Barrett Passes Legislation to Help Struggling Public Libraries Gain Access to Construction Aid Funds
Public libraries got a boost this week as Assemblymember Didi Barrett’s (D - Columbia, Dutchess) legislation to make libraries in economically disadvantaged communities eligible for up to ninety percent of the approved construction costs passed the Assembly unanimously (A.10836B). The bill paves the way for small libraries in rural or urban communities to access increased funding for critically needed repairs and updates to their buildings and infrastructure.
“Anytime we can make it easier for libraries to upgrade their buildings and improve services it’s a win-win for the whole community,” said Assemblymember Barrett, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology. “I urge the Senate to pass this bill now so that struggling libraries in all parts of our state can avail themselves of this new option to receive greater state funding through the Construction Grant Program.”
The Public Library Construction Grant program currently provides $34 million in bonded funds to public libraries and library systems throughout the state for renovation and construction projects. By lowering the matching threshold to 10%, this legislation would make it easier for public libraries in severely economically disadvantaged communities to receive much-needed construction grants. In their application the library would need to demonstrate that it lacks the capacity to provide the current threshold of 25% of the project costs.
In addition to the new matching threshold, the bill makes permanent two provisions of the of 2011 Construction Grant Program: first, a provision authorizing funding of up to 75% of the project cost through the program, and, second, a provision that allows state matching funds to be used for the acquisition of vacant lands, which has become an important tool in the revitalization of urban centers.