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 (https://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/construction/background.php), or contact Lauren at email@example.com or Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.