Library considering rental agreement with Women’s Club for archival storage

The Three Rivers Library Board discussed the prospect of renting a room to the Three Rivers Women’s Club (TRWC) for the purpose of archival storage during its meeting on Tuesday, November 24. The board didn’t make a formal decision Tuesday, opting instead to weigh the particulars of a rental agreement and any liability the library might incur if it grants the club keyed access to a room in its basement.

Acting Library Director Bobbi Schoon said the TRWC would only have access to that room during regular business hours, and its key would only unlock the door of the room in question.

“If you guys are willing to do it, they’re willing to enter a formal rental agreement or just make a donation, whatever way is best in your opinion,” Schoon told the board. “They basically want one room down there to store things and to be able to work in eventually — that can be locked, and they would get a key to that inner door only, and we would have a key (to the room).”

Schoon said the club understands the library is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, and would be OK with not having access to their belongings until 2021, if they could begin storing those items some time in the coming weeks.

“That would just be the big thing to talk about, with COVID happening and us not having the library open (to the public), would we be comfortable letting them into the basement and sitting some boxes in (the room) until it’s safer to have them in the building for longer periods of time,” she said.

Library Board Member Linda Munro expressed concerns over which party would be liable if the basement were to flood or the club’s property would otherwise be damaged. Schoon said she had not yet discussed that with the organization but recommended the board’s next step should be to establish a rental agreement “that covers the interests of the groups.”

Munro also asked about the recent controversy between the Women’s Club and Carnegie Center for the Arts (CCA) concerning space they leased in the former Carnegie Library building in downtown Three Rivers.

As previously reported by Watershed Voice, roughly four decades ago, TRWC funded the building’s restoration and founded the CCA to occupy and make use of it. The club had continued to lease the building from the City of Three Rivers, while subleasing it to the CCA. After months of negotiation with the CCA in an attempt to come to a mutually-agreeable lease agreement that would have allowed TRWC to continue to lease office and meeting space there, negotiations broke down and the two parties were unable to reach an agreement.

At issue was whether the CCA would grant TRWC key access to the building as a leaseholder. TRWC leadership said they were happy with a proposed lease agreement but wanted to be able to have key access to the building to be able to reach their office space. CCA Executive Director Donna Grubbs and several CCA board members said they did not wish to grant key access as a liability issue. 

Schoon said the TRWC is not looking for the same type of access to the library it once had with the former Carnegie Library, and were only looking for “a safe place for their items and a place to work on their projects.”

“We aren’t going to host the entirety of everything they do,” Schoon said, “it’s a focused thing they’re asking from us at this point. It’s just for the archives and they were perfectly happy with just coming in when we are open. In fact, they called me to say, ‘Hey, we know you’re curbside now, what would that look like if your board said yes, as far as moving in?’ They’re saying they want to work with us, and only have access when we’re there.”

Three Rivers Finance Director Cathy Lawson said because the library’s insurance is covered under the city’s insurance policy, the city will need to reach out to its insurance agent to find out if any coverage is available for the TRWC “if something was to happen to the building, a catastrophic event.” Lawson added more than likely the club would need to provide its own insurance.

Munro said she had no issue with Schoon moving forward to gather more information in an effort to reach “a friendly agreement” with the TRWC but wants to “make sure all of our bases are covered.”

The board is scheduled to meet next on Monday, December 14 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.