In June, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) announced that it would be starting another round of library construction grants. These grant rounds occur at five to eight year intervals. On average, the state has awarded fifty percent of the total eligible costs of library construction projects. To receive a construction grant, a library must engage in a complex and highly competitive process. Earlier this month, the Board of Trustees sent a letter of intent to the MBLC to officially notify the commissioners that Seekonk will be applying for a building planning grant. Seekonk Public Library has taken the first step in that process by stating its intention to seek funds to study the facility needs of the library and how those needs can best be met.
Developing a library facility that will meet the needs of a community for the next twenty-five years is an extremely complex and difficult task. State officials recognize this difficulty, so the MBLC grants money to libraries to do thorough studies before embarking on a building project. The MBLC wants to see a well-developed plan before the commissioners will consider awarding millions of dollars for construction. These planning grants fund activities in the initial study phase of a building project. These activities include service needs assessments, site selection and evaluation, construction feasibility studies, schematic designs, and cost analyses. In short, it will provide a study committee composed of Seekonk citizens with all of the information needed to make informed choices on how to best meet the facility needs of the library.
Planning of this type is expensive because it requires the skills of architects, engineers, designers, and cost estimators. We anticipate a total cost of $75,000. If Seekonk is awarded a planning grant, the MBLC will fund up to $50,000 of that cost.. We anticipate a costly analysis because of issues with the library’s location. The library building was constructed on the site of a closed landfill. Although the old landfill has been capped, the options for expansion are extremely limited. The landfill cap extends up to the current library building and under the library parking lot to about where the drive-up bookdrops are installed. The MBLC will require the library to explore alternative locations before the commissioners will award money for construction. Although relocating the library is unlikely, this additional investigation will add to the overall cost of the study. The library will have a small head start with the study, however. Some of the engineering information collected as part of the 1999-2000 effort to expand the library may still be valid.
I will be making a brief presentation on the construction grant process at the next meeting of the Board of Library Trustees, which will be at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 25 at the library. All meetings of the Library Trustees are open to the public, and we invite you to attend. We welcome your comments and questions. As always, please feel free to email me or the Board of Trustees, or use the feedback form by clicking the tab to the left.
— Peter Fuller, Library Director