Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program Blog

Construction grant webinar available

Rosemary and I have produced our first webinar! This is a virtual version of the preliminary information sessions we presented in April. It will work for anyone who was unable to attend and wants to know about the upcoming construction grant round, or as a refresher for people who already are preparing.

The webinar is hosted on Vimeo, in five segments of 10-15 minutes each. The link is on the “Contacts & Resources” tab of the MPLCP Construction 2016 resource guide.

If you like this format and want us to produce more of these, let me know:

This post was written by Lauren Stara on May 11, 2015

Early Bird Information Sessions

By now you have probably read the AllRegions and PubDir posting about the early bird information sessions, for the upcoming 2016-2017 Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) construction grant round. These sessions will be held from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Walpole Public Library on April 22 and the Athol Public Library on April 23. We invite public library directors and two or three key members of their team to attend. Registration is necessary. When you register, tell us how many and who will be attending.

We are also planning to create an online webinar version, so if you can’t make these two dates, don’t despair. Contact us if you’d like to be notified when the webinar is available.

We are calling these early bird information sessions because we know that there are public directors that will miss out on applying for a construction grant in the next grant round unless they start to prepare now. If this is you, then we want you to know as-soon-as-possible the steps for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program’s (MPLCP) process for planning and designing a major facility’s improvement project. This information is important to help prepare you to submit a construction grant application in the next round, which we anticipate will be announced in 2016 with applications probably due in January 2017.

Now, you may be one of our over thirty library directors who are already engaged in the planning and design process. You are probably in the thick of finishing up your building program, hiring an owner’s project manager, or even may be out to bid for your architect. If so, you are right on track with finishing up the process by next spring/summer. You should feel okay about skipping this information session or, if you are on the fence about attending, simply logging into the webinar.

So, what can you expect to find out at the upcoming information sessions and webinar? At these informal meetings you will learn about the MPLCP planning and design process and resulting construction grant submittals, the tentative grant calendar, and the current regulations governing the grant program. There should be plenty of time for us to answer your questions, too. You will hear it all again next year should you attend. Next year’s information sessions will cover the same territory as we go over the construction grant round’s confirmed 2016-17 calendar, revised program regulations, and submittal requirements.

This post was written by Rosemary Waltos on April 9, 2015

Keeping on Track

It’s hard to believe that April is around the corner! Now is the time to remind you that if your library anticipates applying in the next construction grant round, you should be finishing up writing your building program to stay on track (we still anticipate that this grant round will be launch next spring). Lauren and I are looking forward to reading your draft.

As you put the finishing touches on your building program, you should be thinking about going out to bid for your owner’s project manager (OPM). Remember, this is a state procurement requirement for designing and constructing a public facility with MPLCP funds. There is an exception though. You don’t have to go out to bid for project management services if there is a city/town employee who qualifies as an OPM. The state requires that an existing town employee acting the library’s OPM must meet or exceed

(1) Being a registered architect or professional engineer with at least five years of experience in building construction and supervision


(2) Having at least seven years of experience in building construction and supervision

You also want to make sure they have building construction and supervision experience relating to projects of similar size and scope of complexity as the project, as well as the time in their schedule and the responsibility and authority to represent the library’s best interest.

So, if you are planning and designing a library building for application in the next construction grant round, be finishing up your building program and send it to us to review before finalizing it. At the same time, if you haven’t done so already, begin to prepare your RFQ to go out to bid for owner’s project management (OPM) services. Your city/town’s purchasing agent can help you to do this, but don’t hesitate to call us if you want a sample RFQ or list of OPMs. For an easy-to-read guide to procurement go to for the 2014 Designing and Constructing Public Facilities: Legal Requirements, Recommended Practices, Sources of Assistance put out by the state’s Office of Inspector General.

If you target getting your OPM to be on board by the end of spring, then think architect next. If you follow this timeline, you will have your design team ready to go by the middle to end of summer to start the site investigation and design work. This is when the real fun begins!

This post was written by Rosemary Waltos on March 23, 2015

UX for libraries

I just finished a new book — a book that has real importance for libraries in the 21st century, especially libraries looking to redesign their space or their online presence.


The book is Useful, Usable, Desirable by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches, and it seeks to demystify the concept of UX for libraries. For the many of us who don’t know what UX means (I was one until recently), it’s a hip semi-acronym for User Experience. UX is all about designing from the point of view of the user, rather than the designer, or the administrator or the accountant. It’s putting yourself in the shoes of your user — remembering what it’s like to walk in the door and not know where to go or how to do the thing you came to do.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to wear a black turtleneck and square glasses to be a designer. Whether you like it or not, every time your create a library policy, bookmark, or service, you’re making a design decision. Think of design this way: arranging elements to serve a certain purpose. Many design decisions in libraries are what we like to call unintentional design or design by default. This book will get you in the mode of making deliberate decisions. (p.7)

There are chapters on physical space, service points, policies, signage, and online presence, and the focus is to bring customer service into every aspect of library life. We have the book in the MBLC professional collection, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Another new resource for UX in libraries is Design Thinking for Libraries: A Toolkit for Patron-Centered Design. This is a set of resources by the folks who did Design Thinking for Educators, and it outlines a step-by-step process that can help you bring a whole new outlook to the way you work.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 23, 2015

Focus group how-to

If you are in the planning & design process and need help designing a focus group session, I just found this how-to guide that looks pretty good! It’s by Richard Krueger at the University of Minnesota, and it’s about the use of extension services, but would be easily adaptable for a library setting.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 20, 2015

The library maker movement

I just watched a Webjunction webinar from last July called “Making Your Space: Creators and Makers in the Library.” I have been a slow convert to the maker movement; the extreme shortage of space in many libraries pushes 3D printers (which many people seem to think are required for a makerspace) to the bottom of my priority list. In the webinar, Vermont librarians Mara Siegel and Samantha Maskell wax enthusiastic about library-sponsored making, but in a more flexible and practical way than I’ve previously heard.

Like them, I see the maker movement as a variation on programs that have been staples in public libraries for decades. Making doesn’t have to be high-tech, and it doesn’t need a dedicated space that’s wall-to-wall with electronics. It’s like any other kind of craft, activity or club.

Rather than a separate “makerspace,” we need flexible activity spaces with lots of storage for materials and supplies. A locking cart with charging slots for laptops or tablets can turn an empty room into a computer lab. If you really need a 3D printer, it can live on a wheeled cart that slides into a closet when not in use. Other kinds of equipment, like sewing machines or electronics parts, are just like the Lego and crafts supplies we’ve always used.

If your library has extra space, a dedicated activity room is great, but if you’re like most libraries, multipurpose is much more practical.

If you’d like to see the webinar I mentioned, it’s at — you must be registered with Webjunction, but there’s no charge.


This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 20, 2015

Shute opening postponed

Just in case you were planning to attend, Everett Public Library has postponed the grand reopening of their Shute Memorial branch due to weather & travel difficulties. I’ll post any updates.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 3, 2015

Congratulations, Reading and Everett!

We have two events this week! The Reading Public Library is holding their groundbreaking ceremony for the addition/renovation of their library this Friday, February 6 at 10 am at 64 Middlesex Avenue. The following day is the Grand Reopening of the historic Shute Memorial Library branch of the Everett Public Library, 12 noon at 781 Broadway.

Congratulations to Ruth Urell in Reading and Deborah Abraham in Everett, as well as all the staff, trustees, Friends and community members who made it happen!

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 2, 2015

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

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