Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Proposed Alternative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Dear Friends:  Two and a half years ago while we were involved with the County's attempts to "audit" the Friends Groups I drafted a updated version of the MOU many of us were operating under at that time (and continue under today).  There were several key points I tried to capture, which I believe are as pertinent now as they were then. 

1.  Each Friends Group is an independent 501 (c) 3 organization with its own relationship with the Branch it serves.  

2.  We work closely WITH the County (through its libraries), but we don't work FOR the County.  

3.  Our goal - a strong healthy Library system that serves the whole community and provides a essential service in educating, informing and entertaining all residents of Fairfax County - is identical to the stated goals of the Trustees and the County Administration.  

4.  The Friends are certainly willing to discuss any issues concerning the MOUs we operate under, but as with any contract between two parties, both parties must be involved from the beginning of such discussions. 

5. As 501 (c) 3 organizations, each Friends group is in full compliance with all State and Federal laws and regulations and produce regular financial reports which are public documents.  There has never been an issue of mishandling of funds by the Friends.  

6.  It is our desire to continue to work closely with the Trustees and the Library Administration to support the Libraries.  We can best do this if our contributions are recognized and appreciated. 

Anyway, as a recovering bureaucrat I know the importance of getting the first, best piece of paper into circulation.  It will be much better if the coming discussions start from our proposal rather than the County's.  (Yes, I know it technically will be the Trustees proposal, but our understanding is that this is coming from the County, specially the County Attorney's Office)

I have updated the draft of two years ago, specifically incorporating some of the "best practices" pulled from the examples of other jurisdictions' MOUs.  This includes the Trustees keeping the Friends informed of their strategic vision and giving the Friends an opportunity to speak at their monthly meetings, like the Library Employee Association does.  

I should stress the attached reflects just my thoughts at the moment.  Please read this over and let me know if I have forgotten or misstated anything.  There probably are more details we could include, but I think there is an advantage in keeping it short and somewhat "fuzzy".  The key issue, however, is the independence of each group.  I don't believe we can compromise an inch on that.  

Ideally, if we reach agreement on the language here we would send this to the Trustees (and maybe the Supervisors) prior to the 30th.  

Thoughts?  Comments?  Objections? 

Very best regards, Dennis Hays
Fairfax Library Advocates

Memorandum of Understanding
Between the
Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees and
The Friends of the ____________ Library

The Friends of the Library provide important financial and volunteer support to the library branches and departments of Fairfax County, adding substantially to the limited resources available from the County budget.

It is therefore the policy of the Library Board of Trustees (the Board) to encourage and support Friends of the Library organizations. “Friends of the Library” are civic-minded individuals who know that quality library service is important to the community and who organize into groups to support, improve, and promote the library.

The roles of the Trustees, Librarians, and Friends are related but distinct.  Trustees represent citizen control and governance of the library.  The Library Director represents the administration and management of the library.  Friends of the Library represent citizen participation and assistance to the library.

In order to achieve countywide consistency and fiscal accountability, all Friends of the Library groups shall conduct their fiscal affairs through non-profit, non-stock 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporations and in accordance with all State and Federal laws.  Each organized group should be structured through articles of incorporation and bylaws to support, assist and promote the activities of a Library branch or department.

Friends are organized with one or more of the following objectives:

a.                   To increase community awareness of and use of the library;
b.                   To provide direct financial assistance to purchase goods and services to promote the mission of the library;
c.                   To educate officials on the crucial role libraries play in the health of the community;
d.                   To encourage gifts, endowments, and memorials for the library;
e.                   To sponsor programs designed to add to the cultural life of the community; and
f.                     To volunteer on specific projects proposed by the Branch Manager.

The Friends endorse and will comply with Fairfax County’s policy of Open Meetings, Open Records, Affirmative Action, and general code of Ethics. 

Each Friend’s Group will develop with its respective Branch Manager a statement of purpose outlining expected program activities and related utilization of Library facilities, personnel, utilities and equipment.

Each Friend’s Group will designate a coordinator or liaison with the respective Branch Manager.  The Branch Manager or designated representative shall be an ex officio member of the Friends Board and shall have authority to administer this agreement on behalf of the Fairfax County Public Library.  Friends Groups will receive appropriate staff support.

Each Branch with a Friends Group will provide public display space for Friends membership brochures and promotional materials. The Library will also provide adequate space for book storage and sorting, book sales, and office needs.
Funds raised through various Friends initiatives will be used to support the Fairfax Library System, the Library of Virginia and Library based educational and cultural programs. 
Branch Managers will periodically present “wish lists” (budget requests) for Friends consideration.   The Friends Board will discuss and vote on these requests. 
The Library Board will include the Friends in the long-term planning process to ensure the Friends are aware of the goals and direction of the Library, and are involved in the preparation of major efforts in community and public relations. The Library Board will invite a representative of the Friends to speak at the Board's monthly meeting.
Friends' gifts to the system will be considered in accordance with the policy stated in the Policy Manual, Section M, " Policy Regarding Gifts to and Alliances with the Library System."  As independent 501 © 3 organizations, Friends Groups have authority to solicit, retain, and expend funds they determine are appropriate to their program goals.

With respect to the donation of library materials to Friends organizations:

In accordance with the Virginia Code 15.2-953-B, the Library Board will donate library materials to Friends organizations for sale to the public. Revenues from such sales will be used to support the programs and services outlined above.  When a sale is coordinated and operated by the Friends organization, all proceeds accrue to the sponsoring Friends organization.

If the sale is an "on-going" event, i. e., sale of donated books by the staff on a continuous basis, the proceeds are divided with 40% retained by the library system and 60% retained by the Friends organization.  Branches with Friends organizations will provide space for the display of on-going sales items.

This Memorandum of Understanding will be in force unless and until modified by mutual agreement. 

The Library Board and the Friends believe the Fairfax Library System to be a cornerstone of our community that provides a vital and essential service to help educate, inform, empower and entertain all of our citizens, whatever their situation.  



  1. Hi, Dennis -- I'm still getting up to speed on this issue, but one thing that jumped out at me is that we already are able to speak at the monthly trustee meetings -- we just have to ask to be on the agenda. Have we had problems with that?

    1. Individuals are only allowed to speak to the Library Board once every six months.