Jones Library. Photo Art Keene.

Report from the Jones Library Trustee Meeting (7/18/19), Part II

The Jones Library Board of Trustees announced the results of the annual fund drive on July 18, 2019. The Jones was unable to reach its annual fundraising needs for FY 2019 in spite of a new three year provisional Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Friends of the Jones Library System (Friends).

As stated in the MOU, the Friends will now serve as the recipients of all fiscal donations for programming, books and the annual fund, including unspecified contributions, for both the Jones and the Friends. The Jones will receive 80% of the $116,772 collected through the Friends, after fundraising expenses are determined. The Friends will receive 20%. The Jones needed to raise $136,000 this fiscal year. Trustee and treasurer Bob Pam estimated that the Jones FY 2019 budget, even with the funds raised through the MOU, will be about $40,000 short and noted that this deficit “will need to be dealt with.”

After over a year of negotiations between the trustees and the Friends, Director Sharon Sharry and then co-chairs of the Friends Elaine Donaghue and Lucy McMurrer announced in a joint letter to library supporters in October, 2018 that the “two organizations’ financial appeals would be under one roof. All donations would now be solely solicited by the Friends” because it would be “less redundant and confusing.”

At the time the MOU was approved, the Friends’ solicitation would not include funds for the Woodbury Fund, the Sammy Awards or capital campaigns. The Trustees voted on this at their July 18th meeting to “enter into new negotiations with the Friends to undertake the capital campaign” for an expanded library, thereby requiring revision to this recently established MOU. Pam indicated that a new MOU, including the capital campaign, must delineate clearer agreements and procedures about fiscal management than the first MOU.

Trustee Lee Edwards stated that a new Friends Capital Campaign Committee would need to be established since “particular skills are needed” to run such a campaign. In a fall presentation to the Town Council, Sharry said a capital campaign consultant would be hired. If a revised MOU is negotiated, hiring a consultant would be the responsibility of the Friends. Since 2012, the Jones has hired the Financial Development Agency of Amherst to handle development and marketing.

Kent Faerber, chair of the Friends Development Committee, recounted that the Friends have hired two new part-time bookkeepers, two new part-time treasurers, bought a new software program, merged donor lists, and recruited new members. Friends also sent out four bulk mailings and identified 100 large donors, meeting with almost three-fourths of them personally. 

Austin Sarat praised the work of the Friends Development Committee and noted that it was “phenomenal and will move the Library into an entirely new phase of fundraising.” He also noted that the personal outreach was critical.

The Friends are a non-profit 501(c)(3). Meetings are not open to the public. There is no updated information on their Jones’ web page as to their current board members and subcommittee members. 

The Jones Library was $200,000 in the red at the beginning of FY 2019 which just ended on June 30, 2019.Two full time retiring library technicians were not replaced, thus saving their health insurance costs (the Town pays their salaries). Other cuts were made, and the endowment draw was increased from 4% to 5%. 

The Jones is now second on the MBLC state waiting list. If the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) offers the provisional grant of $13.7 million to the Jones for a total $35.8 million project, the Friends need to raise $2.9 million in donations. The proposed project would demolish the entire 1993 addition and gut most of the 1928 historic structure for over 35,000 sq. ft. of new construction and a total library square footage of 65,000. 

Director Sharry has stated to the Town Council that she intends to raise $3.1 million through “historic tax credits.” The Jones as a non-profit 501(c)(3) does not pay taxes so it is unclear which state agencies can grant additional funds for the Jones’ capital project other than MBLC grant. Historic tax credits are only given to income-producing properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, part of a historic district, or eligible for listing on the register. The Jones is a recognized historic property but does not produce income. 

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  1. I don’t understand why the Jones Library is cutting services because of a budget deficit when the Trustees received a $273,000 unrestricted gift but chose to apply it entirely to the building fund. – Maura Keene

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