I heard that the MBLC was going to pilot a program to help fund building a library in a small town, and the trustees were interested. On April 7 we started our journey. The first step was participating in an interest and discussion group. Lauren Stara and Andrea Bunker introduced themselves as the project directors. Lauren described their roles as overseeing granting $20 million per year to libraries for construction projects. She described her credentials as an architect and a librarian. Andrea is a library specialist serving roles from librarian to director and several building project administrative roles. As they administer building projects it had become apparent that smaller communities had difficulties meeting the requirements. Therefore, this project developed as an opportunity to work collaboratively with the chosen town or community to construct a library that is efficient, functional, flexible, and durable. The MBLC works collaboratively with the town and the accelerated process will be documented and recorded so that future projects would have guidelines. The construction must be a new construction and the award will be 75% of eligible costs.
First, we identify the services needed to be provided by a library that meets the community needs and determine the spaces to fulfill these services. Then the square footage can be calculated and using the current rate the estimated cost can be determined. Then a plan is designed. Since learning about this project, we have been under the direction of these two highly talented construction specialists. We have attended a live group interview of trustees, staff, and town officials, we have visited newly constructed libraries in Erving and Monterey. We held a public forum for information on August 25, 2021, where over 40 people attended and many more participated via Zoom. We have collected input and feedback from the community and patrons through a feedback board at the town Hall, a spaces inventory at the library and a wish tree at the library. Trustees have conducted focus groups and we have distributed questionnaires to patrons as they come to the library. We have collected over 100 pieces of feedback. There is a positive reaction to the idea of a new library. Suggestions include a larger and better children’s space, a large group space for library events as well as for public meetings, private quiet study spaces and a makerspace for creation and learning for all ages. In addition to adding space a new library design could address many of our current needs such as handicap accessibility, potable water, HVAC and air purification, outdoor spaces, and exhibits. With more space we could build our collection and add an area for young adults with gaming and study capabilities.
Using this input, we created a library building plan which describes what we have, what we need and what we want. We have collected data on our population now as well as projected. We have described and measured our collection and we calculated what could be in a new library and projected the library collection for the next 20 years. A special town meeting was held on November 16th where there was a unanimous approval to formally apply for the Small Library Building Project. Application was filed on December 1, 2021. The site was identified as the Erbe site next to town hall, site details are under way. Also, as part of this application there has been a description of the town’s capacity to take on this financial project. The Building Plan was submitted on December 7, 2021. Now there will be an independent review and evaluation by a team of building specialists which will include site visits and interviews. Selection and notification will happen in February 2021. This has been a challenging endeavor, but the positive feedback and support for the library has made it a rewarding experience. We are thankful to have had this opportunity no matter the outcome.