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City Terminates 37 Year Partnership, But the Friends Go On

Thank you to everyone who wrote and emailed and phoned in support of the Friends of the Library. We are deeply saddened that the Rio Rancho City administration has chosen to dissolve a 37-year-old partnership that brought libraries to Rio Rancho and helped make them great.

However, as an independent non-profit public charity, the Friends will continue to exist, to have book sales when the pandemic eases and to support literacy in a new location that is off city property.

Here is what happened:

In June the Library Director and an assistant Rio Rancho City Attorney stated that the City would take all donations made to the Friends of the Library. The City would take over the Friends’ monthly book sales, take over the Friends’ bookstores at both libraries and require all volunteers to become City volunteers.

This was despite the 2018 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the City and the Friends that states “The City agrees that all donations from the public, and such materials culled from the Libraries and donated to the Friends, are the sole property of the Friends.”

After weeks and multiple requests to discuss the changes the City wanted to make to the Memorandum, the City finally agreed to meet. The Friends entered the meeting hoping to continue the mutually beneficial partnership we’ve had for nearly 40 years.

The meeting did not go well.

The acting City Manager, with the support of the Mayor, stated he is unilaterally terminating the 2018 Memorandum signed by the City and the Friends calling it “garbage”. The Friends funding all library programs since the 2009 recession with the City contributing nothing is now called “a mistake” on the City’s part.

With the termination of the Memorandum, the Friends must remove their donations and equipment from the libraries. The Friends are spending money that could be used to support libraries to rent space. The City will use paid library staff instead of Friends volunteers to manage future library donations and the in-library book stores. The City will have to replace the equipment the Friends provided for free.

The City says they have three problems with the Friends:

  • The librarians must make grant requests to the Friends. As an IRS-registered non-profit public charity, the Friends must be able to account for the grants we fund. In the past three years, the Friends funded 416 grant requests for $75,547 and only 1 was rejected ($350 for public document shredding that was freely available elsewhere). It is clearly not difficult to get funding from the Friends!

This summer the Friends paid for the Summer Reading Program bags that were mailed in June, paid for the books that were mailed in July and gave $2,134 to pack and post the two mailings.

  • The Friends sell mostly tax-payer purchased books and media. This is false. About 0.5% of what the Friends sell comes from the library-collection discards; 99.5% comes from community donations. The Friends are willing to give up the tiny number of library discards if it’s a problem for the City.
  • The Friends have a reserve fund. The Friends have reported income, expenses and reserves to one or more City staff every month for more than 10 years. Why, after more than a decade, is this suddenly an issue?

The reserve is used to replace the Friends’ broken equipment and buy more as needed ($12,877 in the last four years), to pay bills in the midst of pandemic and, yes, to support the City when it decides to build a new library branch.

The Friends contributed $110,000 to the construction and furnishing of the Loma Colorado Library. The City says that it will not build a third library but the City’s 2021 budget has a feasibility study for “a multipurpose quality of life facility … that includes combined elements such as recreation, pool, library and senior programing”. This is something the Friends would be asked, once again, to support.

The Friends have never denied a library program grant request based on these reserves. On the contrary, we use reserves to be sure we can meet all funding requests. A prudent organization needs a reserve fund.

The City can push a small volunteer organization out of the libraries. The City can terminate a signed agreement when it becomes inconvenient. However, as an independent non-profit public charity, the Friends continue to exist and to support libraries and literacy because we value them.

As the pandemic-related shutdowns are relaxed, the Friends will again be able to have book sales. We will keep you, our valued supporters, informed of our progress as we recreate the Friends in a new location but with the same goals.

Sincerely,
Friends of the Library of Rio Rancho Board of Directors

Amazon Smile

The Friends are still participating in the Amazon Smile program. Same prices and items, but 0.5% of what you spend will be sent to the Friends quarterly. When buying from Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com instead of amazon.com. You will be asked what charity you want to support, or you can click on this link https://smile.amazon.com/ch/85-0307889 to automatically select the Friends. It’s fast and easy; a painless way to support the Friends.

Thank you for your support and understanding in these difficult times. Be safe and stay well.

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Friends of the Library is a non-profit 501(c)3 volunteer organization that funds adult, youth and children’s literacy programs. The Friends raise money through the sale of community-donated books, recent magazines, CDs and DVDs.

Updated scanner policy: From 10 am to noon, each customer may take one, 1.5 cubic foot or smaller, box of books at a time to be scanned at a designated table. Unwanted books must be replaced in the proper areas before scanning another box of books. No ISBN scanners or cell-phone scanners in the sale room(s) from 10 am to noon; Scanners in silent mode OK from noon to 2 pm.

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