The Friends of the Dana Point Library are feeling, well, friendly again. After months of wrangling, the new board of directors has control of more than $80,000 that had been frozen in a bank account, has more volunteers than ever and is considering improvements to the library.
And the organization's popular used-book store, which was closed in the midst of a feud between the organization's directors and library volunteers, has been reopened and once again raising money for the library.
"We're back on track again," said a relieved Betsy Evans, membership coordinator for the library friends. "Everything's back where it should be."
The upbeat turn of events stands in contrast to April, when board members were criticized by library volunteers for spending some of the $54,000 in annual donations on parties, fancy newsletters and other local cultural groups.
Volunteers' protests and picketing brought unwanted notoriety to the quiet suburban library. When the vice president in charge of the bookstore resigned in protest, volunteers walked off the job and the store was closed.
The county, which operates the library, intervened, seizing the keys to the bookstore until the brouhaha was resolved. Fund-raising came to a halt, including the popular sale of used books ranging from dogeared paperbacks to high-priced texts.
A new board of directors was elected in May in voting that attracted about 100 of the group's 358 members. But the results were contested by the deposed board president, Bill Shepherd, and he refused to relinquish control of the group's $80,000 bank account.
A summer children's reading program, which depended on the friends contributions, was jeopardized until the national Charity League, a mother-daughter volunteer group, donated $3,000 for the performers and prizes for youngsters.
Meanwhile, with the loss of the friends' financial support, the library was unable to buy new books for about six months, said children's librarian Carolyn Hopkins. "The bestsellers and new-book shelves have been bare," throughout the summer, she said, noting that the county budget for book purchases is thin.
But everything is now returning to normal.
Access to the bank account was finally gained a few weeks ago with proof of the new board leadership, said Victoria Tongish, the board's secretary.
And Wednesday, Hopkins happily said "boxes of new books are starting to arrive."
Shepherd says he is in better spirits now that battles have ended. "I wish them well," he said. "I hope that they are good stewards of the friends' money and mission."
Evans said that during volunteer orientation sessions, "I tell them that everything you help us earn goes for the running of the library. The Friends of the Library should be friends of the library, and that's it."
The bookstore is getting more than the usual number of visitors, Tongish said. With more visitors, there is more interest in volunteering, she said.
Among the new volunteers is a growing number of men, Evans said. "When it comes to those carts and boxes, we need a strong back," she said.
Now the question is what to do with some of the $83,000 in the bank account as well as the $46,000 raised so far this year.
Those questions will probably be answered, Tongish said, after board elections are held in December.