There’s an old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
We believe that saying fits the war between the City of Rio Rancho and the Friends of the Library of Rio Rancho nonprofit, a war that appears to be over. The city won, but the Friends — though wounded — will continue to be an ally to book lovers.
Here at the Observer, where we really appreciate people who read and enjoy it, we are having a hard time deciphering what made this 37-year relationship dissolve. We can’t see anything unfair or wrong with what the Friends have done in the city.
We don’t have the advantage of being involved in the private negotiations, much less the ability to read minds. But as far as we can see, the issue seems to be the city administration getting more control, since control and more work to do are all it’s gaining from the end of its relationship with the Friends.
City representatives complained about the Friends maintaining a reserve fund, but they take pride in the one the city maintains at levels far about what’s legally required. Why can the city have a reserve when the nonprofit can’t?
Yes, part of the Friends’ reserve is for a third library, and we agree with city management that one isn’t needed now. But the existence of that reserve doesn’t force the city to build a library.
Friends gave far more money to libraries than it kept in reserve.
In June, the library director and an assistant Rio Rancho city attorney said the city would take all donations made to the Friends of the Library, take over Friends’ monthly book sales and bookstores, and require all volunteers to be city volunteers.
But, fired back the Friends, a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the city and the Friends
stated, “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.”
Last month, Acting City Manager Peter Wells terminated the MOU. So much for keeping promises, eh?
The Friends had to remove their donations and equipment from the libraries.
They’re renting space with money that could be used to support libraries.
The city will use paid library staff or try to recruit new volunteers to manage library donations and book stores, since it has alienated many volunteers it already had. The city will also need to spend money to replace the Friends’ equipment, which had been provided for free.
We don’t see how the city and Friends having to spend more money on overhead costs, meaning less on programs, benefits anyone.
As an independent non-profit public charity, the Friends plan to continue to exist, have book sales when the pandemic eases and support literacy in a new location.
That, of course, is good news for the reading public. But how and where the book sales will be held will be problematic, unless an owner of an empty building allows that space to be used, or something similar can be worked out.
The Friends have thousands of books stored and hauling them to and from the Loma Colorado auditorium for sales has been an ordeal. To move the books and book carts a longer distance will be back-breaking.
With the demographics of the Friends — senior citizens, for the most part — back-breaking could be more of a literal than figurative statement.
We hope Rio Rancho’s libraries continue to be gems, and we’re glad the Friends are still around to support libraries and literacy. It’s unfortunate they aren’t doing it together.