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Salem State eager to open new library

The all-glass windows allow natural light to seep into the building.Terri Ogan

Salem State University’s $74 million  library is expected to open this fall.  For the campus community, that cannot come soon enough.

“We’re looking forward to moving in and enjoying it,” said Susan Cirillo, 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.”

In addition to book stacks, the 122,000-square-foot development, which broke ground in December 2010, will have a variety of reader and study spaces for 1,000 students, group study rooms, computer labs,  and some 150 computers. There also will be a food court.


“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.”

The 12 group study rooms  — for between six and 12 students — will have an accent color wall with a compact display screen. Each room also has walls with idea paint, a single-coat, whiteboard application that transforms almost anything into a dry-erase surface.

One Salem State alumna, state Senator Joan Lovely,  who used the old library, said she was impressed with the new building.

“I really can’t wait to see the finished product,” said Lovely, a Democrat from Salem. “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. ”

The building also will house the school’s Learning Commons,  which weaves together several academic service departments, including assistance in writing and academic subjects and helping those with disabilities.

“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,” said Andrew Soll, vice president of finance and facilities at Salem State.


Since September 2008, the school has been using an interim library in the central part of campus.  The old facility was shut down in 2007 because of structural safety concerns.

In 2008  the university determined that correcting the deficiencies in that building was not economically feasible, Soll said.

The view from the second floor looking out onto the central "floating" staircase. Terri Ogan

The new library also will feature a bookshelf geared toward Muslim history and culture, awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The university was one of 843 libraries and state humanities councils nationwide to receive the bookshelf, which includes a collection of books, films, and other resources that will introduce the American public to the complex history and culture of Muslims in the United States and around the world.

“I think it’s important for us and certainly our students,” said Cirillo. “One of our goals is to teach our students to be global citizens, in particular Muslim culture. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so I think it’s an opportunity to give them a window into that world and understand more of the culture.”

Zachary Newell, a reference and instruction librarian at Salem State, submitted the university’s application for the two-part grant. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work with the arts and multimedia library at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt for six months in 2012.

“Salem in general is a diverse population of students, faculty, and people who live in the area,” Newell said. “In some ways it’s as much about a discussion about Islam and having that open conversation about our relationship to Islam, Islam and America, but also about a larger conversation about diversity.”


Terri Ogan can be reached at oganglobe@gmail.com.