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Salem State University set to open new $74m library

This view from the new $74 million Frederick E. Berry Library at Salem State University looks out toward the college green.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

For the past six years, the interim library at Salem State University has served its purpose admirably.

The temporary space met the needs of students, faculty, and staff, but it was just not big enough, said Susan Cirillo, Salem State's dean of the library and instructional learning and support.

That is about to change.

Salem State is just a few days away from officially opening the $74 million, 122,000-square-foot Frederick E. Berry Library. Not only bigger, the new facility is designed for the modern library user, placing people before books, Cirillo said.

"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."


The new library has about 1,000 study seats, 150 personal computers, and 12 group study rooms. State-of-the-art technology is available throughout, including paint that can transform walls in the study rooms to dry-erase boards. Desks are adjustable to accommodate people with special needs.

The view from the first floor, looking up to the skylight.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The facility will be home to the university's Learning Commons, bringing together several academic services for students — the writing center, honors program, academic advising, learning skills support, computer testing lab, and disability services.

The new building will be flooded with natural light. Other sustainable features are automatic lights in every room and a high-performance mechanical system for heating, ventilation, and plumbing that will allow the building to earn a silver certification through the LEED environmental design program.

All of this is a far cry from the structural insufficiencies of the old library that was shut down in 2007.

Built in 1972, that library had problems from the beginning and is now being demolished. "There are a number of buildings in the Commonwealth where the structure was poor, and unfortunately we had one of those buildings on our campus," said Salem State University president Patricia Meservey.


The new library, which opens on Sept. 3, is named for Berry, a Peabody native and former state senator.

"He's been an amazing supporter of public higher education, not only here on the North Shore, but statewide, and [was] a real advocate for Salem State University for as long as he held political office,'' said Kary Cady, a spokeswoman for the university.

Berry, who received in honorary degree from Salem State in 2006, retired this year from the state Senate. He had served since 1983.

Work began in December 2010 and the state Legislature has been allocating the funding by issuing bonds. The project wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of Salem State's staff, Meservey added.

One of the unique seating areas in the library.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

"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 the Salem State community; residents in the region are also welcome.

Those with a card from any of the libraries in the North of Boston Library Exchange (NOBLE) network are permitted to use the resources at Salem State.

The network is a cooperative effort of 28 libraries in Boston's northern suburbs to improve library service through automation. Beverly, Peabody, Lynn, Revere, Salem, Swampscott, and Winthrop are members of the network.


Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, a Salem State alumna, said she went to the school's old library to study for the Massachusetts bar exam. The coffee and cookies during midterms and finals were 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 addition 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.

Senior Jocelyn Christopher, 21, is especially excited.

"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 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 the interim library closes and the 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 Follow her on Twitter @Terriogan.