Whose Library Is It Anyway?
On election night, Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker didn't join the supporters gathered at the Real Seafood Company to watch the outcome of the vote on a new downtown library. Instead, she groomed her two horses while her husband came by with updates. When the bad news was announced, Parker, not one to wear her emotions on her sleeve, says only, "I was disappointed."
And so ended one of the most heated--and interesting--battles over a beloved local institution the city has seen. The "no" voters included people who had never voted for a tax increase, people who had until now always voted for bond issues, people who complained the facts didn't justify a new building, and a librarian who had a dream of falling debris.
The defeat shocked the library's elected board. "I thought we were making a case--and it was exciting" to voters, says Barbara Murphy. Like other board members, Murphy had eagerly anticipated creating a spacious "library for the twenty-first century," fitted for both enhanced computer technology and storage of print materials. Expanding the library's role as a meeting place, the new building would have had a cafeteria, a 400-seat auditorium, facilities to make films, and lots more space for the AADL's popular children's and family programs. Supporters also believed that a spectacular new building would enliven downtown--at a board meeting, trustee Jan Barney Newman envisioned an "architectural delight."