What Happened to Potomac’s Friends of the Library?

What Happened to Potomac’s Friends of the Library?

Dissolved, by the County chapter, without discussion.

The Montgomery County Friends of the Library has dissolved the local chapters of the Friends of the Library, including the Potomac chapter, which has been addressing local needs for 31 years.

Reportedly, the announcement came at a meeting with the admonishment that no questions would be taken. Chapter members were blindsided because there was no collaboration on the decision before the announcement. 

Here’s what Edythe Wingate, President, Potomac Friends of the Library, wrote in an email to chapter members.:

The Potomac Friends of the Library organization has been informed that it, along with all other Friends chapters at the county’s branch libraries, will be dissolved as of April 1.

This unilateral, unexpected action—taken with no prior consultation with branch chapters—was made by the “parent” organization, Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, MD, last Saturday, March 19. You can read the announcement at https://www.folmc.org/from-the-desk-of-the-president. [And below]

The Potomac Friends chapter is stunned by this action and concerned that direct community involvement in supporting and enhancing the Potomac Library and its programming will suffer. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by a 13-member elected Board of Directors made up of volunteer residents and library patrons, we are exploring with other chapters—which are equally concerned—what options may be available to continue to serve our communities.

For 31 years the Potomac Friends of the Library chapter has been dedicated to the enhancement of the Potomac library in a multitude of ways. In recognition of this, the Potomac Chamber of Commerce honored the organization collectively as “Potomac Citizen of the Year” in 2020. We have provided “extras” such as:  author talks;·  8 years of the Great Decisions foreign affairs lectures; monthly book sales; children's programs; computers and furniture; funds for collection development;  partial funding for landscaping of the grounds by the Potomac Village Garden Club;  staff appreciation lunches and funds for ongoing learning; storybook characters and children’s activities for Potomac Day;  financial support for re-painting and refurbishing of the library building.

We also planned to make significant funding for the upcoming refresh of the Potomac branch. The Potomac Friends chapter is pursuing alternatives to disbandment in the hope of continuing our service to the Potomac Library and the Potomac community. We appreciate all our many members.

From the Desk of the President, Pamela Saussy

Here is the letter from Pamela Saussy, President, Board of Trustees, Friends of the Library, Montgomery County

March 19, 2022

On behalf of the FOLMC [Friends of the Library, Montgomery County] Board of Trustees, I would like to announce that we have made a unanimous decision to change the chapter model for our organization. Instead of chapters, our new ONE FOLMC model will centralize volunteer activities, creating a more unified, efficient, and streamlined organization. The decision to create a new ONE FOLMC model was driven by an extensive years-long business review that exposed both fiduciary and liability risks that threaten the long-term viability of the whole organization. 

This decision was made after careful and deliberate consideration. As 501c3’s in the state of Maryland, individual chapters were required to file articles of incorporation, recruit a board of directors governed by a set of by-laws, and maintain their status as a charity under Maryland law. FOLMC was held legally and financially responsible for all actions or inactions taken by the individual chapters but did not have authority to ensure their compliance. Despite efforts over many years to resolve these risks within the current chapter model, it became clear that revising our model was our only path forward. Our chapter leaders were notified of the change on March 19 and provided with a path to determine next steps for ensuring that publicly donated assets remain accessible to their intended MCPL branch. 

This step does not change FOLMC’s mission to strengthen, promote, and champion Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) or to continue directing funds to each branch for which they are raised. FOLMC’s vision that everyone in Montgomery County values and benefits from our public libraries remains the same, as do our values of education, innovation, service, integrity, and advocacy. Our volunteers will still carry out book sales and participate in programs supporting their local library. The new ONE FOLMC volunteer model will not impact our relationship with and ability to serve MCPL. 

The change to ONE FOLMC benefits our hardworking volunteers by easing the administrative burdens of chapter management so that they can spend more time doing what they love, including conducting booksales which supports library programming. It benefits MCPL by streamlining their interactions with FOLMC to communicate branch needs for programs and funding. In addition to reducing the risks cited above, the new model strengthens FOLMC’s oversight and stewardship of publicly donated assets intended to benefit MCPL. 

As we take this necessary step, I’d like to thank our volunteers and chapter leaders for their dedication in supporting our treasured public libraries. We look forward to continuing our mission together as ONE FOLMC. 

For more information about ONE FOLMC, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.  If you would like to volunteer for FOLMC, please fill out this volunteer form.