In 2013, public libraries across the Commonwealth were “bursting at the seams” and had not seen capital investment from the state in more than a decade. These libraries provide critical access to literacy, education, job skill development, and Internet services. They also serve as economic development anchors for communities in distress and as sources of community pride. The demands on libraries had risen dramatically during the economic recession and far outstripped the libraries’ capacities.
We began working with the Louisville Library Foundation and libraries across the state on a plan to effectively communicate this story to key officials in the Beshear and Bevin Administrations and the Legislature. A mechanism existed already for the state to help with capital construction — the Public Library Facilities Construction Fund — but the fund needed an increased allocation in the budget. Grants from this fund are awarded through a competitive process and awardees receive a payment every year to be used to help pay down construction borrowing.
Our coalition was able to get the Governor and Legislative leaders to increase the library construction fund during the 2014 and 2016 budget sessions of the General Assembly. Now libraries in an additional twenty counties are getting support with much-needed capital projects, using these state funds to leverage local taxes and private donations to finance new facilities and better meet the growing needs of their communities.