US Libraries Need $32B for Construction and Renovations, Estimates Show

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The American Libraries Association says the average public library building is more than 40 years old and hundreds of buildings are more than 100 years old.

American libraries need $32 billion for construction and renovations and if funding levels stayed the same, it would take 25 years to meet today’s needs, according to a data brief by the American Libraries Association. 

ALA looked at library data from nine states—Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Washington and West Virginia—and Washington, D.C. It estimates that California libraries need $5 billion for construction and renovations and New York needs $1.5 billion. As well, Illinois, Washington, Alaska and the nation's capitol all have estimated library upgrade costs of more than $100 million.

The data brief mentions that there are approximately 17,000 public library locations nationwide totaling more than 210 million square feet. Public libraries are visited more than 1.3 billion times per year. 

This report comes as the Federal Communications Commission announced it will help libraries purchase laptops, Wi-Fi hot spots and more for patrons using federal funding. Libraries will be eligible for $7.17 billion to improve connectivity for residents through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, part of the American Rescue Plan.

The ALA says the average public library building is more than 40 years old, and hundreds of buildings are more than 100 years old. The renovation of public libraries will need to include foundations and roofs, walkways and parking lots, building systems such as HVAC and plumbing, and technology infrastructure such as electrical outlets and WiFi routers.

The ALA’s report includes estimates for library needs in nine states, where renovation and construction costs will total at least $8 billion. The assessment represents libraries that serve one in four Americans.

To see more information on this data brief click here.

Brent Woodie is an associate editor at Route Fifty.

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