Report on the Meeting of the Jones Library Board of Trustees, November 15, 2021
Trustees Austin Sarat (President), Alex Lefebvre (Clerk), Robert Pam (Treasurer), Lee Edwards (Vice Treasurer) and Tamson Ely; Library Director Sharron Sharry; Investment Advisor Dan Voss
During Public Comment, Amherst resident Jeff Lee requested that video recordings of Trustee meetings, which are conducted and recorded over Zoom, be posted to a publicly accessible website. Director Sharon Sharry replied that she would see that the recordings are posted to joneslibrary.org.
During his President’s Report, Austin Sarat pointed out that newly elected trustee Farah Ameen, who is filling the position being vacated by outgoing Vice President Chris Hoffman, will be seated in January, at which time subcommittee assignments would be redone. He also reported that the Town Manager had not yet completed formation of the Jones Library Building Committee, as there has not yet been final determination of a couple of public members.
The meeting’s main order of business was an update on the performance of the Library endowment. Treasurer Robert Pam reported that during the previous week, the endowment had, for the first time ever, reached a balance of 10 million dollars and at meeting time was at a milestone mark of 9.995 million dollars. He explained that the library’s policy is to withdraw no more than 4% of the endowment each year. At $10M, the endowment would support an annual withdrawal of $400,000 which he said is substantially greater than what the library has needed in the past.
Pam described the endowment’s investment strategy as reasonably conservative, being a balance of 60% stocks and 40% less volatile bonds.
He turned the floor over to Vanguard account manager and investment advisor Dan Voss who gave a detailed review of the endowment’s portfolio performance. The endowment’s investments had gained roughly 9.7% in value over the ten months through October 31. The separate Woodbury Fund, which supports programming at the library, finished the period at $810,032, up 8.7%.
However, Mr. Voss cautioned that at Vanguard, “We believe over the next ten years on an annualized basis that returns will be low for both equities and fixed income compared to historical norms … These lower forecasts are due to the fact that stocks are expensive right now.” He expects performance of a 60-40 portfolio like the library’s to gain on average slightly less than 4% annually in the coming decade.
Lee Edwards reported on behalf of the Development Committee that the solicitation of donations toward the Library Building Project are on hold “until we have some movement of funds from the MBLC [Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners provisional grant of $13.8M] or some judicial resolution of the suit. We are not collecting actual funds because we don’t have a mechanism to give the money back if there are tax implications for people who give.”
During discussion of Buildings and Facilities, Director Sharon Sharry expressed concern about unanticipated roof leaks that appeared during recent rains and that will require emergency repairs. She noted that the tent that has been set up in front of the Jones to enable outdoor programming will be removed before the season’s first snow.
Ausin Sarat closed the meeting by praising Director Sharry’s leadership on the building project and he pointed out that the 65% of voters who endorsed the project in the recent town wide referendum exceeded the percentage of voters who supported the Wildwood School project (2017) and the town charter change (2018), a result that he characterized as a remarkable achievement.