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Salem State University to open doors of $74M library

Posted by Terri Ogan  August 13, 2013 10:05 AM

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About six years have gone by since the Salem State University community moved into its interim library.

The temporary facility has met the needs of its students, faculty and staff, said Susan Cirillo, Salem State University’s dean of the library and instructional learning and support, but it’s just not big enough.

Salem State library-goers can say goodbye to the smaller space, as the school is just days away from officially opening the doors to its new 122,000 square-foot Frederick E. Berry Library, a facility that was built more for the students than the books, Cirillo said.

The library is named after former state Sen. and Peabody native Fred Berry.

“It’s very different from the other libraries I’ve worked in that were built in the 70s, 80s, 90s that were built really first for the books, then the people,” Cirillo said. “I’m running into alumni who are saying, ‘Can I come in and use the library?’ It’s wonderful. It’s really wonderful.”

Construction workers broke ground on the project in December 2010 and the state Legislature has been allocating the funding by issuing bonds.

On Tuesday Sept. 3 at 7:45 a.m., students, faculty and staff can finally utilize the abundance of resources the library has to offer, including about 1,000 study seats, 150 PC computers and 12 group study rooms, among other things.

State-of-the-art technology is available throughout, for example, the library’s “Idea Paint,” which is a single-coat, whiteboard paint that transforms almost anything into a dry-erase surface.

The facility also houses the university’s Learning Commons, bringing together several academic services. The writing center, honors program, academic advising, learning skills support, computer testing lab and disability services, will all be available for students under one roof.

Among the building’s sustainable features are automatic lights in every room, natural light that floods into the building, as well as a high-performance mechanic system that will allow the building to earn LEED silver certification.

All of these characteristics trump the structural problems of the old library, which was shut down in 2007.

“The past issue is a 40-year old issue,” said Salem State University President Patricia Meservey. “There are number of buildings in the Commonwealth where the structure of buildings was poor and unfortunately we had one of those buildings on our campus.”

The success of the new library wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of the various staff members, Meservey added.

“Our team here on campus, the librarians, the various staff members, the faculty, has allowed us to put together what I think is a highly useful building for the institution,” Meservey said. “It is a beautiful building. To have that signature building on our North campus is lovely.”

The library will not only be available to students, faculty and staff, but to residents in the region as well.

Citizens that have a card for any of the libraries included in the North of Boston Library Exchange (NOBLE) network, are permitted to use the resources at Salem State.

NOBLE is a cooperative effort of 28 libraries in Boston’s northern suburbs to improve library service through automation. Cities and towns on the North Shore that are part of NOBLE include Beverly, Peabody, Lynn, Revere, Salem, Swampscott, Winthrop and more.

Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, a Salem State alumna, said she went to the school’s old library to study for the Massachusetts bar exam despite finishing up her stint at the university long before. The coffee and cookies during midterms and finals are just part of why she kept going back, Driscoll said.

“It’s showcasing how much of a resource the library at Salem State is for not only students, but the community as well,” Driscoll said. “There was real thought put into the design of it so it would give you that positive and uplifting space to do whatever you need to do. I think it’s going to be a handsome edition to our campus and our community.”

Students are also looking forward to the big move, and leaving the long trek to the interim facility behind them.

Jocelyn Christopher, 21, is especially excited to utilize a new library during her senior year.

“It’s so awful walking down the main road during the winter,” Christopher said. “The new library is closer to the main campus and it’s easier to get to. It will be great to have more room to do what you need to, and they’ve been working on it for so long, it’ll be nice to have it done.”

The interim library will officially close on Friday Aug. 23 at 5 p.m., but between the time it closes and the opening of the new facility, library staffers will provide students and faculty with whatever resources they need.

Cirillo said she won’t look back once doors to the interim library and doors to the new facility open.

“I won’t miss the old library,” Cirillo said. “And I won’t miss my old office. I have a window now. I haven’t had a window in six years.”

Terri Ogan can be reached at, or follow her on Twitter.

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