Residents in Reading and Salisbury are expected to vote next year on new library projects now that the state has awarded grants to pay for about 50 percent of the construction costs.
The towns now have nine months to finalize plans and gain the local approval needed to match the state funding.
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners recently announced $41.8 million in grants for eight communities, including $5.1 million for Reading and $3.8 million for Salisbury. The other communities receiving funds were Belmont, Framingham, Shrewsbury, Scituate, Edgartown, and Acushnet.
“With the town’s continued support, this award will enable our wonderful library to better serve the Reading community for at least several more generations,’’ said Ruth Urell, director of the Reading Public Library.
Reading residents are expected to vote on the library project at a Special Town Meeting in January or February, Urell said. Voters in the town election April 2 will decide on a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion to fund the town’s share of about $7.1 million. The entire project would cost about $12.2 million.
Urell said a new library is needed because the current building has inflexible space due to inadequate infrastructure; no room to increase or update technology; no place to plug in a computer or laptop. The dark corners, dead-end stacks, and hidden areas make supervision of public spaces difficult, and public safety and accessibility issues need to be addressed. The roof leaks, the basement sometimes floods and is often damp, and the gutters, masonry, and windows need major repairs.
In Salisbury, the town is expected to vote sometime next year on funding for its library project, said Salisbury Public Library director Terry Kyrios. She said the trustees and the building committee need to get together to work out details and set dates. The town’s share of the $7 million project would be about $3.2 million, she said.
Kyrios said the town has a desperate need for a new library because the current building is outdated and doesn’t have enough space. She said there is no meeting room, not enough parking, and no room for young adults. Book sales, she said, have to be held at a different location.
“We are so pinched for space, we are fighting for inches,’’ Kyrios said.
Shrewsbury and Framingham may also vote as early as next spring, but Belmont is still finalizing a site for its new library and will likely seek an extension for local approval, said Belmont Public Library director Maureen Conners.
“We’re going to do our best,’’ Conners said. “We did get the grant and now we need to try to get things moving.’’
The Belmont project calls for spending $19 million on a new library to be built on one of the Belmont High School practice fields. The library has pledged $2 million in private fund-raising, leaving taxpayers with a cost of about $10 million, Conners said.
Belmont received state funds in 2008 but had to turn down the money after the town decided to hold off on the project. It’s not a done deal this year either, but Conners is hopeful all the logistics, including the site, can be resolved.
In order to build on the school department land, the town must come up with a replacement for the practice field, Conners said.
One idea being studied calls for moving the Underwood Pool, which is in need of repairs, a short distance closer to the playground on Concord Avenue, allowing for a new field to be built where the pool was located.
Conners said a new library is needed because the current one is outdated. She said all mechanical systems are original and past their useful life. She said the library does not have any quiet study space, lacks enough computers, and is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“We’re a high-volume library so the building gets a lot of traffic,’’ she said. “It’s pretty tight.’’
In Framingham, space is also an issue. The town would use grant money for a new $8.6 million McAuliffe Branch Library, said Framingham Public Library director Mark Contois. It would be located in the town’s Nobscot section, near more than half of Framingham’s public schools. The new branch would provide a larger children’s room, dedicated space for young adults, and more public computers and outlets for laptops. The building would also be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and feature a meeting room, several study rooms, comfortable reading chairs, and easy-to-reach shelves. Because the new branch would have just one floor, it would not require more staff.
Contois said the current McAuliffe branch, located in the nearby Saxonville neighborhood, is one of the smallest branch libraries in the state, yet one of the busiest.
“We’ve got a tremendous mission and vision, but it’s too small,’’ Contois said.
The library will ask Framingham Town Meeting to fund the town’s $3.8 million in a few months. The Framingham Public Library Foundation has pledged to raise $600,000.
Shrewsbury Public Library director Ellen Dolan said her town wasn’t expecting to hear any news until next year, but officials are thrilled and will immediately work on design changes such as cutting the proposed square footage by 10 percent.
“It’s unexpected good news so we’re just now working on a schedule and plan,’’ Dolan said.
Hoping to capitalize on a good construction climate, Dolan said the town went for a debt exclusion vote in October 2011. Residents did not know the status of the state grant then, however, and rejected the funding, Dolan said.
Now that the grant has been approved, the Board of Selectmen and library trustees will decide when to bring it back to the voters.
The proposal, before any design changes, calls for a $19.1 million library.
After state funding and private fund-raising, Dolan said the town would pay about $9.4 million.
“We’re optimistic the changes will satisfy the community’s concerns,’’ Dolan said.