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Thursday, March 22, 2012

City of Birmingham and Baldwin Library, Joint Library Building Committee holds first meeting.

The first meeting of the Joint Library Building Community' consisting three members of the Baldwin Library Board, three members of the Birmingham City Commission, and a member of the City's Planning Board was a historic event. For the Library Board members who had worked hard to achieve the  moment, a giddy  of  "going to meet the wizard" excitement was hard to resist. Not everyone however was so thrilled  The Birmingham City Commission sent the" A" team consisting of pair of two time  former Mayors (Racky Hof and Scott Moore) and single term former Mayor Gordon Rinscheler The City Commission team were veterans who had seen it and  done it many times before. Rischler had participated in  the Shain Park expansion and Barum  re-do  and spoke their names like they were World War Two battles. In contrast to the  commission's veterans, Janelle Boyce of the Birmingham Planning Board was laid back but eager to explain the unique and not always understood purpose of the planning board. The Library team consisted of the building committee. Frank Pisano, James Suhay, and David Underdown. Pisano however was absent and his place was taken by Board member Sheila Brice. In addition Board member Robert Terra  was present as an observer  The public is welcome at all meetings.  

It was decided that the Library as host would appoint one of it's own committee members as Chairman. That  person , according to Library Director Doug Koschik would be determined at the next meeting of the Library Board Building Committee.

The came a bit of hard ball. How many votes determine a majority on the seven person board ? The answer was five. That way if the the library and city commission people split 3 to 3 the onus is not on number 7 and the winner is the team that picks up two additional votes.

There was also a bit of disconnect on the issue of gathering information. The City commissioners said that was the roll of the library not the Joint Commission. "If I wasn't on the committee and I were on the Library Board, I'd say they were taking my job away.,"  Commissioner Rinschler explained.

Commissioner Moore said by way of  example that "staffing needs can't come from us."

Library Board Member James Suhey provided the "No but" adding that Library was interested in the City's opinion and input. On surveys the an almost instant consensus was reached. The the City Commissioners were not big on surveys but liked the way the library conducted their in house survey.

"You can do it best ," Commisioner Hoff said.

"Survey money is not  money well  spent" said Commissioner Rinschler. " There is always a group who feels you asked the wrong questions. (In regards to a  library)  The 20% who pay the bills(through taxes) say they hate (what is being asked in the survey). The 80% who don't (pay) say they love it.

Library Board Member James Suhey said that Library would also be using focus groups as well. A town Hall meeting was mentioned but none had been planned and nobody  seemed to think it would be a good idea.

The roll of the Planning Board was also articulated. First of all it was not the City's Planning Commission which was board mandated by the State. It was an advisory board which often provided input to City's Historical Commission. If the Joint Library Building Committee (JLBC) determines a need to renovate then the Planning Board would assume a greater roll on the committee.

Library Director Koschik then passed out copies of the "The Baldwin Library at 75" a  book celebrating that anniversary which occurred in 2002. Then with a narrative which included humorous  and sometimes dramatic  pauses he then brought everyone up to speed on the last ten years. "Unhappiness with the Birkerts design continues to this day, " The Director who has been at the library for more than two decades said. "That design is however still supported by a small dedicated group of  Birmingham residents, he added."

The Birmingham commissioners stressed the need for one plan. Koschilk mentioned that the Fanning Howley   plan was very similar to the Osler  Plan  a same footprint plan  of  years ago. In fact Fanning Howley team had studied it. The Ferndale Library included a similar remodel. Maybe that plan would be a good place to start.
The Victor Saroki plan was stunning but no one (including some ventured Victor) knew how much it would really cost.

An April Date for the next meeting was set and the library was charged with determining  needs and wants of the people. Commission members spear headed by Racky Hoff asked for  the Cooks Tour of the library and were promised one at  the next meeting.

So like the  couple who overcomes grey skies and few glitches on their wedding day to begin a lifetime of happily ever after, The JLBC  completed first meeting of what will be a year of meetings in pursuit of the happily for a good long time library of the 21st century.

Of note to the citizens of all contract communities of the Bladwin Library  but in particular residents of Bloomfield Hills,where the subject has recently come up, The JLBC is what is known as an ad Hoc committee.That means that it  is formed to discuss a particular subject "at hand". In this case, a expanded Baldwin Library. Final decisions will be made by the the full Birmingham City Commission and the full Baldwin Library Board. Since  the JLBC  is not a  the final decision maker but an advisory committee  with less members than constitutes a quorum fore either the governing city commission or the library board, it is not subject to the State's Open Meetings Act. That means that is not mandatory that residents or concerned citizens be invited. It does not mean that  that residents are forbidden or barred from attending. As in the case the Joint Committee between The City of Bloomfield Hills and the Baldwin Library which was another Ad Hoc committee residents of both communities were invited to attend meetings. Thus they were privileged to see the whole process from beginning to end.

Residents are also invited to the JLBC meetings, but the library does not stop there in pursuit of public knowledge or involvement . In a  Baldwin Library one sheet titled "Thoughts on Getting Started"  the following appears under the topic of bench marking.

A small sub-team of City and Library representatives should conduct the visits (to other libraries). Note:         Some Library supporters have been visiting other libraries and doing informal bench marking on their own. Should we invite them into this part of the Joint Committee  process ?

In today's cynical world only In Birmingham and only at the Library and very probably only with the current Director would  a question like that ever be asked.

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