The Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program is pausing offering new awards for FY2021

By Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

Because of the uncertainty with municipal budgets brought on by COVID-19, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has decided not to award any new provisional grants in the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) in Fiscal Year 2021.

A “provisional” grant means that a municipality has been awarded an MPLCP grant and has six months to secure the required local funds that make up the balance of project costs. A contract with the MBLC cannot be executed without this funding in place.

The two libraries that were scheduled for provisional grants in FY21 were East Bridgewater Public Library and the Jones Library in Amherst. These two libraries remain at the top of the waiting list and will be offered provisional grants in FY22. Please see the FY21 Construction Grant FAQ for more information.

This pause in the awarding of new grants will not affect the overall time frame of the waiting list. The projects that were originally scheduled for grants in FY22 will likely be delayed for one year, but subsequent years won’t be affected. As projects are being completed and final payments made on libraries going back to the 2010 grant round, as well as the grants awarded in 2017, we have eight grants that will be retired in FY21 and FY22. This frees up room in the annual cap for new projects.

The timing of grant awards is always in flux, because of two main factors:

  • The annual capital budget allotted to us in a given fiscal year by the Department of Administration and Finance may be the same as the previous year, but it may be increased or decreased. Each year we must cover payments to all the projects in process before awarding new grants.
  • The ability of municipalities higher on the waiting list to secure their local funds is unknown. If a project fails at Town Meeting, City Council, or an override vote, the grant funds from that project then become available to projects down the list. This means we move through the list more quickly. Even times of economic stability, we see a drop-out rate of about 25% in our waiting lists; in difficult economic times, historically the drop-out rate has been higher.

We will not have any trouble spending our annual cap this year because we can give partial payments to three projects farther down on the waiting list that have already started or completed construction. Note that this does not mean that these projects move to the top of the list.

The scheduling of grant awards is extremely complicated, and I encourage anyone with questions about this to contact me at lauren.stara@mass.gov. The mission of the MPLCP is to improve library services throughout the Commonwealth by improving library facilities, and there’s nothing we like more than successful projects. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everything, and we hope that this pause will help everyone, including ourselves, to move forward.