About 75 people attended the meeting Friends of the Liverpool Public Library Monday night at the Ramada Inn in Salina.
There was significant discussion as to why the dissolution was taking place, and Friends board members took questions submitted on index cards. At the close of the 90-minute meeting, the membership voted 63 to 9 to dissolve the group.
The decision to dissolve came after the Friends and the library’s board of trustees were unable to come up with a memorandum of understanding that would formalize the relationship between the two entities.
The board asked for a memorandum of understanding after the Friends received a $300,000 bequest from a former patron. Alfred Richberg left the money to the Friends, 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 the main sticking point was that the board wanted them to appoint an independent party to a committee to determine how the money should be spent.
“The Friends had discussed it, and we decided to form a committee to accept proposals from the library and look them over. If the proposal fit the criteria laid out in the will, it would be granted,” Sprague told the Star-Review last week.. “One of their suggestions was, ‘How about if you get a proposal and decide not to approve it, we form another committee with one Friends member, one member of the library board and one neutral party, just someone from the community?’”
Sprague said that idea was one with which the Friends couldn’t get on board.
“We just couldn’t agree to that,” she said. “The money was left to the Friends to be stewards of. It’s our fiduciary responsibility. We couldn’t just leave the distribution of that money to some unknown member of the community. It just wasn’t a good idea.”
At the Jan.14 meeting, Sprague and other members of the Friends’ leadership placed the blame for the group’s dissolution on LPL Executive Director Jean Polly and the board of trustees. Those comments were echoed by a few former LPL staffers in the audience.
The Richberg bequest will be administered by the Central New York Community Foundation.
In addition, the Friends will re-donate 25,000 used books, currently being stored in Baldwinsville, back to the library.
Russ Tarby contributed reporting to this story.
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.