Saturday, February 23, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on July 9th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 18

Library Shop to close after tiff with Library

It was a warm Friday afternoon just days before the 4th of July, and still customers trickled into the Library Shop on June 29, in search of the low-priced but high-quality used books the store has sold for nearly 10 years. 

As volunteer Beth Schneider restocked gift cards, a customer asked about the ongoing sale–bright signs advertising a 50 percent off everything special were posted at the shop's entrance–and Schneider quietly explained that the store would be closing. Everything had to go. 

The Library Shop, which is run by the Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library, a nonprofit that works to support the library financially, sells donated used books at low prices from its 1,200-square-foot shop just inside the Library's entrance. The shop employs one part-time staffer and roughly 40 volunteers, according to Friends President Joyce Hall, and its books typically go for about 25 cents to $2, the proceeds of which go almost entirely to the Santa Maria Public Library. 

The Friends raise roughly $40,000 a year for the library, Hall said, but after years of running without a memorandum of understanding or lease with the city and Library, she said the Friends were suddenly pressed to sign a contract. 

After the Friends refused to sign a proposed memorandum of understanding with the city and Library in April 2016, and a revised version again in 2018, Hall said they were presented with a lease agreement in March, and in May, an ultimatum: sign or get out.

The Library Shop will close its doors for good on July 17, 2018.

The shop, Hall said, will close its doors on July 17. 

"We're very disappointed," Hall told the Sun. "Some of us are very, very–more than disappointed. We are dismayed that this is happening." 

Through the lease, Hall said, the city would have charged the Friends $2,051 each month for the space in the Library's lobby that was built especially for the Library Shop, the space they've used pro bono for a decade. Hall said the lease also would have given Library officials managerial control over some of the organization's operations and access to its financial records. 

But Hall said state law gives a nonprofit's board of directors complete management and operational control. 

"We can't do that," Hall said. 

Library Director Mary Housel said the city wanted the Friends to sign either a memorandum of understanding or lease for liability reasons. Every other friends group–the Santa Maria Public Library has branches in Guadalupe, Los Alamos, Cuyama, and Orcutt, three of which have friends groups of their own–recently signed memorandums of understanding outlining managerial and volunteer policies.

The memorandums of understanding, Housel said, are a city requirement, because the city vets, hires, and trains all volunteers who work in the Library and with its friends groups. 

And ultimately, Housel said the Library does have some control over each of its friends groups–it always has. The proposed memorandum of understanding and lease, Housel said, would have simply defined the Library's role in managing the shop. 

"It's kind of unfortunate, but they're a very independent group and they've done a lot of great things for the Library, but we need to be able to cooperate with each other," Housel told the Sun. "I really don't want to run their operation, I have enough to do running a library with four branches."

But the Library lobby is now free real estate, and Housel said she hopes to put a passport certification facility in the soon-to-be emptied space. The Library, she said, has already been approved as a passport facility. 

"I think the service of selling books was something that everyone enjoyed and I regret a little bit that that will no longer be there," Housel said. "But there are opportunities in everything that happens, so even though this might seem like a negative, it may be a positive." 

Friends President Hall is also looking forward to the future, and although the group's relationship with the Library is strained, she said, "We're still going to work to support the Library." 

The physical store will cease to exist, but Hall said the Friends will continue hosting book sales, fundraisers, and selling more expensive books online through Amazon. The Friends are working on moving out of the Library lobby and into a 500-square-foot office space at 1000 S. Broadway. 

Hall said the Friends plan to build a website, rebuild its board of directors, and partner with other local friends groups. 

"We're just kind of free now to do some more things," Hall said. 

But Library Shop customers, like Darin Gabler, owner of the Bookworm, will miss the store for its accessibility to affordable books. As the owner of a used book store, Gabler said he's always on the lookout for cheap but nice books to resell. 

The Library Shop, Gabler said, was one of his preferred spots. 

"Having this here was real convenient," Gabler said on June 29, looking over a stack of books he'd just purchased in the shop. "It's not a good thing that it's going away."

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