DATE: January 27, 2014
Positive Indicators in State Aid
At its January Board Meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) approved the final group of libraries that met all requirements for the State Aid to Public Libraries program. To date, 273 communities have been certified and more than $1,974,231 has been awarded in state aid funding.
Commissioners also reviewed applications from 72 libraries that need a waiver of the Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) in order to be certified in the program. The MAR is funding from the municipality to support the library. This and other requirements help create a foundation for reciprocal borrowing that allows patrons from certified libraries to borrow materials from other libraries. Last year patrons borrowed close to 10 million items from outside their own community.
During the application review, two positive indicators were identified. The number of MAR waiver applications has dropped to 72 from the 2011 high of 123 applicants. Out of the 72 current applicants, 61 libraries received an increase in funding but not enough to meet the MAR. Commissioners observed that funding to many of these libraries is slowly recovering. However, they also expressed concern that many of the current MAR waiver applicants have received waivers for several years. "We can't just look at the current year's funding," said Vice Chair Mary Rose Quinn. "For some of these libraries, several years of reductions that weren't enough for them to lose certification, taken together, now make it difficult for the library to close the gap and meet the MAR."
The second positive indicator is that for the first time in several years, no library experienced a disproportionate budget cut greater than 10%. Disproportionate budget reductions are one factor in the Board's consideration of whether or not to grant a MAR waiver. The library's budget reduction is compared with the overall reduction in the municipal budget. Cuts beyond the 10% budget reduction used as the benchmark for disproportionate cuts indicate that the library has been targeted for budget reductions much greater than other municipal departments. This benchmark was increased from 5% to 10% for FY2010 in an effort to support libraries through the economic downturn. All but one library, Wareham Free Public Library, were below the original 5% benchmark.
Commissioners raised concern regarding funding to the Wareham Free Public Library. The library's budget has been reduced by 24.77%, but because the municipal budget was reduced by 17.88%, when the two budgets are compared the disproportionate cut to the library is -6.89%. This is below the current benchmark used to indicate that the library's budget has been targeted. The community has received MAR waivers for the past four years and at present funding to library is more than 50% under the MAR requirement.
Commissioners determined that they needed to know more from Wareham about how library services have been impacted and how the municipality plans to support the library in the future. "This not only impacts Wareham residents, but other communities that are certified in the program and therefore required to provide reciprocal services. The State Aid to Public Libraries program is only fair when all certified libraries are pulling their weight," said Quinn.
Commissioners will vote on MAR waiver applications at the February board meeting. State Aid awards are roughly half of the total state aid funding that libraries will receive. Additional payments to libraries are expected toward the end of the grant cycle in the spring.
Funding from the State Aid to Public Library Program goes directly to support public library services. The reciprocity that comes with library certification in the State Aid program is often what patrons value most. It allows them to use any State Aid certified library in the Commonwealth and gives patrons access to more than 37 million items available through the shared library system.
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).
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.