continued 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 group worked on library fundraisers without a hitch until the board asked for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last fall.
“MOUs are the appropriate method to define the operation of organizations with common goals, but differing responsibilities on how to achieve those goals,” Spadafore said. “In the instant of this case, the Friends Article of Incorporation serves to ‘support the library.’ The library provides informational services to its service area. Public resources are always limited, so a written relationship defining how those resources are to be effectively allocated is essential, especially in a public supported institution.”
The request for an MOU did not come about, as some in the community have speculated, because the library wanted more control of the Friends group, said LPL Executive Director Jean Polly.
“The MOU outlines each organization's responsibilities to the other,” she said. “This is a best practice recommended by United for Libraries and the American Library Associations.”
But no MOU had existed for a dozen years. Why was it necessary now? It’s likely because the Friends had received a bequest from a library patron in the amount of $304,000 last summer, and there was a conflict between the board and the Friends over how it should be administered.
Alfred Richberg left the sum to the Friends group in his will, declaring that it should be spent on “services already in place with an emphasis on students.” The MOU was, in part, to determine how the money should be distributed.
The Friends’ leadership and trustees began discussing the proposed MOU in August. But by mid-October, it was clear that no compromise could be reached. Sprague said there were two sticking points on which she and her fellow Friends board members felt they could not compromise.