Justin A. Rice for Boston.com
Standing on the construction site of Salem State University’s forthcoming state-of-the-art library this morning, State Representative John Keenan (D-Salem) said Salem State's $73.5 million Library & Learning Commons will help the school live up to its new university status.
Construction on the new library began months after Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill that rebranded the state's nine public colleges as universities.
“It’s very exciting for the university,” Keenan said during a tour of Salem State’s library construction site this morning. “This makes it much more of a university than a college.”
The groundwork on the energy conscious facility started a year ago and the library will be complete in the fall of 2013. The approximately124,000-square-foot, four-story library includes instructional laboratories and study areas for 1,000 students and an abundance of space for individual and group study.
Several departments will also be housed in the new facility, including Disability Services, the Writing Center and the federally-funded Student Support Services program. The building will include several green features such as geo-thermal heating and cooling.
“The university continues to grow in ways that are not harmful to the neighborhood because we are in a residential neighborhood,” Keenan said. “They poured all this concrete and [the university] did not have one complaint, nor did my office. And that goes a long way in outreach.”
Keenan was joined on the tour by his Beacon Hill colleague Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) along with Salem State President Patricia Maguire Meservey. Sannicandro is chairman of the Joint Committee on Higher Education.
“I’m trying to get to every public campus in the state and get a feel for what is happening, what the campus needs to be successful,” Sannicandro said.
The new library replaces the library on Lafayette Street that was closed in October 2007 for concerns about its structural safety. Salem State University spokeswoman Karen Cady said the old library will be torn down sometime before the new library is completed and she said it's unclear what the old library land will be used for.
The back half of the old library was already torn down this past summer and some tennis courts were also removed and rebuilt on the Central Campus to make way for the new library.
“We had looked at renovating the old library but it was more expensive to repair the old building than to build a new building,” said Meservey, who began her tenure in 2007 shortly before the old library was condemned. “It ended up being a great opportunity.”
The new facility will also include an outdoor common that can be used for recreational activities such as Frisbee and other informal sports.
The visit was also part of a project by the state legislature’s Public Higher Education Caucus to get state senators and representatives to travel to the Commonwealth’s 29 community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses to learn about the needs on each campus.
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.