Statement from the Friends of the Goodnow Library, Inc.
We wish to thank the many people in Sudbury for their expressions of support in the last week.
As many of you know, on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, the Board of Trustees voted to sever the relationship between the Goodnow Library and the Friends of the Goodnow Library. We’ve received a number of inquiries from people in town who were surprised by this action and are offering this statement in response.
Since its incorporation in 1988, the Friends of the Goodnow Library organization has contributed more than $1.25 million to, or for the benefit of, the Goodnow Library for programs, capital improvements, and library resources. In the past 10 years alone, the Friends have directly funded programs and other needs in excess of $350,000.This has included the purchase of furniture, the piano, a drive-up book drop, programs for children and families, the Sunday Afternoons at Goodnow cultural series, numerous museum passes, a movie license for the free movie series, the entry gardens, craft supplies, and more. In addition, our Board and member-volunteers have expended thousands of hours preparing and running our book sales and fundraising through membership drives, trivia nights, and other events and activities. Our ability to support the library depends in large part on these fundraising events, on the publicity and goodwill that they generate, and on our cooperative relationship with the library staff and management as we work toward the common goal of ensuring that the library thrives as a resource for Sudbury and the surrounding communities. Our volunteers have enjoyed running these events and contributing in a meaningful manner to making the library a special place.
In recent years, our longtime cooperative relationship with library leadership has become strained. This seems to stem, in part, from a misunderstanding of the role and legal status of the Friends organization. The Friends of the Goodnow Library, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization. The money the Friends receive, whether through fundraising activities or unsolicited donations, is held by the Friends as a fiduciary to ensure that it is put to good use consistent with our mission. In this regard, we are no different from, nor have we acted differently from, any other Friends organization in Sudbury or elsewhere. Although a statement from the Board of Trustees characterized us as “withholding [our] donors’ contributions intended for the library” and trying to “exert inappropriate influence over library programming,” in reality we are not a direct conduit but rather an independent organization with a legal responsibility to exercise judgment regarding what to contribute and when. It is precisely this financial stewardship that has allowed us to maintain the same level of contributions to the library in 2020 that we have offered in prior years, despite being unable to hold our usual fundraising events during the pandemic. Our goal has always been to maintain funds in reserve to allow for continuation of financial support in the face of unforeseen circumstances. In addition, it is important to point out that we have funded almost all requests from the library in recent years, and not all the money that was granted in a given year was spent. The assertion that we are “withholding funds” is a mischaracterization and reflects a misunderstanding of our role.
Recently, the Library Board of Trustees sent us a Memorandum of Understanding – drafted with no input from the Friends – and asked that we sign it in order to continue our relationship with the library. As part of our due diligence, we consulted all of the Friends organizations for libraries in our region to assess whether this was typical and to understand what such a document might usually contain. We received responses from 23 Friends organizations. Only three had a Memorandum of Understanding in place, and the rest had never been asked to sign such a document. Nonetheless, in an effort to restart a conversation with the Board of Trustees, we submitted our own draft Memorandum of Understanding as a discussion document and requested to speak at the Library Board of Trustees meeting. Unfortunately, we were not given the opportunity to have a good faith discussion of this document or a potential path forward.
We are saddened and disappointed by the decision of the Board of Trustees and by their description of the events that have transpired. By severing its relationship with the Friends, we believe the Trustees have done a great disservice to the Goodnow Library and the Town of Sudbury.
We are devoted to continuing as a 501(c)(3) organization and look forward to re-establishing a positive relationship with the Goodnow Library in the future, when circumstances allow. To be clear, our charter requires us to ultimately use all money we raise, after expenses, for the benefit of the Goodnow Library, but we are responsible for determining when these donations occur. We encourage all citizens of Sudbury to watch for announcements on our website https://www.friendsofgoodnow.org or to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
The Board of the Friends of the Goodnow Library, Inc.