The Friends of the Liverpool Public Library didn’t hold their annual used book sale this year, and they haven’t been hosting regular meetings at the Tulip Street facility in the village.
The lack of activity has led some to speculate that there’s some kind of a break between the Friends group and library leadership, but both Friends President Pam Sprague and LPL Board President Mark Spadafore insist that isn’t the case.
Instead, both sides say the situation is the result of what Spadafore calls “an internal process [on which] we are embarking.”
“We are currently negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Friends of the LPL and the Board of Trustees,” Spadafore said. “Other libraries have MOAs and since the relationship in the past was more informal, we are both looking to formalize the relationship.”
Sprague echoed Spadafore’s explanation.
“The library decided that they needed to have a memo of understanding with us,” said Sprague, a former library employee and LPL union president. “They asked us to cease operations until we got this memo of understanding in place, this legal document that says, ‘This is what the library is going to do for the Friends, and this is what the Friends are going to do for the library.’ I’ve never bothered to look into it, but the library says there are a lot of other libraries and Friends groups that do have those documents. We consulted our attorney, and she said, ‘Sure, fine, why not?’”
Sprague said that when the Friends group was formed roughly 12 years ago, no such agreement seemed necessary because the group was small and relatively informal. However, that changed as membership exploded; Sprague said membership has grown 50 percent in the last six to eight years.
“The membership is up to 371 people,” Sprague. “It’s just kind of evolved from this little mom-and-pop kind of organization to this big organization, and somewhere along the line, the board decided we should get a formalized document, and we said ‘Okay.’ So we’ve been working on that.”
However, during that time, in order to prevent any misunderstandings and, as Spadafore said, to protect both boards, the Friends group is unable to operate.
“Unfortunately for us, they said, ‘You stop everything you’re doing until we get the document in place. Then, once we get that in place, you can start operations again,” Sprague said.
The Friends group is a nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers dedicated to supporting the library. Sprague said it has a number of duties, ranging from running the used book sale to funding the Arts Al!ve series to replacing appliances in the library’s staff room.
“There’s a lot of little things, but it all adds up,” she said.
Spadafore said the library runs as well as it does largely due to the activities of the Friends.
“We appreciate everything that the Friends have done for the library,” he said. “We have the best library in New York state, and that is in a large part due to the whole community working together to make it what it is.”
Spadafore said he was hopeful that an MOU would be signed by the end of the month, but Sprague wasn’t as optimistic.
“I wouldn’t expect to see something before the beginning of next year,” she said. “Things get held up. Every time we do something, it has to go before both boards, and that creates a delay. The Friends board only meets once a month, and the library board only meets once a month, and it takes time.”
But Sprague again emphasized that the delay did not indicate that there was any ill will between the two entities.
“If somebody is perceiving that there’s friction, I suppose it might be perceived that way because we’re not in there working,” she said. “It’s just a little blip. We’re working on it. We’re working together. We’re meeting and talking about it.”
Spadafore said this action was necessary in order to continue to improve the library.
“Both the board of the trustees and the leadership of the Friends love the library,” he said, “and we are working together to support it in the best possible way.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.