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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

MPLCP Library Building Programs: Joint and Shared Facilities

What's the difference?

A Joint Public Library is an undertaking by two (or more) cities or towns to provide public library service to all citizens of both municipalities within a single building. Such a library is usually located at or near the border between the municipalities. At least one of the municipalities must be an eligible Applicant as defined in the regulations (605 CMR 6.02), and a management plan establishing governance, fiscal, and personnel management policies agreed upon by the municipalities proposing the project must be submitted as part of the application.

Joint Public Library projects are given priority in the awarding of grant funds by the MBLC (605 CMR 6.07(7)(4)(c)), and are funded at a higher percentage than projects in single municipalities.


A Shared Building is a facility incorporating a public library and one or more compatible partners independent of the library and housed within one building. In these facilities, only the public library portion of the building is eligible for MBLC grant funds.

In 605 CMR 6.02, the definition of Proportional Project Cost states:

Funding eligibility is limited to that space designated for public library occupancy plus a proportional share of common spaces and services. This proportionality may be based on space or time utilization and will be approved by the Board. Restrooms and HVAC controls must be located in dedicated library space in order to be considered eligible, and separate restrooms and HVAC controls must serve non-library spaces. A dedicated space for library programming must be provided.

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