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Library foundation turns the page on donated books

Estacada Book Nook will no longer accept donations from the Estacada Public Library
by: Jeff Spiegel

When members of the Estacada Public Library Board of Trustees voted March 22 to continue donating books to the Book Nook, they had no idea their vote wouldn't matter.

Just two days later, Book Nook Manager Linda Arnett sent an email to City Manager Bill Elliot, Library Director Anna Stavinoha and a handful of other people informing them that the Book Nook no longer would accept donations from the library.

Discarded books

Every so often, Stavinoha goes through library records and identifies which items haven't been checked out in the past two or three years. Aside from some special circumstances, these items are generally donated to the Book Nook.

'If it's a classic, then we won't get rid of it,' she said. 'Also, if it's an item that needs updating or a newer edition, then we will update it. We are always buying new books because we want newer items that people are interested in checking out.'

The Book Nook, at 155 S.W. Third Ave. downtown, is a used bookstore staffed by volunteers and is associated with the Estacada Public Library Foundation. Up until a couple months ago, the foundation was the chief organization that helped the library fund special projects.

Then the relationship between the two groups fell apart.

Everything hit a climax at the Feb. 9 board of trustees meeting when Arnett, president of the board of directors for the Estacada Library Foundation, stormed out after board of trustees Chairwoman Karen Hardman made what Arnett felt were false statements about her.

As a result, Arnett and the foundation board of directors have vowed not to fund any future projects at the library until Hardman resigns or apologizes. Hardman has announced that she will do neither.

In response, Hardman advised Stavinoha to refrain from making book donations to the Book Nook - a decision she made before consulting her board of trustees. With Stavinoha in agreement, the donations stopped, leading Arnett to email Hardman wondering where the donations were.

'I asked her that if they weren't supporting the library, then what would they need them for?' Hardman recalls.

Arnett never responded.

Looking back, Hardman admits the decision she made was not one that she was authorized to make. That decision, however, caused quite a stir at the March 22 board meeting, leading the trustees to finally vote on whether donations would continue.

The board voted unanimously to continue the donations.

In the meantime, Elliot announced he would begin researching the legality of giving the books to the Book Nook. He said the donation involves the 'disposal of city assets' and that all such donations must, in some way, benefit the city.

'As city manager, I can dispose of up to $5,000 in city assets by auction, donation or disposal, but anything over $5,000 requires City Council approval,' Elliot said. 'Essentially, the board doesn't have the power to give the books away.'

What makes that statement difficult to explain is that the library has never kept any records of the donations made to the Book Nook. There are no records of the number of books given or the value of those books, so the assumption that their value is more than $5,000 is nothing more than just that, an assumption.

The point appears moot for the time being, however, as Arnett's latest email, which was also posted on the Book Nook's Facebook page, explained, 'It is my decision as manager of the Book Nook that the store no longer accept the discarded donations from the Estacada Public Library … We appreciate the board's vote to reinstate our discard service with the library, but feel it is not in the best interest of all parties at this time. We do not want there to be any additional negative feelings dividing our community.'

Arnett would not offer additional comments for this story, but did indicate that this decision was made unilaterally, much like the decision Hardman had made a couple weeks before.

The important distinction, however, is that Arnett is empowered to make such decisions, according to other board members.

'The foundation is not consulted on the day-to-day operations of the Book Nook,' said Margie Arnett, Linda Arnett's daughter and fellow foundation board member. 'Accepting books is a day-to-day operational decision.'

Margie also indicated that in viewing the video of the most recent board meeting, she feels that the library does not wish to donate the books in spite of the board's approval.

Looking to the future

With the new revelation, Stavinoha and Hardman have begun looking into the library's ability to sell the books themselves.

'We're looking into selling books and want to make sure it's legal,' Stavinoha said. 'If we can have book sales, we can use volunteers or the person we have who already handles donations.'

According to Stavinoha, Arnett has told her that library donations make up 40 percent of the items in the Book Nook. The foundation has disputed that number.

Whether the relationship between Arnett, Hardman and Stavinoha ever gets repaired to a point where the three organizations can begin working together again remains to be seen.

'I've called her twice and she has not responded or sent me an email,' Hardman said. 'We could probably use a couple more months cooling off, but my term expires in September, so I think Linda will start taking books and giving money again after that.

'I did nothing wrong when I spoke, and she has made no effort, and while I've known her for years, she won't.'

Arnett and Hardman used to work together at Estacada High School.

As for the future, Hardman and Stavinoha are determined to keep moving forward, with or without the foundation's help.

'I want to emphasize that we are not going to let the library be run by someone else, because we have two well-qualified librarians with master's degrees, and we don't need help,' Stavinoha said. 'But I absolutely think that without the foundation, the citizens of the library district do suffer.'

The Library Board of Directors and the Estacada City Council were scheduled to meet Monday, April 2.