Let the Friends fundraise

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Speaking as a community member, not as a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Victoria Public Library, the Lunenburg County Public Library System (LCPLS) is doing well. Local funding, private donations and increased state funding have given the trustees a substantial operating budget. They have been spending their own budgetary funds to improve the aesthetics of the Victoria Public Library (VPL).

Not all is roses, however. Although the new library director presented Friends of the Victoria Public Library (FOVPL) with a list of items she would like them to fund, the trustees reiterated that they do not want friends to hold fundraisers of any kind inside the library.

For the past five years, FOVPL have raised $28,402 in donations and spent $26,922 of that on the library; $1,000 was seed money for the startup of the LCPLS. During that time, FOVPL also had income from fundraisers, interest and dues totaling $7,863 of which they spent $4,638 on their own operating costs. Of the total income over the past five years, FOVPL have approximately $5,000 available for the library’s most recent requests.

FOVPL have other available funds, but without raising funds for the library, the library will eventually deplete those funds and find themselves unable to fully operate the library without either increased funding from the county and Town of Victoria, or getting into the fundraising business themselves. FOVPL cannot continue to maintain the library building at the rate it has required. FOVPL’s goal is to supplement government funding of the public library, not replace it.

A concern of greater significance, however, is the matter of noncompliance with FOIA. While promising to be open and transparent in their operations and finances with the public, they do not respond to requests to provide meeting documents to community members in attendance, and they went so far as to deny my personal FOIA request for emailed electronic documents. Instead, on the advice of their corporate registered agent and under his label, they mailed the documents to me and, the trustee chair advised me (a month after I received the documents) that they are sending me an invoice for the cost of copies, postage, time and travel.

Many people work during normal business hours and cannot get to the library. Many people do not have the money to pay 20 cents per page to copy multiple documents or lengthy documents, such as their Policies and Procedures Manual. Yet, the trustees neither follow Library of Virginia and American Library Association guidelines to provide access to these documents via their website or email, nor comply with FOIA requests to email these documents since they are already in electronic format.

Essentially, the trustees and their registered agent denied my FOIA request, imposed upon themselves unnecessary work and then burdened me with the cost. This is highly irregular, unprofessional and may be unethical.

Trudy Berry is a Green Bay resident. She can be reached at holtram74@aol.com.