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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 12th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 28

Library and city staff celebrate Library Shop's reopening

Roughly 15 community members were all smiles at the Santa Maria Public Library's grand reopening of its used bookstore on Sept. 11.

The bookstore, which recently changed management amid controversy, is stocked with roughly 2,500 donated or discarded books, DVDs, magazines, encyclopedias, and art, according to Mary Housel, director of the Santa Maria Public Library. While the store's proceeds will flow entirely back into the library, Housel said prices are low–ranging from about 50 cents to $2–and it runs on the honor system. 

The store's true mission, she said, is to give everyone an opportunity to read. 

"So in a way," Housel said at the celebration, "this event is supporting freedom and all the other things America stands for." 

Although the Library Shop officially opened its doors under library management on Aug. 13, the Sept. 11 event gave city and library staffers an opportunity to celebrate both the store and the library's 10-year anniversary in its current location. 

Library and city staff celebrate the grand reopening of the Library Shop on Sept. 11, just two months after the Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library closed its used bookstore and moved out of the space in July. Pictured center, left: Library Director Mary Housel. Pictured center, right: Mayor Alice Patino.

Several city officials, including Mayor Alice Patino and City Manager Jason Stilwell, helped library staff and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce celebrate the grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and cookies. Housel even offered each attendee a free book as party favors after mentioning a recent influx of donations. 

"All donations help the library," Housel told attendees. 

The Library Shop was vacated in July after the Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library–its original manager–refused to sign a proposed memorandum of understanding with the city and library in April 2016, a revised version again in 2018, and lease agreements in March and May of this year.

Through the lease, the city would have charged the Friends–a nonprofit that helps support the library financially–$2,051 each month for the space it had used pro bono for a decade.

The groups still disagree about the legality of the proposed contracts, which would have given library administration managerial control over some of the nonprofit's operations, access to its financial records, and would have forced the Friends to use all its net proceeds to "support library operations."

In several emails to the city throughout negotiations, Friends members expressed concerns over the proposed contracts, citing a state law that gives a nonprofit's board of directors complete managerial control over the organization's business and affairs. Little was accomplished during those discussions regarding language and rent, which was eventually lowered to $833 a month, according to the library director. 

In an email sent on May 23, the city gave the Friends 30 days to sign a contract or move out of the library lobby. Two months later, the Friends left without signing. 

The Friends moved into an office space at 1000 S. Broadway, where members sell books on Amazon. The group also has an upcoming book sale scheduled for Sept. 20 through 22 in Shephard Hall.

While Friends members have said repeatedly that they will continue supporting the library through other fundraising endeavors, Housel maintains that an agreement or lease is essential to protecting the library legally. Recent behavioral issues with unvetted Friends volunteers caused liability issues for the library and city, Housel wrote in an email to the Sun on Aug. 24. 

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