DATE: May 16, 2012
Celebrating 25 Years of Library Construction
The Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) turns 25 years old this year. To celebrate this milestone as well as the program’s driving force, Library Building Consultant Patience Jackson, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) recently held an event at DCU Center attended by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty, members of the library community, architects, and past and present MBLC Commissioners.
First funded by a state bond authorization in 1987 and supported by the Legislature and six governors, the MPLCP has helped to plan and build 51 new library buildings and 126 addition/renovation or conversion projects across the state, from small rural and island communities to large urban centers. The program enables public libraries, many built over 100 years ago, to meet the growing demand for library services. Most buildings were also not handicapped-accessible. During the past decade, in-person visits to Massachusetts public Libraries have increased by 50% with about 34 million visits and over 54 million items borrowed last year alone.
Lt. Governor Tim Murray was Mayor of Worcester and a library trustee when Worcester Public Library went through the grant process and received a $5.8 million state grant award toward the renovation of and addition to the main library. In his address, the Lt. Governor mentioned that he had, in fact, just come from the library. “It was packed,” he said. “All ages, all areas.” He also discussed the economic impact the library has had on the city’s downtown area. “The project revitalized our downtown. It brought people back to our downtown and businesses benefited.”
MBLC Director Robert Maier and former Commissioner George Comeau both recognized MBLC Library Building Consultant Patience Jackson for leaving a lasting legacy on Massachusetts public libraries through her 23 years with the MPLCP. “A library building project is the most demanding thing most librarians will undertake. The projects go on for years from conception to construction, and they take a toll on the library director and staff. Throughout all of it Patience has been ready to support, console, advise, and motivate. She knows that this is about people, more than it is about bricks and mortar,” said Director Maier.
“Patience Jackson and the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program have changed library service in Massachusetts for the next 50 years,” stated Commissioner Comeau. He presented Ms. Jackson with a framed map commemorating 177 library building projects across the state from 1990 through the most recent 2012 grant awards
There was a standing ovation for Patience Jackson who took the opportunity to thank the many people with whom she has worked, in particular library directors, “I want to testify to and salute and applaud the sheer persistence and iron resolve of more than 177 library directors, along with their staffs. These people have been able to conceive of a public library facility for their town some twenty years into the future, dramatically better than what they had – and bring that vision to fruition. This is a very tough and very rare professional challenge,” said Ms Jackson
MBLC Chair Katherine Dibble also recognized former Commissioner George Comeau for his eight years of service on the MBLC. During his two-year tenure as Board Chair, Comeau helped shepherd libraries through many challenges including funding reductions and privatization. As the Board’s Liaison to the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, he worked with Board staff to develop current regulations which increase average grant awards from 35% to 50% of eligible costs.
There are public library construction projects currently underway in Holyoke, Millis, Westwood, Foxborough, Athol, Everett, West Tisbury and South Hadley. The communities working for approval of local funding in order to accept their libraries provisional grant awards are Grafton, West Springfield and Shutesbury. Nineteen projects are on the MPLCP Waiting List for funding. For more information please visit http://mblc.state.ma.us/grants/construction/index.php
Photos from the event are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/28109221@N08/sets/72157629652528288/detail/
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.