Library market books another good year

Construction spending on new facilities and renovations escalates in a slow economy

February 01, 2003 |

Despite the sluggish economy, library construction spending increased 12.9% last year, according to a recent report by Library Journal, a sister publication of Building Design and Construction. Between July 2001 and June 2002, more than $788.4 million was spent by local, state, and federal governments on library construction work — the highest level in six years and a 12.9% increase from the 2000-2001 level of $686.4 million. Last year, 212 public library projects — including 101 new buildings and 111 additions and renovations — were completed, representing nearly 4.5 million sq. ft. of construction put in place.

Though library construction spending remains steady, the number of projects ties the third lowest count in 14 years. Only fiscal year 1998, with 197 projects, and fiscal year 1999, with 195, had fewer total projects. The completion of several huge libraries is one main reason for the discrepancy between construction dollars and number of projects. Massive projects include the new $65.3 million, 330,000-sq.-ft. Memphis (Tenn.) & Shelby County Public Library and the $47 million, 89,000-sq.-ft. Cerritos (Calif.) Library.

Funding for the 212 projects came predominantly from local governments, to the tune of $675.5 million, which represented 87% of total funding, The remainder came from charitable contributions/gift funds, which totaled $60 million (8%), and federal and state coffers, with $38 million (5%).

Libraries still struggling

Despite healthy construction spending levels, many libraries are facing a budget crunch, resulting in layoffs, closures, and cutbacks in operating hours, according to the Library Journal report. For instance, the Seattle Public Library — beneficiary of a $196.4 million bond issue and a hefty amount of private fundraising — found itself so short on operating funds that it closed for a week last August.


Library construction spending escalates despite tough economy

1999 2000 2001 2002
Source: Library Journal, a Reed Business Information publication
No. of new buildings 77 114 80 101
No. of additions/renovations 118 127 132 111
Sq. ft. of new buildings 1,555,583 1,752,395 1,924,548 2,144,185
Sq. ft. of additions/renovations 2,188,221 2,272,684 2,215,702 2,351,100
New construction costs $283,967,624 331,345,167 400,838,076 429,787,571
Addition/renovation costs $280,604,091 301,200,950 285,583,407 358,658,087
Total project cost $564,571,715 632,546,117 686,421,483 788,445,658

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