Downtown Library Project Update
On Monday evening, September 15, 2008, after months of work that included three public information sessions, focus groups with the public and the staff and several public meetings, the Library Board made the important decision to replace the current Downtown Library with a new building in the same location at South Fifth Avenue and William Street. The new building will be 47% larger at 160,000 square feet and four stories. Current services will be enhanced and spaces for youth, teens, exhibits, meetings, study, and reading will be larger. The building will include a 400 seat auditorium; a Reading Room that will be designated as a quiet area for reading and study; a children's area three times larger than the current area; expanded space for collections including audiovisual formats; adaptive technology labs for adults and children as part of our new mission to serve the blind and physically disabled; and the flexibility in the future to accommodate new formats and services without expensive remodeling. We will continue our commitment to build responsibly using sustainable technologies and the new downtown library will be barrier free and accessible to everyone.
In the current building much of the essential infrastructure, including electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, is original to the 1958 building and it is failing. Credit should be given to the effort that was made over the 50 year life cycle of the Downtown Library to those who maintained and serviced the building. Things wear out, and when they do, they need to be replaced. The scope of this project enables the use of modern, efficient building systems that will result in a more sustainable library.
The 1990 addition was completed prior to the adoption of the American with Disabilities Act. Again, credit should be given to the efforts of staff and administrators over the past 17 years for their efforts in making what changes they could to the building to accommodate those in the community with disabilities. However, in our community a public building should be accessible to everyone without barriers. The library Board is committed to building such a building.
The library Board has not determined what funding mechanisms will be used to pay for the building, but it will likely be a combination of a bond, a capital millage, and fundraising. The current cost estimate for the new building is $71 million. More schematic design work is scheduled through December and the program of services and functions is still being reviewed. Library Board meeting dates, minutes, and agendas are posted at aadl.org. Please join us as we work to assure library services in a building that will serve our community to 2050 and beyond.
The Ann Arbor community is proud of its Downtown Library and the short history below will illustrate how decisions to make room for expanding collections and needed services have been made time and again with enthusiasm and generosity by the taxpayers. It is our hope that this enthusiasm and generosity will support a new Downtown Library to open in Ann Arbor in 2011.
By the 1940s, the need for a new Downtown Library to replace the Carnegie-funded structure on Huron Street and State Street had become apparent. Years of study led to the selection of the site at the corner of South Fifth Avenue and William Street for this new library, which opened it doors on October 13, 1957. By the early 1970s this building itself had become insufficient to meet the needs of a growing library system (which by then had also constructed the Loving Branch, precursor to the Malletts Creek Branch). An expansion doubling the size of the 1957 building was completed in 1974. A third addition was completed in 1991, again doubling the size of the library, in order to meet the needs of a growing collection size, rising circulation numbers, and increased programming offerings.
In 2007, the AADL hired PROVIDENCE Associates LLC to undertake a study assessing the 20-year feasibility of the Downtown Library. This study included 10 focus groups with more than 100 users of the AADL and sought to determine the needs of the library as its needs and offerings to the community continue to grow. The findings of this study led the AADL Board to issue a Request for Qualifications for Architectural and Engineering Services that eventually resulted in the selection of Luckenbach|Ziegelman Architects, PLLC of Ann Arbor. Skanska was hired as the construction firm who would undertake the project in whatever form it would eventually take.
At the same time as the development of the concept for the Downtown Library, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority created a plan to replace the parking lot on the north side of the Library with an underground parking garage. This led the two organizations to develop a joint survey asking for feedback on both the Downtown Library and parking. The results of this survey will help guide the AADL and Lukenbach|Ziegelman Architects as plans for the Downtown Library develop.