollar neutral. We're going to pay 35% more for decades for a limited point of return. Even were the $65 million number reliable, even were the additional expenditure sensible in light of the overall tax burden and economic outlook, $65 million could do a lot of dynamic and exciting things for this library system, with far greater positive impact than this demolition/construction scheme. And the thing is, this scheme closes the main branch for at least two years, disenfranchises downtown residents, costs us all 35% more for decades to come, preempts spending on other library enhancements, and offers very little long-term gain. It flat doesn't make sense.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Can anyone clarify how the 600,000 visits are counted? Is this library card scans? Number of times doors opened and closed? An estimate someone gave?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

I have no idea how the number is calculated, but they get specific enough in their annual reports that it seems like it must be automated: Also, according to the reports, it's actually 649,231 visits a year Downtown (up 5.6%).


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

So since it's a door count, is it safe to assume they take the open/close cycle and divide it by 2? And do they do any estimations of rounding down, etc. for people who go in but not to use the library? And before the kool-aid drinkers get uproarious, I don't think that number would be an inconsequential one; I see plenty when I'm there, and I'm only there for a short amount of time when I go.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

@ Onward: Do you know how that number is calculated?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Really? Every time I've been there it's been extremely easy to imagine 1700 visits a day. And come on, now LIBRARIANS are lying to you? Conspiracies everywhere!


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

@ Ryan: Do you know how the door count is calculated? Is there a machine or sensor that reads the number of people entering? Like RU, I've long considered the 600,000 visits number to be suspect. If the library is open around 360 days/year (365 minus holidays) that would mean around 1700 people enter per day. I find that number hard to believe.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

It's a door count.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

"We will have to replace an elevator for $1 million," she said. "We will have to replace a roof. We will have to repair damage done from internal leaks. We will have to replace parts of the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system. The building is worn out." This statement indicates that the current library board, and majority of candidates, are poor stewards in maintaining relatively inexpensive short-term building components, to the demise of a total building system, and ultimately, taxpayer well being. Using their logic, new buildings should only last about 20 years. Old buildings should simply be torn down. This is like putting a low mileage car in the junkyard because it needs tires and an oil change. Ridiculous logic! Alas, our library doesn't have a 400-seat auditorium. An entity such as AADL could easily rent an auditorium, theatre, or concert hall, within blocks of the main library, if the need arose. Why don't they try this operationally, measuring demand and success by actual turnout, before desiring to duplicate an area resource that is already likely underutilized? Thank you Mr. Stanton for highlighting the views of these candidates.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

Is 1 MILLION dollars a typical cost for elevator replacement in a THREE STORY building? I have to wonder iof the same place does it for $200,000 for a private business, because then there is no inexhaustible funding source (e.g. taxpayers). I do freely admit to not knowing about elevator repair and replacement, but $1 million for 3 stories seems really, REALLY over the top. Like seriously. And no, they don't need a new building. Use the meeting space the AATA is (for SOME reason) putting in their brand new bus station, built atop the one they will tear down (new AATA millage coming sooon, folks). BTW, anybody seen any sidewalks getting fixed from that new millage yet?


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

I also have not been in the fountain business for long, but think $750,000 is too much for that sometimes-damp one in front of the Justice Center. That's just me, though


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

Joseph, I do it the same way I'm not a baker but still think $25 is too much for a loaf of bread. And I'm not in military intelligence OR plumbing, but still think $200 is too much for a toilet seat.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

And yes, they have been replacing sidewalk sections all summer. If you look on the city map, you can see which quadrants they are targeting in which years.

Joseph Welch's Ghost

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

How can you both criticize a repair/replacement estimate AND freely admit ignorance how much a repair/replacement should cost? Have mercy. You may not have seen any sidewalks getting fixed because Ann Arbor doesn't do that kind of work in front of your home in Scio Township.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

I think it's quite unclear what roles libraries will serve in the future. Sure they want to "reinvent" themselves in order to avoid obsolescence, but do we want to spend $65 mil (actually more) on that "experiment" at this time? I don't think that I do.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

An excellent point Brad. The AADL Board and it's Director want to tell the public what their role is with little public input. Their focus is on meeting space but their responsibility for this role us up for debate. Ann Arbor already has locally sponsored events that take place at a plethora of orther venues. The Michigan Theatre routinely holds events that the library does not have the capacity for. Why would they need the space? My guess is to build an ego driven legacy.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

"Used for more and more diverse applications" is exactly the reinvention that I mentioned. Maybe we should first decide as a community that the library is the appropriate entity to be taking care of all these new and diverse applications. And that it rates a new $65 mil facility. I don't use the library? Then they'd better quit lending me things every week.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

The library as an institution is anything but obsolete. It's only getting more popular and being used for more and more diverse applications. Just because you don't use it doesn't mean it's obsolete.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.


Eco Bruce

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

The incumbents have done an excellent job making the case for a new building. I see very little rational discussion on why we should not go forward. Vote yes.

Peter Baker

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Vote Yes. we need a new library building.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

Vote no. We do not need a new library building.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

Vote No. We do not need a new library building.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

Who says voting "no" would be negative?

Anti Crankypants

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Thanks for being a "no" person and giving us no substance for your negative view.