Griswold doesn't see the need for features like the reading room, and questions the wisdom of expanding children's services in the current location, since "most families with young children don't live downtown." But Griswold is most troubled about the 400-seat auditorium. She wonders why U-M facilities and venues like the Michigan Theater can't meet demand for large meeting spaces.
"We know from our current experience that there is a real need for this size space for the type of programming offered at the Library," Parker responds by email. The director says that nineteen events last year drew crowds that exceeded the capacity of the basement multipurpose room, which holds about 135. Another two dozen programs had to be held off-site.
Some opponents worry that a larger auditorium won't serve just library events: an anonymous "talking points" memo suggests that it might secretly be intended as "the first phase of a downtown conference center, especially if a hotel is built on the old library lot." Prue Rosenthal and others firmly reject that speculation. "We would be able to fill that space continually," Parker says.