Public Library Construction Grant Program Webcast Series

Part 1: Program Overview

My name is Lynne Webb and I am a Library Development Specialist and program manager for the Public Library Construction Program.

The purpose of this webcast is to provide information for public libraries interested in learning about the New York State Library Public Library Construction Grant Program.       

Part 1 of the webcast will provide an overview of the Program including program basics, where to find additional program resources, and where to begin. 

This webcast is geared towards new public library applicants or new library staff who may be unfamiliar with the program, but it can also be used as a refresher for libraries as needed. 

The statutory basis for the public library construction program is: NYS Education Law – Secs 253, 272, and 273–a.  Program regulations can be found in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Sec 90.12.

It is useful to review these references as a first step in understanding the program.

The primary intent of the construction program is to expand library services, collections and programs for all New Yorkers through upgrading and modernizing public library facilities. 

Over the past seven years the State Library has awarded a total of $98 million impacting hundreds of unique library buildings across the state.  Projects have included: improving access for persons with disabilities, increasing energy efficiency, insuring health and safety, providing increased capacity for the public to access and use new technologies, and providing suitable spaces for community engagement, lifelong learning and library collections. 

Additional Successful outcomes of the PLC program include: helping libraries achieve Leed certification. By installing solar panels, energy efficient lighting and updating heating and cooling systems libraries are working toward being designated as ‘green buildings” and becoming “Leed-certified”.  (LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is transforming the way we think about how our buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe. Comprehensive and flexible, LEED is a green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle recognizing best-in-class building strategies.)

 Libraries that have improved buildings have been able to partner with other agencies and organizations ex workforce readiness skills, small business development, citizenship, ESOL classes, parenting classes, distance learning to name a few.

Finally construction grant funds have helped several libraries rebuild after the devastating storms we have experienced in the past few years here in New York.

Education Law 273-a contains a formula that predetermines the allocation of overall construction grant funding for projects within each of the 23 public library systems in the State.  The formula allocates sixty percent of the State appropriation based on the population of each public library system. The law requires that this sixty percent be used for member library building projects. The remaining forty percent is divided equally among the 23 public library systems and may be used for either member library or library system building projects.  The majority of the State funding is consistently used for member library projects.

Libraries from the 23 Public Library Systems are invited by their systems to apply for funds.  Libraries work with their systems and submit all application materials to the system. Deadlines are set by the individual systems.

Application/Project Criteria

Keep the following criteria in mind as you develop your projects/applications:

  • Libraries who received a construction grant award in any previous year are eligible to apply for funding even if the project for which previous funding was received is not yet complete. However, a library cannot receive funding for the same project more than once. The project for which funding is being requested must be separate and distinct from any project(s) previously funded. 
  • Libraries with multiple buildings may submit more than one application, but only one application per building. An example of this might be a Main library which has several branches. A project application can be submitted for each branch.
  • Projects cannot be completed at the time of application.  This program does not fund retroactive projects.
  • There is a minimum grant award of $2500 (total project cost of $5000) There is no maximum grant award amount.

Match Requirement

The program has a match requirement.  Currently the law allows for up to seventy-five percent of the project approved costs for applicants that are located in an “economically disadvantaged community”. If the applicant is not located in an “economically disadvantaged community” the law allows for fifty percent of the project cost.  The applicant’s library system sets the criteria and determines whether or not an applicant is eligible for the reduced match amount.  

Let's review the Grant Activity Period

Grant Activity Period

For applications submitted in 2014, the grant activity period runs from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017. Grant projects must start within 180 days of approval.

There is a three-year allowance for project completion under the Construction Grant Program. The 1st year of the grant cycle involves:

  • Project Application Submission
  • Review by Library System
  • Review by State Library
  • Review by DASNY
  • Project Award

If a project is not completed by the end of the second year, June 30, 2016, the library or library system must file a progress report with the State Library requesting an extension to be granted for the third year. There is no allowance for further extensions beyond the third year. If a project is not completed by June 30, 2017, the State Library must request the return of any unexpended state money awarded for the project. 

Grant Funds can be used to pay for expenses incurred from July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2017

Applicants can use match funds to pay expenses incurred starting January 1, 2014.

Grant Awards

Grant awards are made after a thorough review and approval process.  The awards are competitive at the library system level and system recommendations are made to the State Library.

The State Library does a thorough review and approval of the submitted applications and sends them on to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), where applications proceed through a second review and approval process. After DASNY gives its approval, the State Education Department approves the award list and local legislators are notified of their local awards prior to the awards being publicly posted. Other agencies such as the State Historic Preservation Office and the State Education Department’s Office of Facilities Planning are also involved in reviewing and approving certain projects.

If a library system is unable to use its formula allocation in a particular year, Education Law provides the State Library with the authority, during the grant application review and approval process to equitably reallocate any unused grant funds for underfunded projects in other library systems. 

If a Public Library is interested in applying for a construction grant the first step is to contact the Library’s System, the earlier the better.  It is always a good idea to speak with a system contact to: talk about the project, and ask preliminary questions.

Look over the Public Library Construction website, including the Grant Program Guidelines and Instructions and the FAQ, both of which provide detailed program information.  

Finally, libraries interested in applying for a grant need to Register for an online account and get a user name and pass word to gain access to the online application.

This is the online form available for registering for an online account. (This link is also available on the Public Library Construction Library Development webpage) Fill in the required information and submit. A username and password will be sent via email.

The first time an applicant logs into the system, the applicant will be asked to change the password and set up security questions.  These questions will be used in case the password is forgotten.  Passwords must be at least 8 characters long and include one numeric character, and they cannot be the same as a username or the default password.

If an applicant forgets a password, click the link ‘I forgot my password’ and answer the security questions in order to reset the password.  If the answers to the security questions have been forgotten, please contact LibDevGrants@mail.nysed.gov to reset the password.

For security reasons applicants will be prompted to update passwords periodically, when this occurs please follow the online instructions for updating the password.

Thank-you for viewing this webcast and please feel free to contact me with any questions (Lynne.Webb@nysed.gov).  If you are interested in applying for a grant please proceed to Part 2 of this series for information on completing an online application.

Last Updated: October 28, 2014 -- asm