Kentucky libraries seek additional construction funding from state

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By Amy Morgeson

Job applicants searching online for employment opportunities, workshop participants learning how to build a better resume, children learning to read or studying after school - these are just a few of the ways Kentuckians are taking increased advantage of their local libraries during tough economic times according to the Kentucky Public Library Association (KPLA). And they represent just part of the reason why local libraries have come together to ask the Kentucky Legislature to take advantage of an established state construction grant program.  The Kentucky Public Library Facilities Construction Grant program will allow communities to complete library expansion and renovation projects by leveraging local dollars with modest investments from the state.
According to KPLA Advocacy Chairman and Campbell County Library Director J.C. Morgan, the library grant program already exists and can be used to help complete ready-to-go library expansion and renovation projects across the state.  Nearly 300,000 square feet of new library space is planned, increasing Kentucky’s total public library capacity by more than 12 percent. Twenty-seven public libraries have already been built in 26 counties under this program.
“This is a prudent and progressive investment that makes sense during these difficult times,” said Morgan. “What other program can leverage one dollar from the state to turn it into $2.75?  Besides creating 1,600 construction jobs, these library projects will make a real difference in the lives of our citizens across the state, from Crittenden to Russell to Grant to Breathitt Counties.”  Twenty-three counties have identified local library projects that are ready to go.
Through the library grant program, local libraries take on construction loans or bonding to pay for the construction.  The state provides an annual grant to pay a portion of the debt service for twenty years. (State bonding capacity is not affected.) Statewide, local tax dollars and private contributions would cover nearly two-thirds of total construction costs. Construction must begin between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014 to be eligible.
Marion County Public Library is among the 23 that have applied for this grant.  If funding were approved by the state, paired with the small building fund that they have in place, plans to expand the library at their current location of 201 East Main would be achievable.  The expansion would also include renovation of the existing building and would allow for more space to be allocated for meeting rooms, quiet study rooms, a computer lab and more.  
Funding the public library construction grants requires a budget appropriation of $2 million in FY2012-13 and $4 million a year in FY2013-14 and beyond.
Based on the 23 projects already identified as ready-to-go, the state’s funding of $40 million of total construction costs will realize more than $110 million in construction activity and will create 1,600 jobs across Kentucky.  The expanded and new libraries will increase Kentuckians’ access to literacy, education and technology services, including state government services.
Said Morgan, “Our libraries provide vital services for people trying to learn workplace skills and keep up with technology.  We owe it to our communities to make sure we have the capacity to help make their lives better while being good stewards of their tax dollars.”
If you would like to learn more about how you can support Kentucky Libraries in this mission please contact: Amy Morgeson, library director, Marion County Public Library, (270) 692-4698.