DATE: February 08, 2012
State Aid FY2012
At its February Board meeting the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) certified the final round of libraries for the State Aid to Public Libraries Program. For FY2012 state aid grants total over $6.8 million and were awarded to 340 libraries that applied for the voluntary program. To view a complete list of grant awards, click here.
Board Chair Katherine Dibble appreciated local efforts to keep libraries funded, “The Board recognizes that the FY2012 State Aid to Public Libraries grant round has taken place in an atmosphere of continued fiscal difficulties. Despite these fiscal constraints 220 municipalities have met the Municipal Appropriation Requirement.” The Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) is the required funding level from the city or town that supports the public library.
One hundred and twenty communities received MAR waivers and one community, Stoughton, received an MAR waiver with reservation. A waiver with reservation is given to communities with a disproportionately large cut (greater than 10%). to their library budget, when compared to other town departments. Stoughton Public Library suffered a disproportionate cut of 11.04%.
Two communities were denied MAR waivers: Millville, which disproportionately reduced its library’s budget by more than 95%; and Franklin, which disproportionately cut its library’s budget by 29.03%. Historically, the largest disproportionate budget cut that has received a MAR waiver was 29% (Freetown, FY2009).
Millville’s drastic reduction funding has left the library open just six hours per week through volunteer efforts. MBLC Chair Katherine Dibble recognized the fiscal difficulties of the community and encouraged library staff and local officials to work with MBLC staff to find a pathway back to certification.
The Commission’s vote to deny an MAR waiver to Franklin was not unanimous: one Commissioner was in favor of granting the waiver; six voted to deny the waiver. Those who voted against the waiver cited Franklin’s waiver history (the town has received waivers in FY2004, FY2005, FY2010, and FY2011 ) which has caused a growing gap between the MAR requirement and actual municipal funding. Commissioners expressed concern that there was no plan to close this gap. In addition, Commissioners questioned the statement that the community is providing the same library services with a budget reduction that is over $220,000. Franklin plans to appeal the decision at the March Board Meeting.
In FY2011 all 341 libraries that applied to the State Aid to Public Libraries program were certified: 123 received MAR waivers, two of these were waivers with reservation.
Public libraries use state aid funding in a variety of ways including purchasing library materials and computers, paying staff salaries, and repairing library buildings. In addition, certification in the State Aid to Public Libraries Program guarantees residents access to library materials from other libraries across the Commonwealth. In FY2011 residents borrowed over 11.4 million items from libraries outside their own community. Certified libraries may apply for Library Services and Technology Act grants and are eligible to participate in the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program.
Participation in the State Aid to Public Libraries Program is voluntary. It is administered in accordance with statutory and regulatory minimum standards of free public library service. The program encourages municipalities to support and improve public library service, compensates for disparities among municipal funding capacities, and offsets the cost of circulating public library materials to residents from other certified Massachusetts municipalities. For more information please see http://mblc.state.ma.us/grants/state_aid/index.php
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.