It’s Relative: The Ann Arbor District Library In Comparison

We believe that the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) is a national leader in delivery of services and the value it provides taxpayers. It’s a belief we affirm regularly with our eyes, hearts and experiences. This was recognized nationally in 1997 when the AADL was named “National Library of the Year” by Library Journal and continues to rate as the only 5-star library in Michigan, according to the Library Journal Star Index.

Numbers can sometimes provide another worthwhile perspective, however, so we decided to see how the AADL compares to public libraries in some similar cities and within related contexts. Most of the numbers reflect our expected picture of the AADL – a system that’s managed well and responsive to its community. A few of the statistics stood out, though, which we’ll take a closer look at.


The greater Ann Arbor community is highly engaged with the AADL and the materials it provides. This reflects the AADL’s ability to efficiently process a high volume of transactions and provide a valuable experience to patrons. It also indicates an AADL that is responsive to the interests of the community.

The AADL’s Total Circulation Transactions are nearly double the next highest city – Madison, WI. If you measure per capita, the AADL’s circulation transactions are nearly three times higher than the rest of compared cities. [Source: The Institute for Museum and Library Services’ 2010 survey]


The AADL delivers the most public service hours to its community of the compared national libraries, while spending less on salaries and benefits, thereby using more of its budget on materials and events. AADL's low revenue per capita (generated primarily through local property taxes) indicates the AADL’s high degree of efficiency and value provided to its taxpayers.

Of the national peer cities compared, the AADL spends the lowest percentage of their budget on salaries and benefits. Compared to local peer libraries, AADL collects a modest amount of revenue per capita, substantially less per person than some 
of Michigan's most-funded libraries. [Source: The Michigan Public Library Survey Statistics from 2011-2012]


The AADL’s bond proposal for $65 million to rebuild the downtown library is based on competitive estimates. This cost includes all phases of the project from inception to completion. The AADL built and opened three new satellite branches over the past 8 years and has a proven track record in delivering construction projects on time and on budget.

Projected costs for rebuilding the downtown Ann Arbor library amount to $334/square foot, which rates as one of the lower construction costs for recently constructed libraries across the country. [Source: 2011 Survey by AADL Facilities Board]

We believe the Ann Arbor District Library provides tremendous value to area citizens and needs to rebuild its downtown facility to continue delivering excellent service. The building has reached the point of diminishing returns, with many structural shortcomings, capacity limitations and foundational inefficiencies. Rebuilding now is prudent as interest rates are at all-time lows and construction costs are very competitive. The AADL leadership has demonstrated strong fiscal stewardship of our tax dollars, responsiveness to the community’s needs and innovative programs. Now’s the time to invest in this important shared resource and pillar of our Ann Arbor community.

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