Remarks from MBLC Board Chair Roland Ochsenbein

Remarks given as the Board Chair Report at the April Meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Twenty-eight days ago, on March 5, we held our monthly MBLC board meeting at the Boston Public Library. BPL President David Leonard welcomed us and we conducted our business that day in the usual fashion, together in the Commonwealth Salon. Afterward, we toured the digitization labs. It was a normal, bustling day at the BPL.

The next morning, I spoke at a legislative breakfast hosted by the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, one of the last of the breakfasts leading into the FY 2021 legislative budget season. The breakfast was well attended, the mood upbeat and enthusiastic. Representative Natalie Higgins, the House Library Caucus Co-Chair, also spoke, as did Senator Harriett Chandler and Representative Harold Naughton, all of them articulate library supporters. Coming off a year in which our total funding exceeded our request (for possibly the first time ever!), there was by contrast a hint of caution in their comments regarding next year. Important needs in education, transportation infrastructure, and other areas would compete for any increases the state would see in its revenue collections. Mind you, this was before the spread of the corona virus was fully understood. Libraries will be okay they assured us, but just know that there is some pressure next year. As of a few weeks ago, that was where we were going into next year.

Since then, and with stunning speed, the world has completely changed.

Beginning on March 13, Governor Baker began issuing increasingly severe emergency orders in response to growing concerns over the spread of the corona virus.  On that day, he issued an order prohibiting large gatherings. Two days later, he ordered public schools closed, prohibited gatherings of 25 or more, and prohibited on premises consumption of food and drink at bars and restaurants. Four days after that, he activated the National Guard. In another four days, on March 23, he ordered non -essential businesses to cease in-person operations, and he issued a statewide stay-at-home advisory. And just two days ago, he announced that the DCU Center in Worcester is being stood up as a field hospital, and that an arena at Fitchburg State is being outfitted as a temporary morgue if needed…an arena to serve as a temporary morgue.

As we meet today, remotely via Zoom video conference, it is a very different world compared to that of last month’s board meeting in the marvelous surrounds of the Boston Public Library. Today, all public library buildings in the Commonwealth are closed to the public, as are nearly all academic and special libraries. That is an extraordinary statement. The only other time this has occurred was not during the Great Depression or a World War, it was during the influenza pandemic of 1918, when an estimated 675,000 people in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide succumbed to the disease.

I am extraordinarily impressed with the response of the MBLC leadership and staff and those of our affiliates during this difficult time. The number of communications that have come out this past week or so as things have developed so rapidly– updates, advisories and announcements, including the comprehensive MBLC Service Update from yesterday– are excellent and so needed at this time. I was also pleased to see articles from publications such as the Boston Globe and the Atlantic describing how the availability of library services, many of them digital, are playing an even more important role at a time when buildings are physically closed—eBooks, audiobooks, databases, online courses, virtual story times, outside-the-building WiFi access, phone assistance and outreach, and more. The MBLC, the affiliates, and others have been working to expand the already wide access to electronic offerings. At a time when most are staying home and schools are closed, these services are enormously beneficial, possibly even life saving. I’ve seen any number of communications from libraries around the state, on social media and elsewhere, offering service updates that are resourceful, creative, and uplifting even in this heavy time. Libraries at their best. I am proud to be associated with this community.

We will eventually recover. I personally think it will take a long time to fully recover. There are many long-term consequences that are not yet understood. That said, public libraries and the role they play in society will be, I am certain, critically important to recovery efforts in too many ways to list here. And I think this may well be the focus of our message over the coming months, as we, at the appropriate time, turn our attention to regaining full operations.

The budget fallout may also be significant. The FY 2021 state revenue forecasts will certainly be revised as a result of the economic disruption we are experiencing, and that in turn will inform a new look at FY2021 and beyond. We will need to communicate our needs and our value often and clearly to lawmakers. Further, it is unclear what impacts, if any, there may be on the construction program in terms of passing the bond bill, raising the cap, and whether or to what extent projects may be delayed or reconsidered at the local level. I think there is also concern building on the municipal level about next year’s local budget picture. Local tax receipts will be directly affected by the temporary closure of businesses, loss of sales/meals/room taxes, and the compounding effects of job losses. But then there may also be some positive countervailing consequences from the various stimulus measures.

Looking ahead, there are at this moment more questions than answers but what IS clear is that the future looks very different today than it did just a few weeks ago, and our role in supporting libraries and helping make things better for people may never be more important than it will be over the coming months and possibly years.

Finally, I’d just like to say that, according to health officials, it seems clear we are in for a very difficult few weeks or months immediately ahead. I pray for all of our good health.

MBLC Service Update 4-1-2020

MBLC Service Update
April 1, 2020

As we work together to get through the current reality, the MBLC will provide regular updates on MBLC services and other statewide issues.  Please let us know if there’s info you’d like us to cover—we’ll include it if we are able. Stay well.

State Budget
Director Lonergan has been in touch with leaders of the Library Legislative Caucus. The Governor released his budget recommendation in January. However, it is uncertain whether the House and the Senate will be able to adhere to the normal budget schedule. House Ways and Means typically releases their budget in April and Senate Ways and Means releases theirs in May. The next fiscal year begins on July 1, 2020.

The legislature remains active and have passed or are considering several bills addressing the current crisis. Passed bills include moving the tax filing deadline to July 15 and allowing municipalities to delay municipal elections.

Federal Budget
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced that the President has signed the CARES Act, which designates $50 million in coronavirus response funding for IMLS. Following passage in the House of Representatives, both chambers of Congress approved of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion response to the growing pandemic. The IMLS press release has more information. The MBLC anticipates further guidance on how much funding Massachusetts will receive and how these funds may be used.

MBLC Monthly Board Meetings
Contact: Rachel Masse
The MBLC held an emergency board meeting, via conference call, on March 19, 2020. The Board is holding its April 2, 2020 meeting via Zoom and will continue to address board business in this way until in-person meetings are again possible. Board meetings are the first Thursday of every month.

Construction-The Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP)
Contact:  Lauren Stara
Andrea Bunker

  • There has been no further movement on the bond bill, H4154; now H4039,  that contains funding for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction (MPLCP) program.
  • The requirement for monthly reporting is suspended. MBLC staff will keep you posted as to when reporting will resume and what will be required.
  • For active construction sites
    Governor Baker’s new guidance for all public construction projects statewide requires adherence to the “safety stand down” guidelines provided to the construction industry last week. This temporary order requires a halt to public construction projects (effective 3/27/2020), and applies to all projects managed or sponsored by the state or a state agency, including the library construction projects funded through the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP), while contractors review site-specific issues, develop mitigation strategies and communicate to workers about new state guidelines for construction work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those new state rules require, among other things, all workers to self-certify before each shift that they are not sick and that certain construction workers have their temperatures taken daily. Also last week, the Governor’s chief legal counsel sent a letter ( to city and town executives with the new guidance and instructions that all construction projects should continue operations during the Governor’s state of emergency but with social distancing measures incorporated. The guidance imposes a zero tolerance policy at work sites. If a worker is sick, they are to remain home. If a worker begins to feel sick on the job, they are to go home. And if a supervisor sees a worker who appears sick, they are to send the worker home.

Please keep us updated as you are implementing the guidelines required in the Governor’s directives and let us know of difficulties or challenges you face in the implementation of those guidelines.

Contracts/Business Office
Contact: Tracey Dimant
The MBLC business office sent out the second State Aid payments last week and continues to process contracts, funding requests from affiliates, and invoices from vendors, as well as handling daily operations.

LSTA (Federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services)
Contact: Lyndsay Forbes
Shelley Quezada
Rob Favini
Official statement regarding the current direct grant round

  • The LSTA team is working with libraries as they get ready to submit proposals that are due April 7 , 2020
  • LSTA staff are working with libraries finishing their current grants to rework their schedules due to COVID-19 disruptions.
  • There is a new LSTA-funded opportunity: Scholarships to attend the ARSL small libraries conference in November. Learn more
  • Shelley has been working with the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and sent a announcement out on all regions, pubdir etc to request help in getting out information about serving this community—librarians were very responsive (no surprise, there!).
  • Shelley is also been trying to keep up with what’s happening in prisons. Prison librarians are not going into the jails as it is a safety issue for them.

Contact: Paul Kissman
Kate Butler
MBLC convened a meeting with automated resource sharing network administrators and MLS last week to share current practices and planning around the pandemic.  Networks discussed eBook and audio content handling and purchasing, requesting and borrowing parameters, such as changes in overdues, patron notifications, amnesty periods, and how patron-placed holds are affected.  In particular networks discussed possible plans for managing the backlog of materials when libraries begin to reopen to the public and the statewide delivery system comes back online.

Preservation and Disaster Recovery
Contact: Evan Knight
MBLC Preservation Specialist Evan Knight, in collaboration with COSTEP MA board members and subscribers (“Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness in Massachusetts”), has developed guidelines for response from the perspective of collections preservation. The page, “Public Health Emergencies: COVID-19,” was published March 13, and recently updated March 26 to reflect the dynamic situation. Two national organizations have recently cited the page for wider distribution: the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association, at “Handling Library Materials and Collections During a Pandemic,” and the American Institute for Conservation, at “Collections Care Amid COVID-19.” Thanks to Evan on this resource, which will be continuously updated, and please feel free to reach out to him with questions and concerns regarding your collections.
Evan also shares this valuable webinar from IMLS and the CDC: Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections.
The webinar recording can be accessed here.

If you have follow-up questions for the CDC, you may submit them to

The materials and links mentioned in the webinar have been added to the IMLS coronavirus page under “Official Government Information and Resources.”

Contact: Celeste Bruno
Matthew Perry
Staff are using MBLC social media channels to connect users and librarians to digital resources.
The team has also created promotional posts for libraries to use on their social media channels:
Digital Library social media posts
New databases social media posts
Database promotion
The MBLC has developed database promotion for social media that takes users directly into the databases and gives the local library the usage statistic:
Databases Dogs
Databases Wellness
Databases Kids
Databases: Home Improvement
Databases Healthy Aging

State Aid To Public Libraries
Contact: Liz. Babbit
Uechi Ng
Mary Rose Quinn

Changes and updates can be submitted through our LibWizard form:

Statewide digital
Contact: Kate Butler (website issues)
Matt Perry (content additions)
MBLC staff have been working to increase ease of access to digital resources. The consumer portal has been updated and expanded to include free-for-now resources as well as unique opportunities from authors, illustrators and educators. The resources can be seen at  Always free statewide resources are also included.  This one-stop place makes it easy for residents to find library resources and other free resources.

Contact: Celeste Bruno
Rachel Masse
Matt Perry (materials and orders)
Staff has been in touch with our partners at the Boston Bruins. Many Bruins staff have been furloughed, including the staffer who works with us on the summer program. Right now , it is unclear whether Blades visits will occur this summer. Bruins summer materials have all been developed but the MBLC is holding off on orders for now. MBLC staff is working to confirm if the new for 2020 First Lady and Blades Summer Reading Challenge can still move forward. Staff has taken orders for the national CSLP poster but getting them out to the libraries is an issue due to closures.

Trustees and Friends
Contact: Maura Deedy
Rob Favini
Our Spring schedule of Trustee Orientations is currently paused in compliance with Governor Baker’s social distancing protocols. We will resume trustee orientations as soon as we can.
But in the meantime remember that Maura and Rob are available to answer any questions that you have regarding new trustee onboarding, best practices, or the latest MBLC information regarding library services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 Census
Contact: Maura Deedy
Maura’s reminder: being home is the perfect time to take the census online or by telephone.

New resources that can help you get the word out:

MBLC LibGuide:

Baseball Season Starts Now with your Library

Major League Baseball was set to open its season today, but it has been delayed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Even though the players won’t be taking the field, you can still get your baseball fix today through your Massachusetts library! 

The Digital Commonwealth has an extensive collection of historic baseball photos taken by legendary Boston photographer Leslie Jones.  Jones took photographs of the Red Sox and the Boston Braves throughout the mid twentieth-century, and captured many visiting players as well including Jackie Robinson. There is also baseball artwork, photos of the UMass Amherst baseball team, and other historic photos of the game being played in and around New England.Baseball is not only a game, it is the inspiration for numerous books, available at your fingertips through the Massachusetts eBook program LEA. New  titles include Evie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, a love story about “a woman who has lost her husband and a major league pitcher who’s lost his game,” The Resisters by Gish Jen, a story about a dystopian future where society is divided and baseball allows one young girl to cross that divide, and The Cactus League by Emily Nemens which “unravels the tightly connected web of people behind a seemingly linear game.” Classic baseball books available through LEA include Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Natural by Bernard Malamud, and Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Get started with LEA today by borrowing a book about baseball.

Filmmaker Ken Burns has allowed PBS to stream his renowned nine part documentary “Baseball” for free on its website. The documentary starts at the very origins of the game in the nineteenth-century and follows it up to the present day highlighting the unique aspects of the game and the personalities that have made it the nation’s pastime. The documentary is streaming for a limited time on the PBS website.Even though the umps won’t be yelling “play ball!” today, we can at least indulge in some photographs, books, and movies to hold us over until the baseball season officially begins.

2020 Census: Now is the time to get involved!

By Maura Deedy, Library Advisory Specialist at the MBLC

Last month, I hosted three 2020 Census 101 sessions around the Commonwealth. These sessions brought together librarians and other community partners together to receive information about the 2020 Census, and think about how to share it with their community.

On Monday February 24, 2020 I spent the morning with 19 librarians from Western Mass at the Massachusetts Library System Northampton office. We kicked off the meeting with introductions and sharing. In that spirit, here are some of the wonderful ideas Massachusetts libraries are doing to support a complete count in our communities:

Greenfield Public Library will have one dedicated laptop for self-response with trained staff available at all times to answer census questions. They’ll host pop up events in the community at the senior center and Stone Soup Cafe.

Many libraries will have a designated computer, like Palmer Public Library and Paige Memorial Library (Hardwick). Libraries may consider removing authentication or modifying time limits to support census self-response and putting a short cut on each workstation.

A few libraries discussed their partnerships with the local senior center or council on aging. Heath Free Public Library and Dickinson Memorial Library (Northfield) are planning on outreach events at local senior centers. They will bring laptops and devices to help with self-response.

Tyler Memorial Library (Charlemont and Hawley) shared that they successfully advocated for additional funding to expand hours to encourage local residents to complete their census at the library using library tech or with their own devices. The disparities in access to broadband internet are more acute in Western Mass, where libraries or municipal buildings are the only places with Wi-Fi available.

Westfield Athenaeum is training their staff on how to answer basic census questions, and put a direct link to the census website on the desktop. They are working on a census focused story time for children with counting activities.

For many of the smaller libraries in Western Mass that may not have the staff to run programs, making passive displays is an excellent solution. Tilton Library (Deerfield) will have displays with information, handouts and an FAQ.

One of the activities in the training was a design thinking workshop about who our hard to count communities are and planning an activity to reach them. Look for that on our 2020 Census guide.

2020 Census Resources:
Census 2020 in Massachusetts:

American Library Association:

Secretary of the Commonwealth:

A Message from Governor Baker about COVID-19

Governor Charlie Baker sent out an email to state employees regarding the Coronavirus or COVID-19. Here is what he had to say, and some tips to help prevent the spread of the diseases including the flu and the common cold:

Your health and safety is our top priority. While the risk associated with the Coronavirus or COVID-19 remains low in Massachusetts, I want to discuss what we are doing to prepare and what you can do to both stay informed and to prevent spreading the virus.

We have been working with our federal and local partners daily as we build on our existing plans to deal with this virus, and we will adapt when need be to keep people safe.  Yes, it is very contagious, but it is also not a danger to the vast majority of the people who do catch it.  The threat in the U.S. and the threat in Massachusetts at this time remain low, and our constant surveillance efforts and ongoing dialogue with the health care, infectious disease and public health experts here in Massachusetts will ensure we make appropriate adjustments along the way.

These simple precautions will help prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water frequently and use hand sanitizer.
  • If you have a fever or feel sick, stay home and call your healthcare provider.
  • Clean surfaces that are frequently touched such as doorknobs and countertops with household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Think ahead about how to take care of yourself and your loved ones if the virus starts to spread.
  • Get the flu vaccine – it is not too late!

The latest information about COVID-19 in Massachusetts is available at the Department of Public Health’s website here:

And a printable factsheet is available here:

The latest Centers for Disease Control information about COVID-19 is available here:

Additionally, MEMA’s Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management has posted helpful recommendations for what individuals can do to prepare for potential emergencies. That information is available here:

It is important to remember that there is only a single case in Massachusetts and local health officials confirm that this individual is recovering well.

The folks at HHS and DPH are working around the clock with our federal partners. I want to thank them and everyone across state government for serving the people of Massachusetts.

Age-Friendly Funding Alert: 2020 AARP Community Challenge

By the Mass Healthy Aging Collaborative and AARP

The application period for the 2020 AARP Community Challenge is open!

The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to fund “quick-action” projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. Applications are being accepted for projects to improve housing, transportation, public space, technology (“smart cities”), civic engagement and more.

Please visit the grant webpage here for eligibility info and other details and the following downloadable materials before starting the application process. When ready, select the “Apply” button to register for the 2020 AARP Community Challenge.


Important Dates

  • April 1, 2020: Applications are due by 11:59 pm (ET)
  • May 26, 2020: Applicants will be notified of their status this week
  • July 15, 2020: The selected grantees will be announced to the public — and the project work can begin — on or around this date
  • November 9, 2020: All funded projects must be completed
  • December 11, 2020: Deadline for after-action reports

Looking Ahead to 2020

Patrons exploring the Valente Branch of the Cambridge Public Library

By Rob Favini, Head of Library Advisory and Development at the MBLC

One of the most interesting parts of my job involves providing outreach and advisory services to librarians, directors, trustees and friends groups. It is a unique perspective that affords me a front row seat to what’s happening in libraries across the Commonwealth. With the start of the New Year, I’ve been thinking about the important trends that I will be following in 2020. I’d like to share my top 5 in no particular order.


Libraries have been dealing with challenges around eBooks for quite some time now. First there were logistical problems to solve around platforms and policy. In 2019 a new set of challenges was brought to the forefront with MacMillan Publishing’s embargo of new title access to public libraries. With consumer eBook sales slowing and library eBook circulations exploding Macmillan is making the argument that libraries hurt book sales. The proposed embargo unified libraries in opposition and resulted in dozens of letters to Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent from Massachusetts libraries and organizations and an ALA national campaign and petition.  Libraries and publishers will be following this case very closely throughout 2020 as it may set a new industry standard.


To borrow Eric Klinenberg’s term from his book Palaces for the People, libraries continue to play the important role in maintaining social infrastructure, the glue that binds communities together. Across Massachusetts, libraries have become a driving force of social infrastructure with innovative programs and services that used to be unique but are now commonplace. Library programs and services around STEM, ESL, Citizenship, Wi-Fi hotspots, library of things, workforce development (the list can literally go on and on) are now common. In 2020 libraries will continue to adapt services to social needs as they address the ongoing opioid crisis, the 2020 Census, community food/housing insecurity, and a presidential election to name just a few.


The MBLC’s advisory services to library Boards of Trustees and Friends Groups covers a lot of territory from trustee orientation sessions to fielding inquiries on dozens of topics every day. The amount of activity speaks to the important role that these groups have in the promotion and advancement of public libraries. When Trustees and Friends are well informed and aligned with the goals of the library they become powerful advocates. As crucial as these allies are, there are many libraries with unfilled trustee seats, or open positions on their Friends’ boards. The health of Trustee and Friend boards directly impact the health of our libraries. Attracting active participation from all voices in the community is critical and pays big dividends. Current Trustees, Friends, and library staff should always be on the lookout for the next great addition to their boards.


The list of skills needed to run a successful library seems be growing at an accelerated pace. In addition to the demands created by innovated programing mentioned earlier, library managers are increasingly finding themselves in uncharted territory. Today’s library manager has to have expertise in human resources management, budget analysis, local political/regulatory process, environmental science and public relations. To make things even more complicated, every municipality is unique so even library managers with experience are challenged. The good news is that efforts in 2019 by the Massachusetts Library System with their Library Director Round Table series and the Massachusetts Library Association’s Leadership and Management Section have started a conversation and support network for library directors and managers.


2019 saw a growing number of libraries go fine free in Massachusetts and across the country. Earlier in the year the American Library Association passed a resolution declaring library fines an economic barrier to library access and a form of social inequity. Many libraries have come to the conclusion that in their communities fines are not an effective way to ensure that materials are returned in a timely manner, and many make the argument that fines have become a barrier to library access disproportionately impacting younger and lower income users. Recent libraries that have announced going fine free include the Robbins library in Arlington, The Jones Library in Amherst, the Morse library in Natick, and the Burlington Public Library. In addition the Boston Public Library announced the abolishment of fines for library users under the age of 18. This is a trend that is picking up momentum, and will no doubt continue in 2020.

How are these trends impacting your library? What’s on your radar for 2020? Leave a comment and join in the conversation!

Nothing but Net Zero!


Sustainable construction is an essential component in the fight to mitigate climate change. While the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) has funded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) incentive since 2008, code has evolved and sustainability measures have become more common practice. Materials, technology, and costs continue to improve and propel green building forward with products and systems that offer smarter, more efficient solutions.

Some of the practices growing out of this innovation include the passive building and net zero movements.  Passive building standards strive for optimal energy efficiency to reduce the amount of energy needed to sustain a building’s operations. This type of construction assists net zero energy goals where energy usage is completely offset by renewable energy that is produced on the property or purchased. Public libraries in Massachusetts are beginning to adapt to this method of building as part of municipal pacts to lower or eliminate fossil-fuel use in public buildings.

On November 4, 2019, the Cambridge Public Library’s new Valente Branch, a component of the King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex, opened as a net zero ready building, which means the infrastructure for net zero is in place. The last component for full net zero operations is the purchase of green electricity produced elsewhere. With 100% of building systems running on electric power, there are no fossil fuels used throughout the complex, adhering to the City of Cambridge’s commitment to make all public buildings net zero by 2040. The complex contains 190 geothermal wells approximately 500 feet down in the earth, and will collect solar energy from 74,070 square feet of on-site photovoltaic array. When the sun is not shining, the rain that falls is harvested for toilet flushing and irrigation. This use of the existing environment has the complex, including the library, on track for a targeted LEED level of platinum.

On October 29, 2019, at the Groundbreaking of the Medford Public Library, Medford’s commitment to net zero public buildings by 2050 was proudly celebrated. Using a unique arrangement of photovoltaic array on the waved roof of the new library, the building is projected to be net zero with no fossil-fuel use upon opening. The project is on target to be Medford’s first public building reaching LEED certification or higher.

Achieving sustainability at the LEED and net zero levels requires forethought and prioritization of those goals throughout the design process. At Library Journal’s Design Institute in Austin, Texas, Gail Vittori, the Co-Director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, shared the detailed timeline for the Austin Central Library’s platinum-level LEED building. Planning began in 2007, with the team having to anticipate future advances in LEED requirements for a building that would not come to fruition until ten years later. John Daniels, the LEED AP and Interim Facilities Director at the Austin Central Library, emphasized that if sustainability is not a priority, essential elements can fall prey to cost-cutting measures to remain within budget. From selecting a site that allows for production of renewable energy to constructing a building envelope that utilizes principles of passive building design to choosing finishes that are local, recycled, and environmentally-friendly, each step must be approached with sustainability as a driving factor.

For libraries that already stand, a growing body of case studies and best practices for deep energy retrofits has emerged within the last decade. Deep energy retrofits usually involve a whole building approach, but as mechanical systems and building envelopes may have different life cycles, libraries may have to pursue each upgrade piecemeal. Just as with new construction, prioritizing energy efficiency and reduced or eliminated carbon emissions in each decision can forge a path toward a passive building or a net zero building.

The most successful green initiatives are whole-community initiatives, with pledges like Cambridge’s and Medford’s to make all public buildings models of efficiency and sustainability by a targeted year. The support of community members and their local officials, who vote to provide the matching monetary-backing of public library projects, is essential for ensuring buildings that work for the best interests of future generations and the environment. Forward-thinking design and construction is possible with detailed planning and unwavering commitment.

Our commitment to helping libraries achieve sustainability continues with targeted programming this Spring, beginning with a Sustainability Summit at the Shrewsbury Public Library on April 29, 2020, from 10 AM to 1 PM. A link to registration and more information will be provided as the date approaches.

LSTA Grants: More Than Funding

By Rob Favini, Head of Library Advisory and Development at the MBLC

What do kids coding, a town’s 300th anniversary, a community garden, and engaging citizens in civic discussion have in common? They are all centerpieces of library programming in Massachusetts funded by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants administered by the MBLC. If you haven’t thought about applying for an LSTA grant, now may be the time!

The LSTA grant season has kicked off with the approval of the FY2021 grant round by the Board of Library Commissioners at their November meeting.  In addition to funding, LSTA grants have a positive impact on library staff, communities, and beyond. I’d like to point out just a few.

Prove a Concept: With limited resources it is difficult to engage in new programming. Having an outside funder takes a degree of risk away from a library when engaging in new programming, or services that serve new user populations. An LSTA grant is a great way to focus thinking around a programming idea, set schedules, and determine measures of success. The grant application process ensures that all aspects of the program are set before any spending happens. Successful grants are often used to demonstrate the need for continued support. It is not uncommon to see a popular LSTA grant become ongoing program funded by the municipality, friends group or other funding entity.

Staff Development:  Grants are a great source of outside funding, yet few libraries have the in house capability to identify and apply for them. An LSTA grant is an excellent way to build staff expertise in grant writing and execution. Applicants to the grant program will receive extensive training and consultation through the life of the grant. MBLC grant specialists work with grant recipients to ensure success.

Community Partnerships: Many LSTA grants serve as a catalyst for library engagement with community partners. LSTA grants have funded libraries to work with local historic commissions, social service providers, arts and cultural institutions, and schools. Programming with partners increases a library’s visibility and reach to their users. In many cases libraries build vital community relationships that last well beyond the life of a grant.

Tapping into the Latest Trends: Library programming is constantly changing. The MBLC staff is constantly introducing new grant programs designed to meet the ever evolving needs that libraries meet. Need some programming inspiration? Take a look at our grant offerings.

Promoting your library: Showcasing LSTA Grants are a great way to shine a light on your library. Publicizing LSTA grant programming shows your library at its innovative and creative best. In addition, highlighting the use of outside federal funding demonstrates your commitment to fiscal responsibility.To learn more about this year’s LSTA Direct Grant round visit:  Here you will find grant project fact sheets, timelines, application requirements, and FAQ.

What it Means to be a Library Friend: By Vicki Kaufman

Former MBLC Commissioner and Friend of the Weymouth Library Vicki Kauffman (right) with MBLC Commissioner Les Ball.

As we celebrate National Friends of Libraries Week, we’ve reach out to one of the best friends libraries have, Vicki Kauffman. She is a previous MBLC Commissioner and active with the Massachusetts Friends of Libraries and Friends of Weymouth Public Libraries. We asked her to share her thoughts on what it means to be a library friend. Thank you, Vicki!

As with virtually every Friend, I’ve been going to Libraries since I first learned to walk.  As someone who’s had to move a number of times, the first thing I do in every new community is go to the Library and join the Friends, to support the Library and become involved with its activities.  I was fortunate enough to have been a Commissioner on the Mass Board of Library Commissioners; because I voiced my support of Friends activities, I was asked to join MFOL.  So naturally, when I moved to Weymouth, my first move was to join the Weymouth Friends.  

Friends organizations everywhere have supported Libraries financially – at times crucially making up for financial shortfalls in library budgets, or for urgently needed renovations and materials.  Friends are a base of both vocal and practical support, responsible not only for underwriting programs and activities, but energizing the community when support at crucial times is needed for votes from assuring municipal financial support to a new building.  Being a Friend is its own reward – not only for the satisfaction of seeing the Library benefit from our work, but for discovering a wonderful circle of new friends, because Library folks are great!

Want to meet more friends? Come to the Massachusetts Friends of Libraries Annual Meeting and program on Saturday October 26, 2019 at South Hadley Public Library. Sign up today: