DATE: December 18, 2012
Bridgewater, Norton, Fitchburg, back in State Aid
Public libraries in Bridgewater, Norton and Fitchburg were among the 167 public libraries that met all requirements for the FY2013 State Aid to Public Libraries program and were collectively awarded more than $1.5 million in state aid funds by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) at its December 6, 2012 Board Meeting.
Bridgewater Public Library had not applied to the State Aid to Public Libraries program since FY2008 when its budget suffered a disproportionate cut as compared to funding in other areas. The deep cut resulted in the library's inability to meet the Municipal Appropriations Requirement (MAR) necessary for State Aid certification. On average municipal departments in Bridgewater received a 10.7% cut in funding while the library budget was reduced by 38.3%. Norton Public Library last applied to the program in FY2009 but was denied a MAR waiver due to a 33% disproportionate cut when compared with other municipal departments. Fitchburg Public Library was last certified in FY2008, but was granted temporary certification FY2012 when it was able to meet program requirements.
“The Board understands that losing state aid certification is difficult for the library and the residents it serves. It is not a decision we take lightly, “said MBLC Chair Frank Murphy. “We gladly welcome these communities back into the State Aid to Public Libraries program.” Because it is vital to the Commonwealth’s collaborative library system, the MBLC has made State Aid to Public Libraries a priority in its FY2014 Legislative Agenda. It is used to keep the library open, to buy new computers, or enhance literacy programming. As one librarian said, “The bulk of our state aid is used to buy and replace computer hardware and software. Although this is now a 'cost of doing business' our library does not have a budget line item for these expenses. We would be in a technological shambles without state aid.”
For residents, the most important benefit of the State Aid to Public Libraries program is the access to library materials from across the state. Certification that a municipality and its library are meeting the statutory and regulatory requirements of the State Aid to Public Libraries program guarantees that residents of the certified community are able to visit any public library in Massachusetts that is also certified and borrow books, videos, cd’s and get help with their questions. Certification guarantees that the library may make requests for books for its residents from any other certified library. Last year residents borrowed more than 11.4 million items from libraries outside their own community.
The MBLC is scheduled to consider MAR waivers for 93 communities at its January Board Meeting. This represents a slight decline in MAR waivers requests. In FY2012 121 libraries applied for and received MAR waivers. For FY2013, four communities, Fairhaven, Saugus, West Tisbury, and Wrentham are beyond the 10% budget reduction used as the benchmark for disproportionate cuts and will make presentations to the Board at the January meeting.
The MBLC awarded the first round of state aid funding in November when it approved the disbursement of FY2013 State Aid awards, totaling $360,326 to 71 municipalities. State Aid awards are roughly half of the total state aid funding that libraries will receive. Since 2008 the economic climate and concerns over library funding have prompted the Board to make partial awards. Additional payments to libraries are expected toward the end of the grant cycle in the spring. More information about the State Aid to Public Libraries Program is available on the MBLC website along with a list of municipalities that are currently certified and those that are not certified in the program.
State aid is available to all municipalities and their libraries that apply and are certified annually by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) as meeting a municipal appropriation requirement [a local funding requirement] and certain minimum standards [including hours of opening and expenditures for library materials] of free public library service per M.G.L. c.78, s.19A & 19B and 605 CMR 4.00. State Aid to Public Libraries consists of the Library Incentive Grant (LIG), the Municipal Equalization Grant (MEG) and the Nonresident Circulation Offset (NRC). These three awards are disbursed to each municipality meeting the requirements using different formulas (per capita for the LIG; variant of the lottery formula, using population and EQV, for the MEG; and per transaction formula for the NRC).