Frequently Asked Questions

"The economy is not great. Why now?"

Five years ago the AADL prioritized the need to rebuild the downtown facility, due to its many critical deficiencies, but placed the project on hold during the economic crisis that started in 2008. Although the economy is still recovering, the timing of this bond proposal is economically prudent. Interest rates are near all-time lows, construction costs are extremely competitive and the AADL's credit rating is very high. During those five years, the major deficiencies of the downtown building have worsened and compromise the AADL's ability to adequately serve the community. Additionally, the library is an important resource for many people in our community who are challenged economically. The sooner we rebuild the main library, the better the AADL can support people with free access to information, training, tools, lectures and arts & culture.

"The case to build a new downtown Ann Arbor library is compelling. I’ve assessed the current facility and concluded that the need to rebuild now has reached a critical point. Its three outdated sections were cobbled together over a 50 year period. They simply can’t be effectively and efficiently remodeled and will not serve our community well for the future. We won’t find a better time to invest in a new building, with current record low interest rates and competitive construction costs. I have great confidence that the AADL will deliver an exceptional main library for our community and continue to provide tremendous value for our tax dollars."– Bill Kinley, President, Phoenix Contractors

"How much is this going to cost me?"

It will start out costing taxpayers $56/year for a home market value of $200K and is estimated to average $47/year over the duration of the 30-year bond. This amounts to roughly $1/week for the majority of home owners. If you do not pay property taxes, there is no direct cost to you.

"Why a $65 million bond proposal?"

In 2008, the AADL estimated spending $334 per square foot on a new downtown facility. In the library’s experience managing construction projects, that cost per square foot is sufficient to deliver an outstanding facility. That these numbers hold true in today’s construction market is a very important factor in the Board’s decision to move forward with a bond proposal at this time. The bond amount covers every aspect of the proposed project, and the actual amount estimated to be spent on construction would necessarily be less than the total.

"The AADL team has shown to be fiscally conservative and a great fiduciary of our tax payer dollars in our Ann Arbor community.  I am a huge supporter and have lots of confidence in their leadership!" – Albert M. Berriz, McKinley Real Estate

"I heard this will cost $130 million total, is that true?"

No. Until this proposal is passed and the requested $65 million in bonds are sold, total costs over the 30 years are only projections. Based on current historically-low interest rates and Ann Arbor’s excellent credit rating, the cost of the bond would be between 1 – 3% fixed over 30 years. Speculation of $130 million total project cost is based around a rate of 5.75%, which is currently not accurate. If we delay the project a year or two, however, interest rates are likely to rise again which could increase the total project cost considerably.

"Why not renovate the existing facility?"

The downtown library was originally built in 1958, and has been renovated twice. In 1974 it was renovated and expanded with a two-story addition on the east side of the building. In 1991 it was renovated and expanded with two additional floors on top of the east section of the building. In 2007 the AADL assessed options for addressing the downtown building's deficiencies and conducted a thorough assessment. The detailed findings determined that another renovation would not provide the best value for delivering a 21st century main library to the Ann Arbor community. The cost of a proper renovation was projected to be 90% the cost of a new building, but resulting in a far inferior facility. The foundation of the current building is not capable of supporting additional floors or expanding it's footprint. Fundamentally the inflexible framework of the current downtown facility is poorly suited to meet the growing needs of our community. The AADL is committed to sustainable building practices and will ensure that maximum reuse and recycling of the current building materials occurs.

“In Ann Arbor the current building has served the community well over the years, but unfortunately the facility is functionally obsolete. Its layout and structure reflect the way libraries functioned in the late 20th century.  One can’t renovate functionality into the building because it is architecturally obsolete as a library.” – Richard M. Dougherty, former Director of University Libraries, former president of the American Library Association, and former member of the AADL Library Board

"Isn't renovating an old building 'greener' than building new?"

There is not a one-size fits all approach to issues of sustainability. The AADL has considered the ecological impacts of trying to renovate the current building again (it was renovated in 1974 and 1991) and has determined that rebuilding the facility will provide many more benefits to our community in the long-term, including significantly improved energy efficiency. The AADL is committed to recycling and reusing materials as much as possible from the current building while honoring its existing commitment to ecologically sound construction standards, as evidenced by its three newer branches (Mallett’s Creek, Pittsfield, and Traverwood).

"The Ann Arbor District Library has been one of this community's environmental leaders through its green building projects at the branch libraries. The downtown library is a vital, but worn-down, public space for this community, and Our New Library offers a terrific vision for the future. The current building has been renovated twice, and the mechanical systems are outmoded and inefficient, so in this case, the greenest way to expand the library is through a new building." – Mike Garfield Community Environmental Leader

"Rebuilding the downtown library is an ecologically sound decision for our community. The alternative would lead to continue investing in structurally inefficient and inherently wasteful systems. The AADL has demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainable building practices and cost conscious management in the construction of its other branches. I believe an investment in a new downtown library will return huge benefits for families, children, adults, and the disabled community. " – J.D. Lindeberg President, Resource Recycling Systems, Management Consultant in Sustainability/Material Reuse

"What will the new library look like?"

The Library Board is asking the community to first decide if it is willing to invest $65 million before commissioning any specific architectural designs. Details of what the new library will include and additional possibilities are here. Public input will contribute to shape the final designs and features of a main library that best serves the Ann Arbor community. The AADL is confident that replacing 110,000 square feet with 160,000 square feet will result in a building that reflects the increasing use of Ann Arbor’s Downtown Library with the flexibility to change spaces in the future without major renovations. If the vote receives an affirmative answer from voters, then the AADL would move onto the next step and select an architectural firm and a construction management firm. AADL would also provide public forums for community discussion and input into the features and final designs of a new downtown library.

"A new downtown library, well designed, should be the city's living room, a comfortable, inviting place that you go to be yourself, educate yourself throughout life, expand your horizons. It should be a "3rd place," where you bring your friends and families to be inspired, a place that makes you proud of Ann Arbor.” – Peter Allen, Allen & Associates

"Are libraries needed in the age of EBooks and the Internet?"

Yes. The explosion of digital content has not decreased demand for library services; in fact, demand continues to grow, and that demand is increasing for new and different services. The current downtown building was not designed to accommodate, and cannot be retrofitted to enable, the delivery of 21st century library services. EBooks and the Internet have changed and expanded the demand that AADL enjoys and works to meet. A building built around warehousing one particular format no longer serves this community well.

"It would be easy to assume in the world of constant connectivity, instant communication and ever smaller, cheaper and ubiquitous electronic devices that a library is now a useless anachronism of modern society.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  We desperately need places to connect with history, with art, with knowledge and with each other.  The vision that the Ann Arbor District Library has for a reinvention of our public library as a resource for our entire community, and one that takes into consideration how the world has changed in seeking knowledge, makes their proposal compelling and essential.” – Rich Sheridan, Menlo Innovations

"What about the books? Will the new library have fewer books?"

The AADL is committed to providing access to books where patrons can touch the paper and turn the page. The AADL will continue to add books to its collection for as long as books are available and for sale to libraries. A new building would be designed to accommodate all current book collections, all other collections housed on shelving, and the physical Ann Arbor News archives.

"Is rebuilding the library with a 400-seat auditorium really part of building a downtown convention center?"

No. The AADL is solely focused on rebuilding its downtown library to better serve our community. Events at the AADL regularly attract beyond capacity. Capacity at the current downtown facility's largest room (the basement multipurpose room) is only 130 with poor sight lines and seating, especially for projected presentations or movies.

"What happens to the downtown library's materials and programs during construction?"

The AADL's goal is to continue providing the high level of service you are accustomed to receiving for the duration of the construction period. They intend to lease a temporary space downtown that will be a storefront such as the Westgate branch, with the bulk of the collection in a warehouse space. The majority of the collection will not fit in a temporary downtown location, but the materials will be available via the online request system and the delivery system that are currently in place. The AADL will use the other branches and other rented spaces in the library district to continue all-ages programming, such as story times, lectures, and events with community partners.

"Why hasn’t the Library Board chosen to build the new library on the top of the underground parking garage on Library Lane?"

The Library Board considered this option in the 2007/2008 process and ruled it out for two major reasons. The first is that public library space is safest and most efficient when arranged on large floor plates with direct sight lines on each floor. The build-able space on the parking garage is too small to provide necessary large floor plates. The second reason is that the AADL owns the property at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street, and that property is zoned public land. In short, the parking garage space is too small, and the AADL will have more flexibility on property owned by the Library to build a facility that will meet the community’s needs in a public library space well into this century.

"Why doesn’t the Library Board sell the property at Fifth and William and build elsewhere?"

The AADL owns the property at Fifth and William streets where the Downtown Library is located. However, in the separation agreement with the Ann Arbor Public Schools in 1995, the AAPS reserved the right of first refusal if the property was to be sold. The AAPS also has a year in which to make such a decision. In addition, the AAPS would pay only 65% of the estimated value of the property in such a sale, and if the AAPS chose not to purchase the property, but it was sold, the AAPS would receive 35% of the proceeds. The AADL Board has determined that this cost is too great to consider selling the site.

"Is Fifth Street going to be closed again during construction?"

The recent long closure of fifth avenue was due to the construction of the parking garage under the street.  While AADL has no control over the city's decisions about street closures, the Downtown Library property line is well inside the sidewalk and AADL cannot build under the street.

"Why does the board think the public is interested in a new downtown library?"

The staff and leadership of the AADL see and hear about the shortcomings of the downtown building every day, serving more than 600,000 visitors, 500 events and 75,000 internet sessions per year. The AADL listens to the requests it cannot meet from our community.

In March of 2012, the Board commissioned EPIC-MRA to conduct a scientific telephone survey of district voters, looking to see whether the library was valued by voters, whether they thought the library was an important part of the community’s future, what they liked and disliked about the library today, and whether they would be willing to support building a new library. The survey showed that 45% of the respondents were willing to support a $65 million bond for a downtown library project. An additional 15% of the respondents said they would likely vote yes to such a bond. After reviewing that survey, the board held three community forums to discuss the need for a new library, the interests of the public, and the opportunities presented in a new library project. The Board also reviewed past reports and studies about the need for and cost of a new or renovated library. After taking all of that information into consideration, the board decided, in the words of Facilities Committee Chair Prue Rosenthal, “The needs today are even greater, and now is the time for us to ask the community to support construction of a new library that can fulfill the community’s requirements for information in many forms for years to come.”

"How does this bond proposal fit into the AADL’s mission?"

Rebuilding the downtown library building fits into the AADL’s long-term strategic plan and advances its mission: “The existence of the Ann Arbor District Library assures public ownership of print collections, digital resources, and gathering spaces for the citizens of the library district. We are committed to sustaining the value of public library services for the greater Ann Arbor community through the use of traditional and innovative technologies.”

"The Ann Arbor District Library is a great steward of our local history. The current downtown building is not an adequate facility for their important archives nor does it merit an expensive preservation effort. I support the AADL's proposal to rebuild the downtown library and improve this great resource of the Ann Arbor community." - Ray Detter Chair, Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council & Coordinator, Downtown Historical Street Exhibit Program

"What is a bond proposal, why is it necessary, and what does it say?"

A bond proposal is a request by the Library Board for voters to approve the sale of bonds, which will raise funds to build a new downtown library.

It's necessary to request a bond as the AADL's operating budget could not fund a project of this scope.

n 1994, in response to law passed in the legislature, the Ann Arbor Public Schools could no longer fund the operation of a public library with school millage. The AAPS and the City of Ann Arbor then established the Ann Arbor District Library in accordance with this new legislation. The Library is not connected in any way with the budgets of the Ann Arbor Public Schools or the City of Ann Arbor. The Library is a completely separate institution with an elected governing Board of Trustees. In 1994, the voters approved the establishment of the district library, and at the same time approved a millage of 2.0 mills in perpetuity to fund the operations of the Ann Arbor District Library. Today, the Library could levy up to 1.92 mills. Due to the improved technologies and choices made by the Library to use all of our resources to return an investment to the taxpayer, the levy is now 1.55. The current difference between 1.55 and 1.92 is $1.6 million, and that is not enough to fund a project of this magnitude.

"What is on the November 6, 2012 ballot?"

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?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

The following is for information purposes only:
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). 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.

"Who can vote in this election?"

Registered voters in the Ann Arbor District Library district boundaries can vote on this proposal. That includes all of the City of Ann Arbor and parts of Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Pittsfield, Superior, Salem, and Scio townships.

"Why did you put this on the November ballot?"

This is the election when turnout tends to be highest. The AADL wants to give everyone an opportunity to express his/her view through the ballot box.

"How much will the proposal cost the average taxpayer?"

If the bond proposal is approved a property owner’s taxes will be increased by approximately 0.56 mills. Property owners can use the following home value samples to determine their estimated individual tax increases.

Property Market Value Property Taxable Value Library Bond Millage Per Year
$150,000 $75,000 $42
$200,000 $100,000 $56
$250,000 $125,000 $70
$300,000 $150,000 $84
$350,000 $175,000 $98
$400,000 $200,000 $112

"If the ballot issue passes, when will property taxes be levied?"

If the bond proposal passed on November 6, 2012, the first tax levy related to the bond would be in July 2013.

"Where and when can I register to vote?"

You may register in person with your city, township, county clerk or any Secretary of State office. You may also download printable voter registration forms.
Please follow the instructions carefully. For polling locations, visit the Washtenaw County Clerk.

"What are the key dates coming up for the election?"

The election is November 6, 2012. To vote, you need to be registered by October 9, 2012. No date has been given yet for when absentee ballots will be available. Absentee ballots are usually available about six weeks before the election, which would be about mid-September.

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