Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program Blog

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

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

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