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Friends Read Between the Lines

By Justin Swanson | LB Indy

 

Soldiering on is the way of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, who intend to run business as usual while awaiting a redraft of the licensing agreement from the Orange County Public Library that they initially rejected.

In a spat fit for a romance novel and a jilted protagonist, Friends groups from across the county have pronounced their disapproval with a newly proposed agreement from county library officials. Leading the protest are friends groups based in libraries in Laguna Beach and Dana Point. At the latter, members even took to the streets, waving signs in protest to passerby on Niguel Road.

The main point of dispute is the proposition that the county will collect all money raised or earned by the Friends, and then use it for discretionary purposes determined by the county, not the Friends, explained Martha Lydick, president of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library.

The effect of the proposed agreement could disallow the annual scholarship money the Friends raise and give to high school students, Lydick pointed out.

County librarian Helen Fried disagrees, suggesting the friends’ groups are misinterpreting the proposed contract. “The money goes to the same place. Business practices have not changed. The Friends will decide what the money is for.”

Fried explains that the licensing contract is for the Friends’ protection and formalizes what had been informal arrangements. The donation of scholarship money, for example, must be in accordance with the group’s own bylaws and has nothing to do with the county or its decision-making, she said.

The sticking point is reportedly being smoothed out in the redrafting process.

Fried goes on to say that a licensing agreement is crucial if only to define the relationship of a separate entity operating on public grounds.

“If you let your friend sell bikes out of your garage, you’d want an agreement with him,” she said, alluding to liability concerns that the licensing agreement addresses. “We’re not going to be the landlord and not have an agreement even though they aren’t paying us [rent].”

Lydick has her own analogy. “If you were buying a car, you wouldn’t sign a contract with blanks in it,” she said, referring to the language that seemingly prevents the Friends from deciding how to use their money.

She falls back on the Friends’ nonprofit status and the community goodwill cultivated across decades of the group’s existence.

“If we can’t guarantee the money we raise goes to the library, then people will stop donating. Right now there’s a write-off and it’s based on us raising money for the library,” she says.

The licensing agreement is being redrafted and is to be reviewed by Feb. 15, after which the process of acceptance may take several months, said Heather Condon, an administration analyst for Orange County Resources, which overseas the library system.

“We’re supposed to support [the Friends] and make sure they’re happy,” explains Fried, noting that the success of the redraft depends on the feedback from the friends groups.

Lydick says that Fried e-mailed her, apologizing for the misunderstanding.

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