Why I’m Running for the Ann Arbor District Library Board

I received a phone call today from an anxious voter who was filling out her absentee ballot.  “Why should I vote for you?”

Good question, since there is virtually no information out there about the Ann Arbor District Library Board race.  The AADL has a relatively noncontroversial and low-profile board, while the other races on the November 2010 ballot are pretty exciting – think Mayor, Governor, and even a surprisingly competitive campaign for City Council, 5th Ward.  So not much media attention has been focused on the AADL race.  Most of the coverage has been through the auspices of the Ann Arbor Chronicle, where a recent article discussed the race.  (The Chronicle has also had a excellent series of reports on AADL board meetings that serve as an archive on AADL issues.)

Some clues can be found in a video of the League of Women Voters candidate forum. (September 28).  The Ann Arbor Chronicle has now posted an excellent account of the debate.

Overall, I believe that we have an excellent district library that is well managed.  I am not running to “fix it”.  I want to support it.  But there are a few issues.

I’ll be adding to and updating this post to fill out my positions.  Here are a couple of highlights:

1. Emphasize the collections

The first purpose of a public library is to make books – and now other types of media like video and audio – available to the public.  I support keeping the collections as a top priority, even as we tread cautiously into the digital age. Yes, the role of the library in holding community events, making computer access possible, and serving as an adjunct to the educational system are all important, but let’s keep the collections as the core business.

2. Repair and renovate the current downtown library

The AADL board went to a lot of trouble to design a new downtown library, then postponed the project when the economy collapsed.  I support continuing to maintain the current building for the foreseeable future.  It is my belief that our economy (both local and national) has a long vulnerable period ahead of it and I don’t support a major public investment in a new building until the sky clears.

3. No conference center and hotel on the Library Lot

The AADL board doesn’t have this decision, but is asked its opinion.  I believe that the idea of a publicly supported conference center and hotel at this location is not good, either for the city or for the library. Let’s keep it as open space for the time being at least. I can see some event-oriented uses for the Library Lot that could help to enhance the role of the Library as a community center.

4. Keep the Library as an anchor for the downtown and the community

I’m happy that the decision was made to keep the main library downtown.  I’d like to see some joint planning to help the entire area surrounding the Library (including the Federal lot, the new Blake Transit Center, the old Y lot) to make a harmonious whole that enhances the role of the Library as a public gathering place.

5. Be sensitive to the needs of the disabled.

The AADL, commendably, took on the job of the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled when the county discontinued support. I have not had an opportunity to examine how these services are now offered, but I’ve heard some concerns with certain changes in the service.  Certainly the handling of the new entrance ramp was an embarrassment.  I’d like future entrances and similar features to be done with some consultation with groups like the Center for Independent Living.

6. Continue the current excellence in programming.

The scope of events presented by or at the AADL (main library and branches) is almost literally dizzying.  It has become a major community focus and I’d like to see it stay that way.

7. Continue the move toward archiving local news sources.

In addition to these resources about Ann Arbor, the AADL has recently assumed responsibility for the paper archives (morgue) from the Ann Arbor news.  We’re told it will be a couple of years before they are accessible to the public, but this is a great service that people like me who write about our community can really appreciate.

UPDATE:   I wasn’t elected, though it was close enough that one local newspaper announced that I won. The final count showed me less than 2% of the vote (1440 votes) behind the next lowest candidate.  But that still meant that I was awarded 16975 votes by the good people of the area. Thanks – I treasure those.

SECOND UPDATE: The newspaper link above was corrected so that they correctly show the incumbents were re-elected.  That ‘ll teach me to make a screen shot for such events.

THIRD UPDATE: The Ann Arbor Chronicle highlighted the AADL race in its overall election review and provided a great spreadsheet.  They noted that I’d have been seated if we had only counted the in-person Ann Arbor votes.

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2 Comments on “Why I’m Running for the Ann Arbor District Library Board”

  1. Mark Koroi Says:

    The AADL was not always uncontroversial.

    Wasn’t there some scandal involving the Board some years ago?

    What does one have to do to get on the ballot?

    • I don’t recall a scandal involving the board but in the early days there was embezzlement by the financial officer and the director left quickly under a cloud (my memory, not documented).

      To get on the ballot, one goes to the county clerk before the close of filing for the particular election cycle and signs some papers. If you don’t collect petition signatures, you may pay $100 instead. Filing is closed for this cycle. Go to ewashtenaw/elections and get familiar with their site – much info on calendars, requirements, etc.

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