Ann Arbor District Library director retires after two decades of service

Josie Parker joined the library system in 1999

The downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. (Sarah M. Parlette / WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After 20 years at the helm of Tree Town’s much-loved library system, Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker will retire next year.

Parker began her career with AADL in 1999 as the youth department manager, became interim director in 2001 and accepted the position of director in 2002. She will retire on February 28, 2022, nearly 22 years after joining the library system.

“It has been a joy and a privilege to serve the Ann Arbor community as Library Director for 20 years,” Parker said in a release.

“I want to acknowledge the courage of all of the people who have served as elected Board members over these years. Without them, nothing was possible. The several hundred people who have worked with me as staff over two decades made the possible happen in amazing and astonishing ways. Lastly, but most importantly, all of the community members who responded to our efforts, challenged us to keep innovating and improving library services. I thank you all, and I will see you in the Library!”

For 13 consecutive years during Parker’s tenure, the Ann Arbor District Library has been named a Library Journal five-star library — an honor based on data including item circulation, door count and event attendance. AADL branches were visited by more than 1.2 million people and almost 120,000 community events attendees in the 2020 fiscal year, AADL said.

Under Parker’s supervision, AADL has added its Unusual Tools collection, created its publicly-owned Fifth Avenue Press publishing imprint and created the citywide Summer Game. Parker also oversaw the building of three additional branches — Malletts Creek Branch (2004), Pittsfield Branch (2006) and Traverwood Branch (2008) — and the reopening of the Westgate Branch in 2016. Both the Malletts Creek and Traverwood branches received design awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Due to her leadership at the large library system, in 2010 Parker was made an honorary affiliate member of AIA Michigan, a rarity for those who are not architects or designers, AADL said.

In 2008, Parker oversaw the transition of the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Print Disabled to the Ann Arbor District Library from the county. She had a hand in AADL’s 2009 partnership with The Ann Arbor News to digitize and preserve local history in the library archives. The library system then launched the Living Oral History Project in 2013 through a partnership with the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County.

Parker served on the boards of the Michigan Library Consortium, the Public Library Association and the Michigan Library Association. The latter of which she was president of in 2008.

Originally from Mississippi, she received her Master of Information and Library Science from the University of Michigan and worked at Chelsea Library and Ypsilanti District Library before starting her long career with AADL.

Parker will continue as an adjunct associate professor of information at the University of Michigan’s School of Information.

A nationwide search for the next AADL director will start in the fall.

“The AADL Board of Trustees is enormously grateful for Josie’s incredible 22 years of service to our community,” said Jim Leija, AADL Board of Trustees President. “Josie has been a generous and innovative leader in building the exemplary AADL that we know and love today. She’s fostered an incredible staff that delivers extraordinary programs, collections, customer service, and community engagement year after year. Josie’s warmth and compassion, her steadfast and intelligent leadership, and her unfailing belief in libraries as our greatest shared resource will be sorely missed. It has been a great honor to work alongside her.”

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.