Building Literacy: Public Library Construction

History of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program with Patience and Roe

June 30, 2020 Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Team Season 2 Episode 2
Building Literacy: Public Library Construction
History of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program with Patience and Roe
Chapters
Building Literacy: Public Library Construction
History of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program with Patience and Roe
Jun 30, 2020 Season 2 Episode 2
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Team

On this episode of Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, we delve into the history of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, which has been in existence since 1987. Founding Library Building Specialist, Patience Jackson, and former Library Building Specialist, Rosemary Waltos, join Lauren and me to discuss both the impetus and evolution of our unique and robust program.

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, we delve into the history of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, which has been in existence since 1987. Founding Library Building Specialist, Patience Jackson, and former Library Building Specialist, Rosemary Waltos, join Lauren and me to discuss both the impetus and evolution of our unique and robust program.

Andrea Bunker :

Welcome to Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, a podcast for librarians, trustees and local officials who are exploring or undertaking a renovation, expansion, or new construction project for their library. My name is Andrea Bunker.

Lauren Stara :

And my name is Lauren Stara. And we are the library building specialists who administer the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, a multi-million dollar grant program run by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which is the state agency for libraries.

Andrea Bunker :

While this podcast is Massachusetts focused. stakeholders in library building projects everywhere may find helpful information within these episodes. From fundraising and advocacy campaigns to sustainability and resilience to the planning, design, and construction process, there is something for everyone. If there is a public library building project topic we have not covered but that is of interest to you, please email me at Andrea Bunker@state.ma.us

Lauren Stara :

or me at Lauren.Stara@state.ma.us.

Andrea Bunker :

On this episode of Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, we delve into the history of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, which has been in existence since 1987. Founding library building specialist Patience Jackson and former library building specialist Rosemary Waltos joined Lauren and need to discuss both the impetus and evolution of our unique and robust program. Welcome to the show Patience and Roe. Patience as the founding staff member of the MPLCP would you like to begin by introducing yourself and telling the story of the program's early days?

Patience Jackson :

I'm Patience Jackson. I'm a librarian. I first came to work at the Board of Library Commissioners in November of 1988. Prior to that, I had had five other professional jobs, none of them in Massachusetts. I came here from New Hampshire as a matter of fact and from an academic library. It was interesting because in the interview, I thought I was going to assist Tom Plugh, who was the library building consultant in distributing $35 million. On my first day of work, I learned that Tom Plugh, was leaving for California after about 10 years at the MBLC and that the grant program was going to be my baby. Now, the roots of funding for library construction go back, of course, to Andrew Carnegie, and there are about 65 Carnegie Library buildings in the Commonwealth. A few of them have been demolished. But, aside from Andrew Carnegie's grants and the grants of a few local families for construction of a public library, there really hadn't been very much done. When I was up in New Hampshire, my assignment was to visit new library buildings in New England, and I really could only find one. So there had been a dearth, up until the mid-80s of library construction since Carnegie and the other family style funders. Now government funding for public libraries really goes back to the mid 1950s when there was a federal program established for funding for rural libraries only. And then in 1964 came the library services and construction act, which it provided construction funds from the federal government, in diminishing amounts I have to say, until about the mid 1990s. Now in Massachusetts, there had, of course, been some funding from the federal government towards library construction. But in the mid 1980s, Senator Patricia McGovern of Lawrence headed up a commission to study the conditions of public library buildings. And she initiated a recommendation for something that came to be known as Bulger Bill. William Bulger was the senate president, and the first authorization for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program was called an Act to Improve Public Libraries. Accordingly, the man who had been heading up the federal construction program, Tom Plugh, wrote regulations for the state construction program. He conducted the regulations approval process for 605 CMR 6.00. And then he wrote a grant application form, and he conducted workshops throughout the state. At that point, I attended one of these workshops. I had not accepted the job to be his assistant, but my head was spinning at the end of that workshop. As I recall, it was in the Wayland Public Library basement as a matter of fact. So I began work in mid November 1988. Everything was in place. Tom Plugh took off for California to be an assistant in a program out there, and I was left alone to accept the incoming grant applications. On January 4 1989, we received 100 grant applications. Now each grant application was a three or four inch binder. Each applicant had to submit five binders and one full sized set of working drawings. We had binders all over the office. And I remember one longtime employee came in to work and took one look around and decided she would take the day off. Of those hundred applicants, 94 of them were accepted and six could not be accepted because they were missing components. There were two stringent requirements for these first applications. The first requirement was that the library should have its local funding in place and the second requirement was that it should have design development drawings. Design development drawings are extremely detailed, and they show things like the plumbing and the heating systems, not just the layout. So, my wish as a newcomer to the state was to keep this whole grant review process, apolitical. I had assembled teams of outside the agency and out-of state-reviewers. Each team was to have five members, three of those members would be from outside the agency and include at least one person from out of state, and there would be two MBLC staff members on each team. So it was a total of 34 people divided into five groups. There were 18 Massachusetts librarians who had experienced some kind of construction and presumably could read drawings. There were nine librarians for Connecticut. There were three library trustees. There were three academic librarians and there was one librarian from New Hampshire. Each group was assigned from eight to 11 projects of only one type. The types were completed renovation/addition, a renovation, or new building, handicapped access, energy conservation, roof replacement, and a new category planning and design. Now, these reviewers were all volunteers. The questionnaire was a nine page document, they had to read each of their assignments and provide a score and comment on around 50 questions per grant application, and then they came together for a group meeting to discuss all their assigned projects, and then we totaled the scores for their group. At the end of it all, the outcome was presented to the Board of Library Commissioners for their review. And funding was recommended for 54 of the 94 projects under consideration. This was a public meeting. It was in the Framingham Public Library meeting room as I remember, and this was the first time that the applicants learned the outcome of the grant. After the board meeting and vote, there was an appeal period that ran about six weeks in April and May of 1989. All of the disappointed applicants who had received no funding plus some of the applicants who had received funding that was less than what they'd been fantasizing, were invited to come into the MBLC office and sit with the director and assert themselves. We had a lot of very disappointed and frustrated people. And in each case, they would state their qualifications and project and so forth. And then our director, Roland Pigford, would smile charmingly and say to them, well, we want to think about this further, and our staff will visit your library. I was the staff. So I hit the road and I did around 30 visits in the next few months. There were a few minor changes in funding recommendations, but basically, it did all remain the same. So we had gone public. The next thing, of course, is that the funding which had been authorized by the House and Senate had to be inserted into the cap, the capital budget of the Commonwealth. And at first, we were told by the statehouse operatives, that the state really didn't have a role to play in library construction. But our grant recipients stepped up to the plate. And by 1991, the $35 million had been included in the capital budget. To give credit where credit is due, this was under the Dukakis administration, and the Secretary of Administration and Finance was Ed Lashman, whom I only met once.

Lauren Stara :

So Patience, it took three years for the money, after the authorization for the money, to actually be available. Wow.

Patience Jackson :

Yes, the word library had never appeared in the capital budget before that.

Andrea Bunker :

So how did the program differ or remain true to the LSCA II funding for capital projects that was provided by the federal government?

Patience Jackson :

Well, the federal government required that any project be planned for 20 years, and so does the Massachusetts project. And of course, when you think about what changes can happen in 20 years, if you just look back to the year 2000 from now, it's almost impossible to look at that far, except by population growth.

Rosemary Waltos :

I think the other similarity between the LSCA program and the Massachusetts program, isn't it the fact of the library has to continue to function as a library?

Patience Jackson :

Yes, you can build a new building and move into it and five years later sell it to a developer. So we require ownership or a 99 year lease. That's a whole other can of worms. But physically the building has to remain a free public library for 20 years. And that is quite a commitment for the local municipality to meet.

Unknown Speaker :

And Roe, did you want to introduce yourself to our listeners as well?

Rosemary Waltos :

Oh, yeah. Okay, so my name is Rosemary Waltos. I was a library director, both in Massachusetts and Maine for almost 25 years before I started working at the Board of Library Commissioners in 2008. And so I, I became part of the team there and I left in 2018. And I was the director of a small public library that received one of the state grants, I think it was 1999, maybe or 1998. And Patience was very influential and helpful in helping us secure the grant in terms of helping me evaluate and assess the building and look at preliminary designs. So that's my background.

Andrea Bunker :

And I know that you weren't there for the creation of MPLCP, but you have been there for different iterations of the program as it has evolved throughout time. So,

Rosemary Waltos :

yeah, I was there when the bond was passed in 2008, to fund the rest of the waiting list from 2005. Grant round, and helped launch the 2010-11 construction grant round, and then a planning design grant in 2014, and then the 2016 construction grant.

Andrea Bunker :

So between the two of you, there's a lot of experience with the program and how it has changed and how it has stay the same. In terms of the creation of the MPLCP, what do you think the biggest challenges were and how did you build consensus and support with state officials? Patience, you mentioned that you had only met the Secretary of A&F once before, and that this was a new initiative for the state to undertake. So what really became challenging about that creation of the program?

Patience Jackson :

In every case, the Dukakis administration ended in 1991. The next governor was Bill Weld, and guess what? His Secretary of Administration and Finance in 94 to 98 was Charlie Baker. Now, in any of these cases, you have to hope that the new governor and the new administrator are users of a public library or at least familiar with what the library stands for in their community. Another factor that was quite useful starting in 1990 was The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was a federal law, and that became the impetus for a lot of support on both the federal and state levels for upgrading these buildings. Those original Carnegies, none of them had a ramp. All of them had multi levels. You can't put an elevator in an old building without a lot of rewiring at the minimum and probably structural work. So the Americans with Disabilities Act really didn't have the word library in it, but it impacted a lot of the projects following 1990 and made them more critical to the cities and towns as they worked to upgrade their other municipal facilities as well. Another factor was the support and the lobbying effort at the state level by the local municipalities and the local trustees. Once they knew that they could expect a grant, they had an inspiration and impetus to go forward in reminding their elected officials of the importance of this grant, and that it'd be funded. That it would be real money.

Andrea Bunker :

So it was really the local level that pushed the state legislature to fund this program.

Patience Jackson :

And there were some very articulate commissioners on the Board of Library Commission. But I myself did not have to go begging to State House.

Andrea Bunker :

So what were some of the lessons that you learned from the experience with the first grant round, and how did that inform the future grant rounds that you ran the program?

Patience Jackson :

Well, the first lesson was to requirement for a design development joins was excessive for the purposes of our review, which were to analyze the need and the planning. So we backed off and said that the application could include schematic design, a much more basic level of design work. Two reasons for that. First is that design development drawings are a great deal more expensive, and by the time design development has been completed, it's really too late for a state agency to step in and say you're barking up the wrong tree. You need more parking, you need a bigger building, you need a smaller building, you need a whole new building. It's too late at that stage. Too many people are committed, too much money has been committed, too much time has been committed to the project. People on the local level are in love with it at that point. So schematic design was a more basic approach. The other thing is that the requirement for local funding to be in place was backed off on. That's because it's impossible to really estimate a budget for a schematic design with any degree of accuracy. And because until the project becomes real on the local level, it's impossible to achieve local funding, so the seed grant was to encourage the local municipality and local donors to step up to complete the project. Another change was that in 1995 and 96, there were two grand rounds for a total of $75 million. After the 1996 grant round, we went public with a waiting list. The waiting list was in preferential order, and that was arranged by the scores of the review groups. And the preferential order was also, frankly, a fishing expedition. We went public with the projects that we were approving that were ready to be built. The only piece of the action was that the 1996-97 state officials had to put the money in the capital budget. Again, that was the Weld administration. And eventually they did, piecemeal they did, but it was the act of going public that was effective.

Andrea Bunker :

Now at that time, did you get an authorization for a bond bill and then have an annual cap, or were you able to spend whatever the authorization was within whatever time it took to complete the projects?

Patience Jackson :

The annual cap was always independent of the authorization, and the annual cap would be spread over the time that it took to build the building. So there was an upfront payment, and then a second payment. I can't remember all the details, but the final payment might be three or four years out from when Construction began to the completion of the building.

Andrea Bunker :

And that was for all projects, or did you only had so many projects going at one time?

Patience Jackson :

Every year is different. Some of the small projects really only took two years, so they might begin in 97 and be complete in 98. Some of the larger projects took three years between design and groundbreaking and completion. I'm sure this whole scheme must have driven the local municipal finance directors crazy.

Andrea Bunker :

In terms of them having to bond more and spend more of their own capital and wait for reimbursement from the state?

Patience Jackson :

Yes.

Andrea Bunker :

Now in that first grant round, you were also funding single purpose projects such as HVAC repair, roof repair. They were a much smaller scale in some instances, and now we require whole building.

Patience Jackson :

Well, the problem with a roof repair is it's really the legitimate responsibility of the local municipality, or if it's a private library of the local Board of Trustees. It's maintenance, and it's very hard to conceive of spending hard won state capital money on local building maintenance. We were somewhat more enthusiastic about energy projects because it leaves If the building was built in 1918, and it still has a coal fired furnace, which a few of them did, it's it's easier to get behind getting them a new furnace at any cost. But those were all very small grants. Of the energy projects we funded seven out of seven very small amounts; of the roof projects really funded four of a 11.

Lauren Stara :

And just just to clarify that they were not repair projects, they were new roofs and new HVAC systems.

Patience Jackson :

Yes, they were those big old tile roofs, and they deteriorated, and they'd been leaking a while. And yes, it was a big deal for the local library. In some cases, they had to create matching tile by going to a tile manufacturer with the original sample because of course, these historic buildings have to be approved by Mass. Historic Commission, so they had to make historic tiles or something like that. Nevertheless, if a library doesn't have an intact roof, it's going to go out of business.

Andrea Bunker :

So as you moved from those types of projects into whole building, how did the program evolve to just encompass whole building projects, whether it be a renovation, a renovation/addition, or a new building? And are there other ways that the program evolved from that first grant round?

Patience Jackson :

Well, the original legislation had permitted grants to energy and roofs and maintenance and handicapped access. But it was a mistake to fritter that money away on stuff that really could be achieved by the local municipality, even by a private donor. Even though a new roof is not a romantic thing to donate. Those were small things. And as I said before handicapped access project had multiple huge implications. And some of them would force the library to abandon its historic building, let it be a museum and walk away and build a new building. Another example is the glass floors stacks, which these antique buildings had in spades. A glass floors stack is can be pictured like a series of cake racks with a lot of air flowing up and topped by a skylight. All of that air flowing up can create a chimney in a fire. It can create a fire trap for a human that's in the book stack. It can create a chimney for any fire, but we had quite a few book stacks like that, but the most famous book stack fire was actually in the Los Angeles Public Library where they lost the entire building, oh, somewhere in the early 90s, I guess. But some of that stuff had to be taken care of either by abandoning it or contriving demolition of your book stack in favor of good, clean, secure, fireproof floors. Matter of fact, I have one of those glass board stacks. It's a big slab about four feet by three feet and two inches thick. It's green, and it's been made into a coffee table. It's a delightful coffee table, but it was part of three story book stack at one time, and I won't say which town it was in. It cost $75 to buy the slab.

Rosemary Waltos :

Can I interject just for a second? Because I think there's two things that Patience might want to talk about. One how the planning and design grant round came to being. And I think it would be interesting, Patience, if you talked about bringing small libraries into the fold, how we were able to expand the program, which was a lot of large libraries, and bringing in the small libraries, especially out in the West.

Patience Jackson :

The planning and design was authorized in the original legislation. We made only three planning design grants in 1989, and they were not a success. In each case, when the applicant got the money in their hot little hands, they had a capital project that took precedence over anything like planning and design. They didn't want to do planning and design. They took the money and they did building fabric restoration, thereby instilling in me a cynicism. And we had to clear all of that up that if you accept planning and design grant, $20,000 at that point, you've got to do legitimate planning and design. You can't recaulk the basement and build a new drawbridge to your castle. So in some later cases, planning and design grants did generate the kind of local vision that was needed, because it's easy for a board of trustees to sit around a table at night and visualize what might be done, add a word here, move the children to the attic, but they're not confronting the hard realities of what their existing site and structure are capable of doing. And the introduction of an architect into the mix is where they hit the wall on the romance of their present miserable situation. What was your other question?

Rosemary Waltos :

Well wait a minute, just as the planning and design, at one point early on in the program wasn't planning and design only available to the smaller libraries, because they're the ones that couldn't afford to prepare the grant application?

Patience Jackson :

Well, that came from politics and from the complaining of the small libraries. So after the 96 round, we did two things. There was an associate library building consultant slot, injected into the program, the associate library building consultant was to work almost exclusively with smaller libraries.

Rosemary Waltos :

So that person became your team member, a person that you work with. So originally, that was my position. And then when Lauren came on board, we change that a little bit.

Patience Jackson :

Yes.

Rosemary Waltos :

And so that position was exclusive to the small library

Patience Jackson :

That's right. And the $20,000 grant was a good leg up for the small library, and it wouldn't have made any difference at all in the larger library in the scheme of things. So it was targeted towards small libraries. I can't remember what defines a small library. It's something like under 10,000.

Rosemary Waltos :

Under, yeah, yeah. And then at some point, the planning and design grant became open to all libraries of all sizes. I don't know when that was.

Patience Jackson :

I don't know what it was.

Rosemary Waltos :

And that was the way, probably it was planning and design that was able to get the small libraries the initial funding they needed to be able to put in grant applications. And so now we were able to fund more readily across the state.

Patience Jackson :

Well, that was the claim, but I have to say I searched my soul, and there was no prejudice against a particular region. According your population, of course, we've got more in the East, but we had a fair number of projects in the West. I've been to Williamsburg and Agawam, and Springfield, and Pittsfield, and Mount Washington and all of those out in the West. There are also some architects who will do pro bono work in designing something out West. There really wasn't a prejudice against small libraries or Western libraries. I would say that a larger project could afford to hire a building consultant to write a building program, possibly, but I made chart after chart. We had always a fair number of applicants from small towns.

Rosemary Waltos :

Well, that might have been a perception.

Patience Jackson :

It was a perception.

Rosemary Waltos :

More than anything, and the libraries you list, many of them are the bigger libraries in the western part of the state. But I think there's there's pressure always in the program from state officials: "Why should we fund small libraries in the West when the bulk of the population is in the East?" So I think that's a perception, too, and it's helpful to try to bust that perception.

Patience Jackson :

And part of the activity that the agency undertook was indeed to improve on that perception.

Andrea Bunker :

Are there any other ways that the program evolved over time?

Rosemary Waltos :

You can mention the change in the funding in terms of how much funds were given saying the 2005 grant round and how that was boosted in 2010.

Patience Jackson :

Okay, back in 1989 funding was based upon a very complex formula that was established by the agency director, Roland Pickford. He was a statistician, and he prepared a formula that combined 20 different elements of library support, from the funding levels, the historic funding levels, the circulation levels, it's impossible to say what all he put into this. So you came out the other end, the original funding had authorized up to 75% of a project cost to be state money; there's no way that was going to happen. So Rowan's formulas were applied to this 75% in order to derive the funding level and the funding levels ranged from 20% to 40%, say, but mostly they were in the 25% in that first round. In the second round, in the 95-96 rounds, they were, there was a revised formula. It was no 30% of the first 2,000,000, 20% of the second 2 million. I'm just talking off the top of my head, 10% of the third 2 million. It was, the bigger the project, the more the funding level dropped. That was the principal. So if you're looking at a $10 million project, you might only get two and a half or 3 million for Forgive me, but I was known as the cheapest librarian in New Hampshire. And the issue was how to come up with enough of a state share to trigger a local response to complete the funding, so this stage share became the carrot and the deadline was the stick. Now, in later rounds, the funding level rose, the formula rose up to a level of 40 or 50%. Rosemary, you could remember more about that than I can.

Rosemary Waltos :

That happened before I came on Board, but that was put in place for the 2010-11 grant round.

Patience Jackson :

Yes.

Rosemary Waltos :

And and that was done because the Board felt that the construction program had to compete with the school construction program. So we had members of the Board that felt it needed to go up.

Patience Jackson :

Yes, the trouble is the bigger grants mean a longer waiting list and a longer wait..

Rosemary Waltos :

Yeah. Well, and as time goes on, each grant is higher. Even a small project is way higher than it was even in 2010. So.

Patience Jackson :

Correct.

Lauren Stara :

Can I ask a clarifying question cause Patience, you several times use the phrase project costs. And one of the things that I find myself spending a lot of time doing is explaining the difference between eligible costs and project costs and construction costs and total project costs. So were the early grants based on total project cost? Or was there always a separation between eligible costs and total costs?

Patience Jackson :

Yes, the eligible cost is defined as the cost to build the building, including architects' fees. That was in the original regulations. What the project cost includes, but the state money cannot go for, is furnishings, equipment, originally landscaping, so it's just the building and it's envelope that can be funded through the state program. The rest of it is local funds. A lot of fundraising goes on for that sort of thing. Eligible costs are what it takes to build the building. And that is defined in the regulation.

Andrea Bunker :

Is it true that some of the ineligible costs are ineligible due to legislative action or legislative wishes?

Patience Jackson :

Well, I think that goes back to the original legislation. Yes. It says no asphalt, no paving, no landscaping, no furniture, but we have to have these libraries planning to do all that on their own. So the project cost has to include that.

Rosemary Waltos :

Can we step back to another problem that I'm sure Lauren and Andrea you've gone through, we've all gone through, trying to describe the difference between the level of design expected for grant applications and what architects generally think of a schematic design or preliminary design.

Patience Jackson :

Well, a schematic design is not something that's done on the back or an old envelope. It has to be some detail to show the layouts of the building. But it does not have to show the plumbing pipes. It has to have exterior elevations. It has to have a site plan and site investigations, a whole other topic, but it doesn't need to be all the nitty gritty details. But it does require a significant amount of decision making. Is there a ledge to the left side of the building and we're going to need dynamite to blast it out? That's going to cost money. Is the back wall collapsing? That's going to cost money. That's all legitimate costs, but they have to do enough investigation to understand all that. If they want to build a library over an old town dump, they better understand how that's going to impact costs. There's a lot of PR to show people what something's gonna look like. Or if the decision is to walk away from the old building and build a new building, they need to have enough to show how beautiful the new building's gonna be.

Rosemary Waltos :

The other thing I always felt like they never understood that the state grant is not paying the full price.

Andrea Bunker :

I think it's interesting how we encounter the same issues that you've encountered, and we encounter the same sentiment and the same complaints.

Patience Jackson :

Anger.

Andrea Bunker :

And anger. Yes, it's very interesting. I do wonder if you can share a story or a few stories of trying times for the program and, on the flip side, a story or a few stories about the most successful moments of the program, the triumphs? You know, right now we're in a trying time for our program and have there been other trying times that the program has been able to overcome and surmount and grow stronger because of it.

Patience Jackson :

Oh dear, the trying times, mostly included, angry, rejected applicants or angry politicians. And there was one occasion where I ended up in a library basement with a local mayor who was very angry. And honestly, I was glad to get out of that basement alive. There was another occasion where I was in a mayor's office, and I called the local Library's children's room a joke and I thought that mayor was going to come across his desk and strangle me. So dealing with anger is one problem. As far as the highlights, it's probably the walkthroughs of completed buildings that I did. In every case, every completed building seems like a miracle in my mind.

Lauren Stara :

But weren't there times when we had promised grants to people in the state was stingy in releasing the funding, those kinds of situations over the years?

Patience Jackson :

Well, the waiting list always leads people to expect that they're going to get funded. And the capital budget really controls the funding flow. So getting a place in the capital budget is pivotal. And it doesn't always happen when times are poor. It happens less.

Rosemary Waltos :

Or it happens at a reduced at a reduced amount.

Patience Jackson :

Yes. Something that used to be $8 million, suddenly become six overnight, and that's because the state's gonna help with the MBTA or school building assistance or something else.

Rosemary Waltos :

Well, I could speak to the 2008 period. When I came on board was when the recession hit.

Patience Jackson :

Yes.

Rosemary Waltos :

But the bond for that funded the waiting list that was approved right before the recession hit. So the MBLC funded the entire waiting list, which was 30 libraries, knowing that not all 30 would go because of the recession. But I always thought it was amazing that so many libraries did go. I think about a third of them actually went forward with their projects. So I always use that as sort of a ray of hope when people said, "Oh, this is never going to happen", or "the state is never going to give us our money because times are tough" or whatever. I always went back to the 2008 bond and the fact that so many projects did go forward even in the depths of the financial recession. Now, I think it's different with the pandemic, what we're looking at. I think it's actually worse, but maybe it's the time frame that we're going to have to suffer through might be shorter. I'm not sure that upper speculation. But I think it was a low period, but you could also look at it as a high period, because the priorities were clear for many communities, that libraries were important enough, even in this time of recession. And then the other plus I think we can look at is that as we got out of the recession, and we went forward with the 2010 grant round, and the cap actually rose. I think that the cap was what about 10 million. We went down, the cap went down, I think it was 12 and then it went down, but when later and Lauren, I think this was maybe right before you came on board, we got to cap up to what 20 million.

Patience Jackson :

it's been $20 million.

Rosemary Waltos :

Am I right? Yeah. So

Lauren Stara :

It's been $20 million since 2013, when I started.

Rosemary Waltos :

Yeah, yeah. So it went from 10 to 20 in the course of just a few years that spanned the recession. So another bright spot.

Andrea Bunker :

So there's always hope.

Patience Jackson :

Well, and a town that is well off and has a bonding capability can borrow all the money against your eventual state payment. A lot of them have proceeded to construction.

Andrea Bunker :

Patience, you work as a consultant in other state, and Roe you built a library in another state. How does our program compare to others that exist throughout the nation or others that you may be aware of, because I know it's hard to keep tabs on everything that's happening in all 50 states and territories.

Patience Jackson :

Well, the program that stands out and has been a leader is Wisconsin library construction program. That was headed for many years by a very famous man, Anders Dahlgren, who is now retired. As I said, Tom Plugh from Massachusetts went to California to be the assistant consultant for that state's $75 million initial allocation. The man who headed up the California program had been in Georgia for many years before he went to California. Interestingly, after a while, Tom flew from Massachusetts, left California, and went to head up the program in Georgia. Connecticut has had a long standing and consistent library grant program for construction and so has Rhode Island, still current. New Jersey is just starting up on a program that will provide 50% funding. And I was contacted by sSeveral other states in the course of my tenure about what our program was like and how to set up legislation for it. The state that I'm most familiar with is New York. And I do not know if they still have a current program. Most states do not have a library construction program currently.

Rosemary Waltos :

And my experience is only in Maine in terms of out-of-state. I did two projects in Massachusetts and a project in Maine, and they have no construction program. When I got to Maine, they had only a $200 state aid program, which is now, I mean, that ended shortly after I got there. So they really provide no state support for construction. It's all locally funded. And it's a state that, as I remember, it doesn't abide by the same union regs for labor regs as Massachusetts. So the costs there are, I think a little lower, and there's no guidance. I always thought of Massachusetts as library land. When I got to Maine, I was like, there's no Patience here to help me. Although I will say that I think that I called Patience or I threatened our architects that I was going to call Patience and have her, you know, review my plans for for the main library. Architects will remain unnamed.

Patience Jackson :

But these funding programs do provide some leadership on the part of the state agency and, therefore, on the part of librarians for the lonely local librarian who's trying to plan the future.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think it's something to be proud of that our state is one of the leading states in this initiative. Whether or not we're the most robust, I guess that depends on how you look at it, but I think it's wonderful that we are providing this.

Patience Jackson :

Well, I don't know what the current numbers are, but there are over 200 of the 371 cities and towns that have received construction grants. And that is remarkable.

Andrea Bunker :

Yes. And it's in much thanks to you and to Roe, to Ann Larson, who was part of the program as well. Quite a legacy. That's amazing. Thank you for spending your hour with us learning about our construction program in Massachusetts from our MPLCP mavens, Patience and Roe. Join us next time as we discuss another important topic in relation to public library construction. As always, send any suggestions my way via email at Andrea.Bunker@state. ma.us. Until next time. Transcribed by https://otter.ai