State Aid Changes Aim to Help Libraries in 2022


January 20, 2021
Celeste Bruno
Communications Director
1-800-952-7403 x208

On January 7, 2021 Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) unanimously voted to adjust policies to the State Aid to Public Libraries program. This is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Commonwealth’s municipal libraries, staff, Trustees, and patrons.

First implemented by the board in April as a temporary emergency response to the pandemic, Thursday’s vote serves to put the changes into effect as policies for the FY2022 State Aid to Public Libraries Program Policies. These policy changes will help libraries maintain certification in the FY2022 state aid grant cycle which looks at how libraries are meeting requirements during FY2021. Commissioners also voted on changes that will help libraries maintain certification in the current grant cycle and affect the Five-Year Waiver Plan in 2022.

“We understand that the economic fallout from the pandemic may be felt in the years to come,” said Mary Rose Quinn, Head of State Programs and Government Liaison at the MBLC. “We want our libraries to be as strong as possible so that they can help Massachusetts residents get back on their feet. The best way to do that is to help them stay certified in our state aid program.”

The Hours Open Requirement is suspended for FY2021 retroactively to July 1, 2020. Libraries that continue to provide library services to their patrons at a level appropriate to their local circumstances such as curbside or limited browsing, will be considered as meeting the full Hours Open Requirement.

In terms of the Materials Expenditure Requirement, the MBLC encourages all libraries to continue purchasing materials for their print, non-print, and online collections to share with patrons both locally and statewide. However, libraries that are unable to meet the Materials Expenditure Requirement as of June 30, 2021 will be considered as having met the full requirement for FY2021.

The Closure of a Public Library Policy now includes examples of natural catastrophes, i.e.  fire, flood, storms, and epidemics/pandemics and other states of emergencies (Federal, State, and Local). 

Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) Chapter 78, Section 19A was not changed. The MAR is funding, required in statute, to be provided by the municipality to support library operations. Libraries that are unable to meet the MAR may apply for a waiver. However, Commissioners did address several issues regarding cuts to library budgets and the five year MAR waiver plan.

The State Aid to Public Libraries program is vital to the operation of the successful statewide library system because it provides the basis for sharing library resources across the Commonwealth. Libraries that are certified in the state aid program work together to give residents access to more than 59 million items beyond what their local library is able to offer and there are many other benefits to state aid certification. The State Aid to Public Libraries Program is funded through state budget line 7000-9501.  

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.