DATE: March 12, 2014
Wareham Denied MAR Waiver
At its March board meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) denied Wareham Free Library's petition for a waiver of the FY2014 Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR). The MAR is funding from the municipality to support the library. This and other State Aid to Public Libraries Program requirements help create a foundation for reciprocal borrowing that allows patrons from certified libraries to check out materials from other libraries around the Commonwealth. Last year alone, patrons borrowed close to 10 million items from outside their own community.
Denial of the MAR waiver results in immediate loss of certification in the State Aid to Public Libraries Program. Wareham will not receive State Aid to Public Libraries grants in the amount of $9,512.67. They are not eligible for grants from either the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program or the Library Services and Technology Act Program, and neighboring libraries are not required to extend borrowing privileges to Wareham residents.
Commissioners first raised concerns about funding to the Wareham Free Library at the January board meeting. In reviewing MAR waivers, Commissioners consider several factors including how the library's budget was reduced in comparison to the municipal budget. Libraries that sustain disproportionate reductions greater than 10% are required to appear before the Board to outline future plans for the library.
In January, Commissioners noted that while Wareham Free Library's disproportionate reduction was only 6.89%, the library's budget had in fact sustained a 24.77% cut for FY2014. They also noted that over the past several years, the cumulative reduction to the library has resulted in present funding that is more than 50% below the MAR.
Since FY2008, Wareham has needed a MAR waiver each year to participate in the State Aid to Public Libraries Program. In 2009, they received a MAR waiver with reservation. In FY2010, Senator Marc Pacheco filed special legislation to certify Wareham after the library was not eligible to apply for the program due to its falling below the accommodated hours open requirement. During that year's State Aid application cycle, the MBLC also worked with Wareham to maintain certification. Wareham's certification was extended to February 2010 and Commissioners later granted temporary certification through March 2010 so that the library was able to stay certified until the legislature considered Senator Pacheco's bill.
At the MBLC's request, representatives from Wareham attended the February Board Meeting where they participated in a discussion with Commissioners about the effect the funding reductions have had on library services, as well as the possibility of an override vote to support the library.
For the FY2014 State Aid to Public Libraries Program, 343 communities have been certified. Of those, 272 met all program requirements and 71 received MAR waivers. This is down from the FY2011 high of 123 applicants. Of the FY2014 MAR waiver applicants, 59 received increases in their library budgets, but not enough to meet the MAR. Overall, applications to the FY2014 State Aid Program indicate that municipal funding to libraries is beginning to rebound; Commissioners determined that the disproportionate reduction threshold of 5% should be reinstated for FY2015. The MBLC temporarily increased the threshold to 10% in 2010 in an effort to support libraries through the economic downturn.
Funding from the State Aid to Public Library Program goes directly to support public library services. The MBLC has made increasing state aid funding a priority in its FY2015 Legislative Agenda. The reciprocal borrowing privilege that comes with library certification in the State Aid program is what many patrons value most. It allows them to use any certified library in the Commonwealth and gives patrons access to more than 37 million items 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 libraries that apply and are certified annually by the MBLC. Certification requires meeting the municipal appropriation requirement as well as 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.