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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Developing a Library Building Program: Joint and Shared Facilities

What's the difference?

A Joint Public Library is one where two (or more) municipalities partner to build a single public library building to serve the combined population. Such a library is usually located at or near the border between the municipalities. The regulations require that at least one of the applicant municipalities be an eligible applicant according to the grant guidelines (605 CMR 6.03), and that a "joint public management plan establishing governance, fiscal and personnel management policies agreed upon by the municipalities proposing the joint public  library" must be submitted as part of the application (605 CMR 6.07(7)(e)(2)).

Joint Public Library projects are given priority in the awarding of grant funds by the MBLC (605 CMR 6.07(7)(c)).

A shared facility is one where two (or more) compatible departments within a single municipality operate within a single building. In these facilities, only the public library portion of the building is eligible for MBLC grant funds.

In 605 CMR 6.03, the definition of Proportional Cost states:

Where an Approved Public Library Project will share building space with other occupants, the space eligible for funding shall be that space certified for public library occupancy plus a proportional share of common spaces and services.  This proportionality may be based on space or time utilization. Some elements, such as rest rooms and HVAC controls, are not eligible for proportional funding and must be located in dedicated library space in order to be considered eligible.

Who's in charge?

Figuring out the roles and responsibilities is critical. Many shared and joint projects do not stand the test of time because these decisions are either not made or not enforced. A thorough and legally binding management plan must be signed by all parties.

There are multiple goals for the negotiations that precede the signing of the agreement: these include constructing the framework for the operation of the library so it may function without unneeded obstacles, disputes, or uncertainty; performing due diligence and establishing the legal owner of the facility, the collections, the furniture, and the equipment; and last, clearly articulating the role and responsibilities of each of the library partners using and/or staffing the facility. Since leadership personnel and institutional perspectives may dramatically change—even in the few short years between the initial informal discussions about the possibility of a joint library and the day the facility actually opens—it is imperative that the full scope of the decisions reached in the negotiation are in writing. The most secure way to guarantee the partnership into the future and avoid litigation and continuous internal disagreements is to take the time to develop a well-written and detailed—but not overly restrictive—binding contract.

 From Joint Libraries: Models That Work, by Claire B. Gunnels et al, p. 74