Building Intention in Canaan

By Andrea Bono-Bunker, Library Building Specialist

A holistic approach to sustainability considers both the environment and those who inhabit it. In construction, so much of our focus is on emissions, embodied carbon, and the breakdown of waste, but what about the human toll of building? As institutions with values that foster freedom, democracy, and self-fulfillment, do we have a responsibility to ensure that the materials and products used in our projects are sourced and manufactured in ways that also uphold those values? And how does a commitment to those values translate to the spaces we create for library staff and the public? 

The Building Literacy: Public Library Construction podcast has two new episodes that explore the issues above with a case study of the New Canaan Library in New Canaan, CT. In episode one, President and CEO, Lisa Oldham, and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Coordinator, Miki Porta join us to discuss their dedication to an all-electric future, their pilot project with local nonprofit Grace Farms on their Design for Freedom initiative, and fundraising best practices for a project where 75% of the funding came from private donors. In episode two, we delve into how intention in the design and construction process led to welcoming, well-used spaces and their decisions’ impacts on the library’s service model as it relates to the community they serve. We will hear about everything from unexpected connections to a learning framework meant to enhance each part of the library experience for all ages.

Episode 1: Holistic Sustainability in the New Canaan Library Project

Episode 2: Curating Services in Intentional Spaces at New Canaan Library

The New Canaan Library recently was featured in American Libraries’ 2023 Library Design Showcase under the Climate-Conscious category. To learn more about the project and its history, visit the library’s website.

While typically Massachusetts- focused, the Building Literacy: Public Library Construction podcast covers topics and material of interest to any stakeholder in a public library construction project. No matter where you are in your journey to a new or improved library, check out other episodes on this podcast and Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians.

MPLCP Revealed!

By Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist

(Visit our new website by clicking the image above or link below.)

Are you curious about the impact of the MBLC’s Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) on your community? We are delighted to announce that we have a new website showing the entire history of our grant program, now live at

Here you will find all the grants we have awarded, searchable by municipality, with the grant year, the grant amount, the type of project, and the architect. In many cases, we have more data, like the dedication date, contractor, OPM, and total construction cost. Note that if your city or town does not appear in the drop-down list, it means that you have never received an MPLCP construction grant.

You can also scroll down to see a map of the entire state, color coded to show the status of past and current construction grants. We’ve had this map in printed form for many years, and we’ve finally gone digital! You can download a printable PDF of the map if you like the paper format.

(Click the image to download the PDF printable map.)

The great thing about this site is that we can update it periodically to reflect the progress of current projects and add new projects as we go through the 2023-2024 grant round.

Sincere thanks go to Celeste Bruno and June Thammasnong, our amazing Communications Team, as well as Andrea Bono-Bunker, Library Building Specialist and Rosemary Waltos, former Library Building Consultant. The site is the culmination of years of struggling with how to make our wealth of data available to the public – we’ve been working toward this since I started with the agency, over 10 years ago.

For more information about the MPLCP, visit the construction section of the MBLC website. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at or Andrea at

The End of a (Construction) Chapter

By Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist

We are delighted to announce the completion of the waiting list from the 2016-2017 Grant Round for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP). In July of 2017, the Commissioners approved immediate funding for nine construction projects and placed 24 municipalities on a waiting list for funding as our annual capital budget allowed. Because of escalating construction costs, it’s taken six years to make our way through the waiting list. The final three communities’ provisional grants were awarded by the Commissioners at their monthly meeting on July 13.

Despite the effects of the pandemic, the proportion of declined grants is in line with MPLCP history. Between 25% and 30% of municipalities have declined MPLCP grants in rounds over the last 35 years.

2016-2017 Construction Grant Round – statistics to date:

  • 33 projects approved for funding in 2017
  • 13 projects completed
  • 2 projects under construction
  • 5 projects in final planning
  • 2 projects awarded provisional grants with local funding approved & final planning underway
  • 1 project awarded a provisional grant with local funding to be approved
  • 10 grants declined

(2023 Map of New Libraries in MA and library construction in the past 20 years.)

For more details about the projects and municipalities funded, visit the MBLC’s website page on Construction Programs and Support.

As you may know, we have already launched the the 2023-2024 grant round, which follows a new competitive, single-application process, combining the old Planning & Design grant round with the old Construction grant round. This streamlining eliminates approximately two years from the former project timeline, which we hope will result in more success in passing local funding and lower escalation for awarded projects. As a result of our Small Library Pilot Project, we also added a new grant category for small population towns of under 2,500. We received 27 Letters of Intent to apply for the new grant round, with applications due in May of 2024. We anticipate that the Commissioners will approve these grants in October of 2024, after the independent review process.For more information about the new grant round, visit the MBLC’s Construction Programs and Support page.

If you have any questions about the MPLCP, please contact me at or Andrea Bono-Bunker at

Construction Program Update and Proposed Changes

by Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist

This is a very busy time for me and Andrea Bono-Bunker, the two Library Building Specialists for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP). The MBLC offered seven new provisional grants in July, and we are working with those communities on the process to secure local funding and start the contract process. In addition, we are working with three projects in the design process, three projects currently under construction, and eight projects that are completed but still working on final reporting and/or LEED certification.

With so many projects in their final stages and our waiting list down to only seven projects, we are planning for our next round of grants. We have been working hard on some changes to our program, which are intended to reduce the very long waiting list we had in the current round, and with the goal of making our grants more predictable and regular.

How the program will be different

  • There will no longer be separate application processes for planning & design and construction. Instead, a town or city will apply once, and we will take them through a planning & design phase and a construction phase. We estimate that this will eliminate about 2 years from the timeline of our projects, reducing escalation and eliminating the need for redesign caused by changes in library services.
  • The financial outlay for municipalities will be much less prior to receiving funding from the MPLCP. No design work will be done before receiving a grant.
  • Municipal officials must participate in the application process.
  • Applications will be evaluated based on three major factors:
    • Community need, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion
    • The current library building’s ability to meet the needs of the community.
    • The capacity of the municipality and the library to undertake a major capital project, including financial capacity and staffing capacity.
  • Applications will be reviewed by independent reviewers based on three tiers or categories – Large Library (30,000+ sf), Medium Library (15,000-29,999 sf), or Small Library (6,000-14,999 sf). A Library Building Program is required for application, and the square footage is determined by that document.
  • A concurrent grant round will be conducted for Small Population Libraries (in towns under 2,500 municipal census population). This new project type is informed by our Small Library Pilot Project, now underway in Shutesbury. Early planning documents, such as the creation of the library building program and conditions assessment, will be part of the planning and design phase.
  • The grant round will be competitive; only as many projects as can be funded within our projected annual cap for a limited number of years will be awarded or placed on a very short waiting list. Applicants not accepted are welcome to apply in subsequent grant rounds.

How the program will be the same

  • The MPLCP’s goal is to improve library services through improvements to library facilities
  • The Library Building Program, developed with extensive community engagement, is the basis for all design decisions and determines the size of the building.
  • Grants are calculated based on eligible costs and a funding formula, with smaller projects receiving a higher percentage of eligible costs.
  • Applications are reviewed by independent review teams; Designs for grantee libraries are also reviewed by independent review teams prior to securing local funding for construction; reviewers are chosen for specific types of expertise and objectivity.
  • Library Building Specialists are available to help at any time in the process.

We are tentatively planning to announce the grant round in the first quarter of 2023, with an application due date about a year later.

Where we are now

The first step in making these changes official is to amend our regulations. We are holding regulatory hearings in early November. For more information and a copy of the revised regulation, please see our regulations page (, or contact Lauren at or Andrea at

Massachusetts Libraries Receive Prestigious Architectural Awards

The Woburn Public Library on a snowy night.
Woburn Public Library – Photo courtesy Andrea Bunker

By Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

Public library buildings are civic hubs and as such, they are often designed to serve as enduring symbols of public good. They are opportunities to demonstrate community values in the built environment. The Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program focuses on functionality and efficiency of library designs, but it’s a fact that inspiring and beautiful buildings are ones that people want to visit again and again.

For a library building, an architectural award is something to celebrate. This year, Massachusetts public libraries have received an unprecedented FIVE awards from the American Institute of Architects’ New England Chapter, and two of those buildings also received national recognition, receiving awards from the joint committee of the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association.

2021 AIA/ALA Building Awards

  • Boston Public Library – Roxbury Branch / Utile, Inc Architecture and Planning
  • Cambridge Public Library – Valente Branch / William Rawn Associates Architects

2021 AIA New England Design Awards

  • Best of the Boston Society of Architects
    • Woburn Public Library / CBT Architects
  • Honor Awards
    • Woburn Public Library / CBT Architects
    • Boston Public Library – Roxbury Branch / Utile, Inc Architecture and Planning
  • Merit Awards
    • King Open Schools Complex, which includes the Cambridge Public Library – Valente Branch / William Rawn Associates Architects
    • Eastham Public Library / Oudens Ello Architecture
  • Citation
    • Norwell Public Library / Oudens Ello Architecture

All of these buildings received funding from the MBLC through the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, and we add our congratulations to all these libraries and their architects.

Decarbonizing Libraries: Two New Episodes of the Building Literacy Podcast

By Andrea Bunker, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

The MBLC Construction Team recently released two new episodes of the Building Literacy podcast: Construction and Climate Change Legislation: A Conversation with Eric Friedman and Green Communities Grants and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Conversation with Joanne Bissetta and Catie Snyder. In Spring of 2021, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy” and signed “Executive Order No. 594: Leading By Example: Decarbonizing and Minimizing Environmental Impacts of State Government”, outlining aggressive fossil fuel reduction and increased energy efficiency goals for the Commonwealth at large and the State’s owned assets, respectively. In short, Massachusetts is working toward a net zero or carbon neutral future. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC- a body of the United Nations) recently published special report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius on August 9, these two episodes could not be more timely and their calls to action more important.

In “Construction and Climate Change Legislation: A Conversation with Eric Friedman”, learn more about the Commonwealth’s new legislation and Executive Order 594 with Eric Friedman, the Director of the Leading by Example Program, which is a division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. From a higher level perspective, he discusses what this new legislation means for our municipal libraries and how to reduce carbon emissions and plan for a clean energy future.

In Green Communities Grants and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Conversation with Joanne Bissetta and Catie Snyder, dig a little deeper into the resources, incentives, and grants that are available to the Commonwealth’s municipalities, and, in turn, libraries, to better position local governments in meeting the State’s ambitious energy goals with Joanne Bissetta, the Acting Director of the Green Communities Division, and Catie Snyder, the Deputy Director of the Leading by Example Program, both of whom are affiliated with the Department of Energy Resources. From lighting upgrades, envelope improvements, and HVAC replacement, to solar arrays and EV charging stations, to designated environmental justice communities, there are funding and incentive programs to help municipalities afford current and newly emerging technologies to decarbonize their buildings and vehicle fleets.

Both episodes also feature advice for how to continue the decarbonization conversation within the community focusing on how the library’s physical building and the library’s larger role as an educational institution can further the goals outlined by the Commonwealth. The one takeaway above all others from these conversations is that this work cannot take place in a vacuum. It requires action on behalf of everyone to mitigate the rising of our oceans and the warming of our planet. We hope you find your library’s tangible, feasible next steps within these episodes. As always, if you have any comments or questions about any of the information presented on Building Literacy or ideas for future episodes, please email Andrea Bunker at

Campaign Finance Law and Advocacy

By Andrea Bunker, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

Have you ever wondered if you’re allowed to advocate for your public library’s building project as a public employee, trustee, foundation member, or friend of the library? In what capacity? To what extent? 

Have you been kept awake at night pondering whether fundraising for a ballot campaign about a library building project is treated the same as fundraising for the actual construction of the library building? 

Are you contemplating using the library’s staff copier to print out “Say yes to our library!” leaflets?

If the answer is yes, then tune into Building Literacy’s newest episode, “Campaign Finance Law and Advocacy”, and get answers to these frequently asked questions and more in this conversation with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance’s Communications and Education Director, Jason Tait. We also consult the State Ethics Commission’s Advisory 11-1 on Public Employee Political Activity from March 2011, which remains the most current on the subject. While Jason describes in detail the work of OCPF, it is important to note that the State Ethics Commission in Massachusetts may have differing opinions on the general activities we discuss. We recommend you contact both agencies (or the equivalent in your State if you reside outside of Massachusetts) with specific questions or scenarios, because even the best intentions could be seen as violations in the eyes of the law. 

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future episode topics, please email me at

Build America’s Libraries Act

By James Lonergan, MBLC Director

The Build America’s Libraries Act, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate in January by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), and introduced in the House earlier this month by Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI) and Don Young (R-AK), would provide $5 billion to fund upgrades to the nation’s library infrastructure to address challenges such as natural disasters, COVID-19, broadband capacity, environmental hazards, and accessibility barriers. Eligible uses of the funding include conducting facilities condition assessments, needs assessments, and master planning; financing new library facilities; or making capital improvements to existing library facilities, including buildings, grounds, and bookmobiles.

Funding would be distributed through the Institute of Museum and Library Services to state library agencies (including the MBLC), which would then award grants on a competitive basis to libraries in each state. Funding would be prioritized to libraries in communities with underserved populations, such as high-poverty areas. Eligible facilities under the Build America’s Libraries Act include public libraries, tribal libraries, and state libraries that provide service directly to the general public.

While we don’t know if this bill will pass, either separately or as part of a larger infrastructure bill, or how much we might receive in Massachusetts, we have recently held preliminary discussions at the MBLC about how we might potentially use funds from the Build America’s Libraries Act if it becomes law.

In alignment with our new strategic plan—which includes equity as a core principle–we have discussed using Build America’s Libraries Act funds for single-purpose projects including for HVAC upgrades, ADA access, and broadband/technology, and would focus on our most underserved and disadvantaged communities in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts is one of 15 states with a library construction program. Given these are one-time funds and we are prohibited from using these funds to supplant our current  Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program funding, we want to be careful not to jeopardize the strong support and funding we currently have for public library construction and renovation in the Commonwealth.

For further information on the Build America’s Libraries Act from ALA, please visit:

Advocacy Stories: Marketing and Communication Plans

By Andrea Bunker, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

Communication is an integral part of connecting with others. For something we all do every day (although it may be a little different these days,) there is both an art and a science to making it effective. Our Advocacy Stories series on Building Literacy resumes with a conversation about communication, messaging, and marketing with the MBLC’s own Celeste Bruno, our Communications Director, and Matthew Perry, our Communications Specialist. While we focus on library building projects in this podcast, the tips and tricks shared are transferable and scalable to all aspects of the mission of libraries and beyond.

From all of our projects, we know that the work of advocacy cannot be done by one person alone. Celeste and Matt discuss how to identify and cultivate allies in this work, how to create an identity, how to draft a communications plan, how to craft clear and consistent messaging, and how to address misinformation. It is never too early to begin this work, even if your project is a twinkle of an idea at this stage. Librarians, trustees, friends groups, foundation members, and library building project stakeholders will want to listen to this informative episode.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future episode topics, please email me at​

Taxes and Capital Projects: A Conversation with the Division of Local Services

By Andrea Bunker, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

Taxes: one of the known inevitables in life, and in Massachusetts, a subject with a complicated and storied past. Therefore, it is no surprise that advocates of public library building projects often must address whether or not capital improvements will cause an increase in property taxes for residents. For this episode of Building Literacy, we went to the experts on municipal finance and taxation: The Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services (DLS). With both regulatory and educational functions, the DLS not only provides oversight but also educational opportunities for municipal finance officials. Their Senior Deputy Commissioner, Sean Cronin, converses with us about the basics and what every municipal official, library building project stakeholder, and resident should know.

This episode is more Massachusetts-focused than many of our others, due in part to the local tax landscape defined by Proposition 2 ½, a property tax reform initiative passed by the voters in 1980. Mr. Cronin discusses the tools and mechanisms available to municipalities within the parameters of Prop 2 ½, such as overrides, debt exclusions, bonding, and stabilization funds. In addition to the basics, we touch upon capital plans and forecasting, even amidst a pandemic. Throughout, he also offers resources that are available through the DLS website:

So, if you think taxes are a dry subject (with the exception of the Boston Tea Party,) you may want to check out this episode! As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future episode topics, please email me at