Massachusetts Public Library Trustees Handbook
Table of Contents
The building process is probably one of the most important and lasting activities that will be undertaken by the library's trustees. Although most libraries are designed to last twenty years, in reality they serve their communities for much longer periods of time. The process of developing library facilities is a very intensive activity and involves the close cooperation of a number of municipal officials, the library community and other interest groups. It is important that communication be maintained among these groups throughout the process.
There is no standard time frame that applies to all building projects, nor is there a standard sequence that applies to all library construction. Each project varies greatly depending on local situations, conditions and regulations or ordinances.
In many cases, a facility review (see Chapter 5 of this Handbook regarding facilities planning) will indicate major deficiencies with the building that need to be corrected either through a major remodeling, renovation, addition or a newly constructed facility. These activities should be developed based on a comprehensive library building program statement. This statement will provide a more detailed review of the existing facility. It will also provide a review of the community and its future development, and will provide a detailed needs assessment of the current facility and a vision for the future facility. The types of spaces and space allotments that will be needed in that facility should also be included.
What activities are necessary when planning for a new building?
The establishment of a library building committee in those municipalities without standing or permanent building committees.
Site visits to other libraries to gather ideas and to discuss certain building features with library staff and trustees.
Preparation, and presentation to the community of a candid and honest library building program that will adequately meet the community's needs for at least the next twenty years.
Gaining funding for the project either through municipal appropriation or private funding sources. This activity usually takes place after the architect has prepared drawings and cost estimates can be accurately prepared.
Cooperation with architect, municipal officials, and library staff in the preparation of working drawings and bid specifications.
Design review to verify compliance with state and federal accessibility standards such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable regulations and guidelines.
Supervision of bidding using rules and regulations from Omnibus Construction Reform Act.
Maintenance of adequate supervision and review during construction including approval of change orders.
Acceptance of final building.
The web of legal responsibility for library renovation and construction projects is complex and each town has its unique pattern. This is particularly true in the case of private libraries that serve as the town's public library. In most towns, the library trustees hold legal authority over decisions concerning library buildings. But the municipality has overall responsibility for public facilities and for their funding, and any library project that receives state funding is required to obtain town approval.
Trustees bear the principal responsibility for ensuring that adequate funds are available for the library project. The process of fundraising raises several legal issues including: incorporation of the Friends group as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, separation of project funds from regular library operating budgets, use of trust funds, and bonding or using other debt instruments to fund the project. Other possible legal issues include: purchase or transfer of land, deed restrictions, compliance with environmental laws and accessibility regulations, necessary approvals of local and state historical offices, state requirements for grants, designer and contractor selection, zoning and planning board approvals, negotiation of contracts and possible contract litigation.
Expanding and renovating an existing library or building a new library facility is a major capital project. Trustees should seek legal advice at every step of the process. The municipal attorney, the library's attorney, or a local attorney willing to provide pro bono advice, are all possible sources of help.
There are multiple ways of funding library building projects: successful projects normally rely on more than one. Determining the right mix that fits an individual community is a major trustee responsibility. In order to find that mix, all potential sources should be considered. Trustees will need to determine whether to hire a private fundraising consultant to assist in the process, but in most cases "local folks donate to local folks," and a committed group of volunteers implement any fundraising effort.
In general, local funds constitute the major portion of a building project budget, and these may come from either public or private sources. Public local funding sources include general revenue appropriations, general obligation bonds, mortgages, and short term debt. Gaining approval at town meeting for public funding requires sustained effort on the part of trustees. To garner support, they often appoint a steering committee to launch a formal campaign not unlike an election campaign. While it is unusual for a project to be funded entirely from private donations, significant donations often fund major parts of the project, especially in the case of furniture, equipment and special rooms or collections. Here, too, a formal campaign with committee members and chairperson drawn from influential townspeople is the best route to success.
Although federal LSCA grants are no longer available for library construction, federal funding is still a possible source of funds. Libraries are sometimes able to obtain Community Development Block Grants for specific segments of a project such as handicapped access, usually as part of a town wide project. The Challenge Grants Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities is another possible, though competitive, source. Library buildings on the National Register of Historic Places may apply for Historic Preservation Grants-in-Aid from the Interior Department. Additionally for communities that qualify, Community Facility Loans from the Rural Development Administration may be paid back over a forty year period.
The primary source of state funding is the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program administered by the MBLC. Between 1990 and 1999, a total of 179 grants totaling $153 million dollars have been awarded through this program. Of these, 32 have been for planning and design activities, and 147 have been for construction and major renovation projects. Planning and design grants may be used for development of the library building program, architectural studies including feasibility and schematic design, cost estimates, soil studies and site investigation. Construction grants are intended to assist libraries in the design development and construction phases of their project. To be eligible, libraries must be certified as meeting minimum state standards for public library service and must have a long range plan on file with the Board of Library Commissioners. For historic library buildings, grants from the Massachusetts Historical Commission are also available, which may help pay for specific purposes like roof or window restoration.
Many library building projects are hurt by premature publication of an estimated total project cost. Until a library building program is completed, an architect has done a feasibility study including schematic design, and a professional cost estimator has determined projected costs, trustees should refrain from talking about estimated costs. Too often, these preliminary figures must be adjusted upwards, to the town's dismay and the project's detriment.