Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program Blog

I’ve been power pinning

During this (relatively) slow time at work I’ve been spending some time gathering lots of images from Massachusetts and beyond. I’ve put together several Pinterest boards on various subtopics related to library design. If you’re in the market for ideas or just want to look at pretty pictures, go to and have fun! And if you have images that you think would be a good addition to one or more of these boards, please let me know.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on December 19, 2014

Framing our message

This is an interesting blog post about negative signage. Are you guilty?


This post was written by Lauren Stara on December 15, 2014

Off-Site Librarian

The November 15, 2014 Library Journal is out, and it’s the “Year in Architecture” issue. We are happy to report that five MPLCP projects are featured: Westwood Public Library, Boyden Library in Foxborough,  Holyoke Public Library, West Tisbury Free Public Library and the East Boston branch of Boston Public Library. Congratulations!

In the same issue is a provocative article on an “outpost” branch library in Washington state that is primarily unstaffed, supported with self-service technology and “hotline” access to a real person at the main facility. Read it here:

This post was written by Lauren Stara on November 24, 2014

2014 Library Interior Design Awards

See the LJ article here:


This post was written by Lauren Stara on November 13, 2014

Why do we need physical libraries?

You’ve probably seen Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program. I can’t resist sharing this quote from page 13:

In an increasingly virtual world, physical library places are community assets. They:

  • ESTABLISH PERSONAL CONNECTIONS that help define community needs and interests
  • PROVIDE AN ANCHOR for economic development and neighborhood revitalization
  • STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY IDENTITY in ways that yield significant return on investment, including drawing people together for diverse purposes
  • PROVIDE A SAFE AND TRUSTED LOCATION for community services such as health clinics, emergency response centers, small business incubators, workforce development centers and immigrant resource centers
  • CREATE CONNECTING PLACES in new locations that draw people together—shopping malls, big box stores, airports and mobile buses

This post was written by Lauren Stara on November 10, 2014

The thorny question of collection size vs. people space

Roe and I have been holding sessions around Massachusetts that we’re calling Design Roundtables. These are sessions for people entering into the planning and design process in preparation for the next construction grant round, and they are focused on trends and ideas related to library design. As part of the process, we’ve asked the attending library directors to send us questions ahead of time so that we can make sure we have at least some semblance of an answer.

I received an email this morning asking one of those questions — the ones that are really impossible to answer without a functional crystal ball, and unfortunately I left mine in my other lifetime. But I’ll give it a shot, because it’s one that I think every librarian is thinking about.

The question:
Are new library buildings/designs losing collection space to community space – is that officially a trend? If so, how much space?

I can’t say that we’re actually losing space to community space, at least not yet. I’d say that we’ve definitely passed the point of steady growth and, depending on your community and their needs, may be maintaining a steady collection size or starting to shrink. The exceptions to this in public libraries are print reference collections, some AV formats and periodical backfiles. These collections are definitely shrinking, disappearing or being redistributed as the result of digital collections and media.

We are at a real crossroads in the information world. Print or digital? Collections or community space? The real issue is that people want all of the above − a real challenge in already jam-packed libraries.

The demand for community space is a definite trend. Meeting space, program space, collaboration space, study space, creation space — these are all variations on a theme. People want and need places to do stuff that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with traditional collections.

So libraries need to either make more space, repurpose existing space, or create flexible space. Estimating how much shelving space you need is a real challenge, and compounding the problem is the clear trend away from traditional stack layouts and toward more displays and lower shelves. Incorporating moveable shelving can make it possible to use the same space for collections and programs. Mobile shelving can’t be as dense as traditional 7-high steel stacks, but many patrons find it difficult to use very high and very low shelves anyway. This means we have to let go of the “just in case” mentality of saving everything because someone might need it someday. If it’s not being used and it’s not unique to your library, get rid of it. It’s taking up valuable space.

Above all, we have to be thoughtful about all this. The organic evolution of collections and space is a thing of the past. We have to think about how much space we can afford to devote to each function and plan intelligently.

Planning a new or renovated building is a massive undertaking that requires a lot of research, planning and a real leap of faith. We don’t have a crystal ball. But with some work it’s possible to make a library that’s flexible enough to adapt to whatever’s on the horizon.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on October 20, 2014

Update to Planning and Design grant awards

In the weeks since the announcement of the Planning and Design grant awards a couple of changes have taken place.

  • The Commissioners awarded a provisional grant of $40,575 to Monterey Public Library on July 10, 2014 to expend the remainder of available planning & design funds
  • Hamilton Memorial Library in Chester notified us that they would be unable to accept their planning & design grant of $41,205
  • The Commissioners awarded a provisional grant of $41,205 to Deerfield’s Tilton Library on September 4, 2014

This post was written by Lauren Stara on September 17, 2014

Bookending the Building Process

This Saturday, September 13, will see the beginning of a building project in one Massachusetts town and the spectacular conclusion in another.

Eastham Public Library will hold its groundbreaking ceremony at 10 am at its current location: 190 Samoset Road.

Simultaneously, the South Hadley Public Library will celebrate the Grand Opening of its new building at 2 Canal Street from 9 am to 1 pm.

Congratulations to both communities!

This post was written by Lauren Stara on September 9, 2014

LJ Design Institute comes to Boston

Mark your calendars – we’ve been working on this for several months, and it’s finally on its way! Boston Public Library, in partnership with the MBLC, will host a Design Institute on December 5, 2014.

Design Institutes are day-long immersive experiences devoted to library building design. It’s totally free, but limited to the first 100 registrants. For more information, click on the link below:

This post was written by Lauren Stara on September 5, 2014

Five libraries receive provisional grant awards

Congratulations to the Chester C. Corbin Library (Webster), the Woburn Public Library, the Hopkinton Public Library, the Somerville Public Library and the Stoughton Public Library! This morning, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners approved provisional awards totaling over $44.6 million for these five communities to build or improve their facilities.

The Governor’s General Bond Bill was signed this week, providing $151.2 million for public library construction. Details may be found on the press release at

This post was written by Lauren Stara on August 7, 2014

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