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

Art to reflect the community: Forbes Library uses anonymous donation to purchase a range of BIPOC art

A couple years ago, Forbes Library received a $10,000 donation from a donor who wanted to remain anonymous but also wanted the money used for a very specific purpose: to broaden the Northampton library’s permanent art collection.
The library donor — the person lives in the area, according to Downing — told Forbes officials that the library “ideally should reflect the more diverse community we have today, as it’s a community space itself, and we agree,” Downing said.

Read more from Hampshire Gazette

You can now check out an all-terrain wheelchair at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield

SHEFFIELD — For those who can’t go into the woods without help, Sheffield has a solution.
With a state grant, the town bought a “GRIT Freedom Chair” that can be borrowed from the Bushnell-Sage Library’s “Library of Things” by those from any city or town with a CW Mars system library card.

Read more from Berkshire Eagle

Young Gloucester Scientist’s Club is full STEM ahead

The club is the brainchild of Sawyer Free Library Children’s Librarian Marisa Hall, who has been looking to expand the library’s STEM offerings. The club will meet one Friday a month after school starting Friday and running through May. Hall hopes to connect kids to opportunities they may not be aware of in Gloucester.
“This project connects them to a sense of ‘place’ by using our own community’s physical resources and social connections to introduce them to new and innovative STEM concepts and topics,” Hall said in a prepared statement.

Read more from the Gloucester Times

Melrose Moves Forward With Library Project After Cost Increase

(Patch) Melrose’s long-awaited library renovation project recently took a step forward with the signing of a contract to begin the project’s construction phase, Mayor Paul Brodeur announced on Wednesday.
Following uncertainty over potential cost increases in recent months, Brodeur confirmed that the cost of the city’s contract with the Massachusetts-based Castagna Construction Corporation is roughly 12% higher than estimates available when the City Council approved the project last year.
The city has adjusted, though, with officials saying this week that a combination of state, federal and Library Trustees money has allowed the project to proceed without a need for new city bond funding.

Read more from Patch

Need a mobile hotspot for internet service? Try a Cape Cod library

Can you imagine not having access to the internet? For most, the internet is more than just a way to read news or go on social media. It can be essential for education, work and even health care. With a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, libraries have been able to bolster their programs for mobile hotspots, allowing more library patrons to “borrow the internet.”

Read more from the Cape Cod Times

Gloucester gets State Help Toward Library Expansion

Gloucester’s Sawyer Free Library is closing in on a decades-long goal of updating and increasing the size of its facility with help from new state funding. The state Board of Library Commissioners announced July 7 it is providing Gloucester $9 million for the library’s $28 million renovation and expansion plan. The grant would grow by $316,052 if the project meets green building standards.

Read more from the Boston Globe

Massachusetts Center for the Book Celebrates the 22nd Annual Letters About Literature Awards

The Massachusetts Center for the Book has announced the winners of the annual Letters About Literature (LAL) program, a reading and writing initiative that invites students from Grades 4 to 12 to write letters to authors about the books that have had profound effects on them. The student honorees were celebrated in a virtual awards event on May 25.

As one of the most robust LAL programs in the country, the Center receives thousands of letters from all corners of the Commonwealth each year. The fifteen Top Honor and Honors students collectively represent the top 1.5% of this year’s submissions to the 22nd annual program in Massachusetts.

Representative Natalie M. Higgins welcomed the honored students, families and teachers in attendance. “Congratulations to the 2022 Letters About Literature honorees for showing us how books moved and delighted them, expanding their personal and world views,” Higgins stated. “Let’s all celebrate our love of books and reading!”

Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of Mass Center for the Book, underscored Representative Higgins’ tribute, noting the remarkable personal letters submitted to the 2022 program. “This event celebrates one of the first programs we established when we were founded in 2000,” Shaloo noted. “In addition to the strength of the writing it always prompts, the students’ reflections reassure us that the young people in our commonwealth will be articulate and thoughtful contributors to life in Massachusetts and beyond.”

Commonwealth judges in the 2022 program were Patrick Borezo, Director of Hadley Public Library; Meena Jain, Director of Ashland Public Library and Chair of Programming for Massachusetts Library Association; and Martha Pott, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University and member of the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Center for the Book.

The Top Honors and Honors writers in Massachusetts Letters About Literature 2021

Level 1 (Grades 4-6):

Picture of Top Honors winner Asma Al Ashabi
Top Honors winner Asma Al Ashabi

Top Honor: Asma Al Ashabi of Hopkinton, a 6th grader at Al-Hamra Academy of Shrewsbury, for her letter to Pam Muñoz Ryan about Esperanza Rising


Honors: Aliasgar Mufaddal Bhagat of Reading (A.W. Coolidge Middle School); Annabelle Butler of Arlington (Lexington Montessori School); Jasiri Cash of Hyde Park (Wellesley Middle School); Sasha Gardella of Marblehead (Village School)


Level 2 (Grades 7 and 8):

Top Honor: Daniel Ng of Arlington, an 8th grader at Lesley Ellis School, for his letter to Gene Luen Yang about American Born Chinese

Honors: Anna Grace Goodman of Newton (Newton Country Day School); Eliana Gunn of Wilbraham (Wilbraham Middle School); Jojo Jané-Leonardis of Watertown (Newton Country Day School); Karolina Robles-Maurer of Wilbraham (Wilbraham Middle School)

Level 3 (Grades 9-12):

Picture of Top Honors winner Felicity Zhang
Top Honors winner Felicity Zhang

Top Honor: Felicity Zhang of Concord, a 9th grader at Concord-Carlisle High School, for her letter to Gene Luen Yang about American Born Chinese

Honors: Dilara Bahadir of Lexington; Kasey Corra of West Roxbury (Montrose School); Zaynab Khemmich of Attleboro (Al-Noor Academy); Jemella Pierson-Freedman of Berlin



The Massachusetts Center for the Book, chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a public-private partnership charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading and enhances the outreach potential of Massachusetts public libraries.

For more information, contact or call 617-872-3718.