But the "yes" campaign faced more fundamental problems. To sell the new library, supporters had to convince people the existing one was essentially obsolete. While the website had a powerful testimonial to that effect from builder Bill Kinley, most of the problems were in systems like plumbing, air conditioning, and wiring that are invisible to users. They also had to sell voters on a new kind of library--one focused less on the printed word and more on computer terminals and meeting space.
"They used the bond vote as a referendum," says Rice, "on 'Shall we be a community center?'"
Voters rejected the bond issue by 45-55 percent. The margin was so decisive that Griswold thinks it might have gone down even without opposition.
In the aftermath, theories to explain the defeat included people's attachment to the existing building; hesitation about the cost; and "construction fatigue" after years of work on the Library Lane parking structure. But in hindsight, some think the project's biggest problem was its timing. "People still have one foot in the recession," says Realtor Kevin Duke, a millage supporter who now thinks the board should have waited longer to bring the project back.