Renovation will be library’s first since 1984

SALEM- Salem Public Library patrons can expect some big changes to the atrium, entranceway and children’s department this spring as the building expands for the first time since 1984.

“We’re trying to maximize the space for the public,” Library Director Brad Stephens said.

Once the ground thaws adequately this spring, he said the project will begin. Construction is expected to take four months, with the library remaining open and some of the work done during off hours to have as little impact on the public as possible.

At some point, they’ll move the children’s department into the Quaker meeting room, since a lot of the work will be concentrated in the children’s area.

“‘We’re not building a massive new building – we can move the wall out 4 feet and gain over 1,000 square feet of usable floor space for the public,” Stephens said.

The wall is located on the south side of the building covered in glass on both levels with an open atrium between the two floors. The atrium will be closed off as a means to increase the floor space on both levels and provide more noise control.

In the lobby area at the east entrance, plans call for improved lighting, installation of lobby seating and replacement of the exterior lobby doors with automatic entrance doors to improve accessibility. A glass wall will be installed from floor to ceiling, extending to the upper level, to create a vestibule, with sliding glass doors to enter. Stephens said that will improve the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems and help to better control noise levels throughout the building.

The bulk of the work will be in the children’s area where he said they’ll be “replacing the carpet and lighting, adding lots of new technology, rearranging the department layout to be more efficient, converting two small bathrooms into one larger family bathroom, adding a study room, and more than doubling the size of our early literacy area.”

The library received a $10,000 grant from the Salem Community Foundation to add two more early literacy work stations, purchase four iPads and add a large screen television to project images from the iPads, all to benefit the library’s younger users.

Stephens said it’s important for the children to have exposure to reading and literacy, with the early literacy work stations focused on toddlers and children in kindergarten and first grade. The area for the older children, grades second through sixth, will be redesigned with the technology in mind and make materials more accessible.

On the upper level, the floor space will be increased by closing the atrium, but plans still call for lots of glass to let in the sun.

“We’re still going to have lots of that natural light, but we’re going to be able to do it in a much more efficient way,” he said.

The project has been in the planning stages for a year. The existing Carnegie library was built in 1905 and first expanded in 1933, with a major expansion in 1984. He said some internal design work has been done since then to create the non-print and young adult spaces, but there have been no major renovations.

“Our mission to educate, inform and inspire our community is at the core of what we do and in large part, that’s why the updates we’re making are so necessary,” he said.

By investing in the facility, they’ll be able to continue meeting the changing needs of the public. This project will allow the library to use the space more efficiently and modernize it so it’s ready for the next 100 years, Stephens said.

HBM Architects of Cleveland designed the expansion project. J. Herbert Construction of Salem is the general contractor. The estimated cost of the project is $480,000, paid for with money set aside for building maintenance and upkeep and capital improvements. Information about the project can be found on the library’s web site.