Planning: Funding and costs

The cost of all components of a new or refurbished library need to be considered in the planning process. Identifying sources of funding are also key to this process.

Identify costs

As in most public buildings, the cost and ability to fund the construction and operation of a new or extended public library is one of the main concerns of local government. 

A business plan should include (as appropriate) the following cost components of a library development project:

  • land
  • building costs whether construction or refurbishment, including professional and building application fees
  • fitout including equipment, furniture, shelving, etc.
  • removal of collection, furniture and equipment
  • temporary relocation of library service for extensions or rebuild on existing site
  • site costs including engineering works and utilities
  • car parking and landscaping
  • operational costs including short and long-term maintenance
  • subsequent refreshing of fitout and layout
  • sustainability measures
  • staffing.

Explore funding opportunities

In practice, there are many sources available to fund a library development project with local government developing many interesting funding models.

Development contributions and planning agreements

Local government areas experiencing significant population change as a result of new development can negotiate contributions from developers towards the cost of providing community facilities, such as libraries. Contributions and planning agreements are covered by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. 

Co-located libraries

Sharing the cost between a range of community services can assist in the funding of library projects. Co-location and joint use libraries outlines the issues to be addressed in developing successful co-located projects.

Joint use libraries

This approach involves the development of a shared public library service between two or more distinct service providers, with funding provided by local government in addition to the joint service provider. For example, TAFE services may be interested in pooling funds with local council for a joint library service for use by their students and the broader community. Funding is being sourced from different authorities, and the development of detailed agreements on the joint use library service must be undertaken. For further information, refer to Co-location and joint use libraries.

Grant programs

The State Library of NSW annually administers grants and subsidies programs. Funds from these programs have been used to assist in the development of many new and refurbished library buildings throughout NSW. Other State and Federal Government agencies operate grant schemes which provide funding for specific development projects. The requirements for these programs often change and it is important to consistently review the funding sources available.    

Commercial development opportunities

Internal view of library with lounge seats and bookshelves
Campsie Library

Local government has the capacity to utilise its resources for community benefit. This may involve using existing resources more effectively or in a more commercial manner to achieve financial returns. Examples of this type of approach include:

  • land swaps for more appropriate property
  • refurbishing existing Council or non-Council buildings
  • lease of redundant buildings
  • sale of Council operational assets to fund a new library
  • development of commercial spaces for lease as part of the library project
  • negotiating spaces in new retail developments, sometimes in exchange for additional development area.

When considering any of these approaches it is important to have specialist cost and financial planning advice and/or develop a business plan.

Make allowance for library fitout

Library fitout (primarily loose furniture and non-fixed equipment) is equally important and will be a major component of any library budget. Library furniture and equipment should be attractive, functional, comfortable and durable. Allowance should also be made in long term financial projections for the repair and replacement of furniture. It is important for the project’s budget to include not only the total cost of the library building but also all built-in fittings and furniture.

Case studies and workshops point to the difficulties of library staff having to furnish a library without professional support; this should be avoided by costing the fitout from the outset of the project. The interior fitout is usually a significant task and should be unified in its appearance with the overall building design and marketing strategy. The library’s budget must therefore make provision for all these items. It is normal practice to prepare a full list of all these requirements at the building design stage so that the architect can be consulted on furniture design and an agreed list of items budgeted by the local authority.

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