Fresh Look at State Aid


February 13, 2015
Celeste Bruno
Communications Specialist
1-800-952-7403 x208

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners' (MBLC) State Aid to Public Libraries program affects every public library and library user across the Commonwealth. To ensure the continued success of the program, the MBLC recently began assessing the role of the program in improving library services.

This process is being led by the State Aid to Public Libraries Review Committee, which will present recommendations to the MBLC in June 2015. In support of the review committee's ongoing work, the MBLC invited UMass Boston's Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management to take a fresh look at the State Aid to Public Libraries program.

At the MBLC's January board meeting, Richard Kobayashi and James Sutton, both from the Center, presented commissioners with a white paper that will be considered by the committee during their upcoming meetings.

"Librarians have been exceedingly positive about state aid," Mr. Sutton said. "Overall, it is a terrific program that has accomplished a great deal and the board has managed the program in a very sensitive way during the economic downturn."

From the white paper:

While there are significant differences in a municipal ability to pay for library operations, through its management of the State-Aid Program, the MBLC has fostered near-universal reciprocity among libraries.

Mr. Sutton also briefly discussed the Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) and mentioned the "new normal" that has been created by libraries that continue to experience budget cuts and require MAR waivers year after year.

From the white paper:

Libraries in continuing waiver status have experienced deep cuts in their budgets. These library directors see no hope of having those cuts reversed. For them, state aid is often used to meet the basic minimum requirements of Hours Open and Materials Expenditures.

As noted in one interview, a library with less than adequate funding could still be inadequate even if the MAR is met. The MAR is a historical standard, self-set by a municipality.

The complete white paper is available on the MBLC website.

Libraries that are certified in the State Aid to Public Libraries Program work together to give residents access to millions of items beyond what their local library is able to offer. Libraries also use their state aid funding to meet local community needs, such as buying computers, offering new and innovative programs, or simply keeping the library for longer hours each week.

Participation in the State Aid to Public Libraries program is voluntary. It is administered in accordance with statutory and regulatory minimum standards of free public library service. The program encourages municipalities to support and improve public library service, compensates for disparities among municipal funding capacities, and offsets the cost of circulating public library materials to residents across the state.

About MBLC

The Board of Library Commissioners ( is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.