02 May 2011

Detroit Public Library criticised

When I saw the first paragraph -
The Detroit Public Library is under fire for spending $2.3 million to renovate a library wing while claiming financial pressure is so severe they may have to close most neighborhood branches.
- I was willing to cut them some slack, because I love libraries, and even simple renovations can be quite expensive if asbestos etc. is present.  But then I saw the next photo and the second paragraph...
Spending $1,092 apiece for European-designed lounge chairs and $500 each for decorative light fixtures has been criticized as frivolous spending and misplaced priorities. 
Via Librarianista (where I can't find the primary source link).

A bit hat tip to Zhoen, who found additional information at The Detroit News:
Library commissioners may soon take action. An investigation into the South Wing renovation found "inexplicable irregularities" in awarding contracts, and staffers could soon be disciplined, said Russ Bellant, a member of the Detroit Public Library Commission.

"It appears abuses took place regarding the South Wing construction," Bellant said. "Policies were ignored in the awarding of contracts."

He declined further comment. But a copy of the investigation obtained by The News shows the library granted a $125,600 contract to a Chicago architecture firm to manage and design the South Wing, even though the company's initial bid didn't include any prices.
More details at the link.


  1. Wow. We have those exact chairs at my corporation and they are the most profoundly uncomfortable contraptions known to man or woman. Cats might like them, however, cats aren't allowed at my office.... Waste of money for a multi-billion dollar corporation, waste of money for a non-multi-billion dollar muni library.

    Kara in Ohio, who has her MLS and is so confused by this purchase

  2. http://detnews.com/article/20110428/METRO01/104280379/$1-100-trash-cans-part-of-library-fixup

  3. Thanks, Zhoen. I've added info from your link to the post.

  4. My company just moved into a new, larger office. Our reception area now boasts about a dozen hand-blackened metal benches at $1,000 a piece. They are cold, uncomfortable and make slide off if you so-much-as think of slouching. Basically they are expensive sheets of bent metal. Just in: we have to watch our spending.

  5. As a rural school librarian who is currently in the process of working out a new design *that we can afford* to implement, I am totally blown away by this. There has to be some explanation, although it's probably just that the right folks don't always get hired for the right job. Hope you don't mind me reblogging this.

  6. Not at all. Reblogging is a compliment to the blogger.

    Nice blog, btw...

  7. From Zhoen link:

    Edward Thomas, chairman of the library commission, said he hasn't seen the trash cans but isn't concerned as long as they are heavy duty.

    "You want it to be something that will last as opposed to something that will break down," Thomas said.

    He said the library's financial problems stem from a drop in property taxes — not the South Wing project. In addition to closing branches, the system is considering laying off as many as 191 of 333 workers.

    "If I was in a position to be laid off, I would be upset, too," Thomas said. "I would be looking for someone to blame, too."

    Wow, it seems like this guy is guiltier than sin. He might want to stop opening his mouth and lawyer-up.

  8. http://www.homedepot.com/Cleaning-Trash-Recycling-Trash-Cans/h_d1/N-5yc1vZbqqi/R-202206331/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

    Go ahead and throw one of these away every single month and it would take nearly 25 years to use up the same amount of cash. And did these stainless trash cans come with wheels, hmmmm???

    at the same time officials are considering closing 18 of 23 neighborhood branches and laying off workers because of an $11 million shortfall.

    "There are some branches that don't have air conditioning"


  9. I can assure you those chairs don't cost $1000 dollars in Europe. I used to work in the office furniture business and I never saw an upholstered, wire-frame chair go for that sort of money. Somebody's been ripped off.
    We did once take a client to see some black-lacquered chairs in a library where they had been in use for nearly a year. After that visit he told the architects who specified that chair for the library - at a mere £300 each - that they could whistle for that part of their contract. He bought chairs from us, more comfortable, more durable, made in the UK, and at a third of the price. But we weren't architects on a 'cost plus' contract....

  10. I went to the Detroit Public library (main branch) and parked in the public parking structure. It was 100% empty. I was the only car in the entire place (out of hundreds of spots). I was actually a bit scared, since I had only been in Detroit for a matter of minutes and didn't know what to expect in a city that is basically deserted.
    However, I was shocked when I left about an hour later (after using the library's internet connection) to find that there was someone manning the parking booth at the exit to collect my parking fee.
    Something is messed up in Detroit.

  11. For most public libraries, the operating funds and the building funds are separate. It's illegal to use one for the other. Since the operating budget is (I'm assuming) mostly property taxes, it may very well be that they don't have the money to keep every location open. That has nothing to do with building renovations. That being said, no A/C at some branches is ridiculous, as is spending over a thousand dollars on a chair.

  12. No wonder they went bankrupt. This is the same city that paid over $300,000 for the original Howdy Doody puppet. Why does a city need an old puppet?

    1. https://dia.org/collection/howdy-doody-93417 false. it was a gift.


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