An outdoor common, and an abundance of study spaces are just two of the features that Salem State University’s new 124,000 square-foot library will offer to its students and the surrounding region.
The $74 million library, which broke ground in December 2010, is expected to open its doors to the Salem State community this fall. And that time can’t come soon enough.
“We’re looking forward to moving in and enjoying it,” said Susan Cirillo, Salem State University’s dean of the library and instructional learning and support. “I’m looking forward to seeing the students again. Seeing them use the library and having enough space for students to study. It’s just about the people.”
The energy-conscious library, which is divided into two wings, will be the first new building on the university’s North Campus since the old library was completed.
The front of the building will have an extensive curtain wall made of glass windows allowing natural light to flow into the library. Also at the front of the building is a grassy common area, which is another feature that Cirillo can’t wait to see completed.
“I’m picturing students playing Frisbee and sitting on the grass on a sunny day,” Cirillo said. “It’s a great moment for the university. A transforming moment.”
Under the library’s roof will be books, bound periodicals, reference materials and a substantial archive collection. In addition to book stacks, the building will have a variety of reader and study spaces for 1,000 students, group study rooms, instruction classrooms and computer labs, over 150 PC computers, as well as offices for staff and the dean of the library. There will also be a food court and eating area on the terrace level of the new building.
Adding to the list of innovative and sustainable features are the 12 group study rooms that fit between six and 12 students at a time.
All of the rooms have an accent color wall with a compact display screen and wall port that students can plug into and display slideshows or projects they’re working on.
Besides the compact displays, each room has walls with idea paint, a single-coat, roller-applied whiteboard paint that transforms almost anything into a high-performance dry-erase surface. It’s a “very interactive collaborative setting,” said Andrew Soll, vice president of finance and facilities at Salem State University.
As a Salem State alumni, state Sen. Joan Lovely used the old facility and said she was hugely impressed with the new building.
“I really can’t wait to see the finished product,” Lovely said. “The location on the campus is perfect; for people to be able to access it from North Campus and South Campus. It’s just really wonderfully laid out. I’m so happy to have this caliber of a school in our community. ”
Not only will the building be home to the school’s library, but it will also house the school’s Learning Commons. This state-of-the-art section of the library weaves together several academic service departments including assistance in writing and academic subjects, helping those with disabilities and providing a gathering place for honor students.
“It is part of the library, it’s in the building,” Soll said. “The Learning Commons takes up two floors of one of the wings. What we’ve done is brought together six different units at the university into one site so that we can provide support for students of all abilities to get the most out of their educational experience at the university.”
This integration of departments will not only provide the students with academic assistance, but will cut down the campus pilgrimage that students embark upon in order to find books and study.
Erin Martin, 18, is a freshman English major at the university and goes to the interim library frequently. She said she doesn’t mind it, but at the moment, everything is too spread out. She’s looking forward to using the computer center and more programs coming out of one building.
“Now you have to go to that library and then sometimes you have to go to South Campus if you want certain kinds of books and then there’s other areas that have books around here,” Martin said. “It’s kind of difficult, but now it will be all in one.”
Since September 2008, the school has been using an interim library in the central part of campus after the old facility was shut down in 2007 due to structural safety concerns. The previous library, which was built in 1972, had issues that occurred as a result of construction, not design.
“They were issues related to the low-bearing capacity of the structure,” Soll said. “Those are very difficult and expensive to correct after the fact.”
The university did an evaluation at then end of 2008 and determined that to correct the deficiencies in that building and bring it up to current standard, was not economically feasible, Soll added.
That’s when the decision was made with the school and the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM), the state office responsible for construction and management of state facilities, to develop a new library and take down the old one.
After years of construction issues and utilizing an interim library that didn’t always fit the school’s needs, faculty and students are ready for the change.
“I 'can’t wait' would be an understatement,” Cirillo said.