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Building the Library's Future

The Library is excited that it is taking steps to determine the physical needs to sustain and grow its programs and services and will be applying for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) grant. In October and November 2023, the Library conducted a community analysis, hosted meetings, focus groups, interviews, and conducted a survey to help us better understand residents' evolving needs and aspirations. The findings will be used to produce a Needs Assessment that will be used to prepare a building program that will be included in the MPLCP grant application. 

While the MPLCP grant is substantial (see below for the award amount), it will not provide the full cost of completing a building modernization plan if awarded the grant. Knowing this, as well as recognizing the other Town building projects currently in the pipeline, the Library Trustees voted in February to expend $150,000 from the Library's trust funds to complete the planning and design phase of the project so as not to further burden taxpayers. In May, Town Meeting will be asked to allow the Trustees to move forward with the grant application and the expenditure of the trust funds.

Related Press Release

What is the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) grant?

The MPLCP grant is a state funded program help pay for major capital improvement projects, from initial planning through construction. The feedback collected from the survey and meetings will be used to create a Building Program and apply for the MPLCP grant.

Does this mean Dedham is getting a new library building?

At this point we do not know whether the public program and building grant will lead to a new library building.

This phase of the process does not include what, if anything, will be done with our current buildings.

If we are awarded the grant, phase two will be the planning and design phase which will include determining what to do with our current buildings (renovate, build new -- if new then where, etc.).

Why is Dedham applying for the MPLCP grant?

For more than 50 years, study after study has shown that the library buildings are not adequate to properly serve the Dedham community. A 1977 report concluded that “the present library building and facility in Dedham is critically inadequate.” That report cites a 1967 survey that stated “the building was too small to meet preset day demands…that many programs which represent the library’s attempts at adult education…have been canceled because the latter [space] were not provided in the present building.” Similar sentiments are found in reports from 2003 and 2013. 

Yet the Library has continued to reach residents. From 2003 to 2023, physical circulation of library material increased 32.7%, reference questions increased 95%, and program attendance increased 831%. While the library is thriving, it has long been clear that the physical space is inadequate and hinders more, bigger, and better programs and collections.

Main Library

The Main Library opened in 1888. In 1952, the Main Library underwent a major transformation which resulted in the addition of the children’s wing and basement program space, creating a three-storied building, approximately 12,000 square feet.

While a beautiful structure, it is not by any stretch accessible. The way the Main Library was designed and expanded over the last 135 years has created a building with six different stairways, three interior doorways with one or more steps, four thresholds of half an inch or more, one inaccessible exterior door, and four inaccessible emergency exits.

Just inside the only entrance with a ramp is a doorway with an inch tall threshold. The basement consists of four different levels, and there are two separate second floors. The Main Library does not have an elevator and given the different areas and levels, installing elevators and/or chairlifts is cost prohibitive.

There are three primary program spaces at the Main Library: the children's room on the main level, the media room in the basement, and an area on the adult side of the main level which also houses part of the adult non-fiction collection. When programs are held in the accessible areas, patrons need to walk through the program to access the collection.

Programs that are more sensitive in nature, such as our Memory Care Cafe or Medicare Workshops, are held in the open where anyone that enters the adult area can observe. Since part of the main level is being used for programming space, this has reduced the amount of accessible study tables and computers the library can provide.

There is little to no storage on the main level, and only a small number of folding tables and chairs are able to be kept on the main level. This requires library staff to carry chairs up and down stairs to set up programs. This is not only inefficient but could also lead to staff injuring themselves.

There is only one single-stall bathroom that is accessible. Two gendered bathrooms are downstairs but aren’t accessible.

Parking is extremely limited with an oddly shaped, blindspot-filled lot for staff and patrons to share.

Endicott Branch

In 1973, the Library acquired a large garage on property not owned by the Library and converted it to the Endicott Branch Library.

The Endicott Branch is one level and approximately 3,000 square feet. Although the building is fully accessible, the layout is not conducive to large programs. Space makes it difficult to have children’s programs for groups larger than 20 and adults programs larger than 15. Demand frequently outpaces available space. The open and linear floor plan also allows noise to travel from one end of the building to the other.

If Dedham is awarded the MPLCP grant, what costs would be covered?

If awarded the MPLCP grant, up to $100,000 of the planning and design costs will be covered, and up to 63% of eligible construction costs. The funding formula for the construction phase is below:

Eligible Cost
Incremental State Share
Example for Project Cost of $15,000,000
First $5,000,000 60% of estimated eligible cost up to $5,000,000 $5,000,000 x 60% = $3,000,000
$5,000,000 - $10,000,000 45% of estimated eligible cost between $5,000,000 and $10,000,000 $5,000,000 x 45% = $2,250,000
$10,000,000 - $20,000,000 35% of estimated eligible cost between $10,000,000 and $20,000,000 $5,000,000 x 35% = $1,750,000
$20,000,000 - $50,000,000 30% of estimated eligible cost between $20,000,000 and $50,000,000
Community Economic Need Factor
4.68%* of award subtotal
$7,000,000 x 4.68% = $327,600
Total Award
$7,327,600 (48% of Project Cost)

*The Economic Need Factor is determined by using 2023 State Equalized Evaluation and 2023 Department of Revenue income figures; Dedham's Economic Need Factor is 4.68%.

What is the grant timeline?

October 2023 - May 2024 Community analysis, development of building program, prepare grant application
May 31, 2024 Grant application due
June-August 2024 Independent review of applications and reviewer site visits to applicant libraries
September 2024 Grant recipients recommended to MBLC Director
October 2024 Commissioners vote to approve immediately funded and waitlisted grant recipients; MBLC contracts executed with grant recipients
If Dedham is awarded the MPLCP grant:
October 2024 - December 2025 Planning & Design for Standard Grant recipients
December 2025 - January 2026 Independent review of MPLCP Level of Design
February 2026 Estimates based on MPLCP Level of Design; Construction phase grant awards calculated
March 2026 Commissioners vote to approve Construction phase grant awards
March - June 2026 Certified votes for local approvals and appropriations for Construction phase local funding
June 2026 - June 2027 Design work from completion of schematic design through construction documents
July 2027 Bidding
August 2027 Construction contracts for projects (usually 16 to 24 months)