Laguna Beach Friends of the Library Assn. officials have been up in arms about the terms of a licensing agreement dictated by the Orange County Public Library.
The library support group rebelled against terms they said originally stipulated that all money raised by the Friends for the local branch had to be turned over to the county system. A Dec. 12 letter warned that they would be ousted at the end of January from the book store the group has operated for more than two decades if the agreement was not signed by Dec. 31.
Association officials have asked Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Pat Bates to intervene, according to Martha Lydick, longtime president of the local Friends organization.
"We are at war with the OCPL," Lydick said. "They had threatened to padlock our bookshop at the end of January if we didn't sign the agreement."
Board member Sandy Hovanesian said she was told that the money raised by the association belongs to OCPL, which the association disputes.
Telephone calls to verify Bates' assistance or the declaration that the association money belongs to OCPL were not returned by press time.
County Librarian Helen Fried said Thursday that the association has been notified in a second letter of a time extension to sign the agreement.
"I did receive an email that extended the time until Feb. 15, but we can't give the money to OCPL even if we wanted to," Lydick said. "Donations made to us are tax-deductible because we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and OCPL isn't."
Further, Lydick said an association bylaw dated June 2004 states that upon termination of operations, assets of the association will be turned over to the Laguna branch or its successor for the exclusive use of the community.
In the latest email from the county, it backed off from a previous threat that originally riled Friends officials:
"Failure to execute the lease will result in your group's vacating of the premises within a 30 day time period."
Terms on of the new lease agreement include:
"For the purpose of demonstrating continued benefit to substantiate the waiver of the License Fee hereunder, all funds, gross receipts, or moneys, less applicable sales tax, less appropriate operating expenses, ("Funds") collected by Licensee related to its 'Friends of the Library' fundraising activities shall be for the benefit of OC Public Libraries or to a specific OC Public Libraries branch library as designated by Licensee.
Licensee shall submit a written statement of funds raised ("Statement of Funds"), upon request, to the County Librarian certifying under penalty of perjury that the Statement of Funds is accurate to the best of Licensee's knowledge. All Fund checks shall be payable to the "County of Orange" or made payable to vendors for the specific purpose of benefiting OC Public Libraries or a specific OC Public Libraries branch library as designated by Licensee."
"It isn't clear to us whether we would have to turn over the money we raise for our library for OCPL to disperse," Lydick said upon review of the revised letter.
The email asked for feedback from the Friends on the proposed changes no later than Jan. 31 and notified the group that it would be still be required to execute the original license agreement in addition to any future amendments as approved by the Board of Supervisors. Any amendments will apply to all Friends of the Library License Agreements equally, according to the email.
Fried said earlier in the week that the county system had been advised that licensing agreements were needed with bookshops on county-leased or -owned land, which hitherto had not been required. Asked who had given the advice, Fried replied "several groups," without identifying a specific source.
"It was recommended that we need to formalize what we have had all along," Fried said. "We are hoping they [Friends] will sign it. If they don't, we will try to find out why they don't want to sign."
Fried said she had no plans beyond that, but she could see no reason why the groups would be reluctant to sign the agreements.
"It is for their benefit," she said. "Nothing will change. Operations will stay the same. A majority of the Friends have signed it. I don't see why they wouldn't."
Fried said the county does not charge the Friends a fee to operate a bookshop in a library.
"Why would they charge us a fee to raise money for our branch?" Lydick said. "And in fact, we paid OCPL more than $8,000 for the use of the space, which opened as a bookshop in 1986."
In the past several years, the Friends have raised funds with the assistance of the community to refurbish the branch inside and out, besides buying books and other items requested by library patrons and personnel.
"We have paid to have the inside and outside painted and landscaped," Lydick said. "We redid the lighting and reconfigured the children's section so the children's librarian would have an unobstructed view of the children."
"Our mission has always been to raise money to keep the Laguna Beach Branch open, fully staffed and stocked with books and supplies," Lydick said.