, Salem, MA

Local News

January 29, 2013

Repairs overdue at library

Proposal to borrow $3.1 million to fix historic building sparks debate


“I don’t know if the council is aware that we service hundreds of people, seven days a week,” she said.

Patrons come from all walks of life, rich and poor and everyone in between, she said. “I don’t know of a better use you get out of a public resource.”

Yet, because repairs have not been done, the second and third floors have been empty for more than two years, and books are stacked in the subbasement. The nationally known Holocaust Center, formerly housed in the library, was shunted to Kiley School.

“They’re dying to get back in,” Holden said.

Part of the problem stemmed from the need to relocate the heating and air conditioning to the second floor, after it was determined that the weight may have contributed to the cracked roof supports.

For now the roof is stable with steel supports, thanks to a more than $500,000 insurance payment following a 2011 leak brought on by heavy snow. But more work is required, Holden said.

“The ceiling needs to be repaired,” she said. “And it has to be done before we can move back into that space.”

As to the changes demanded by the Americans With Disabilities Act, Holden said they are essential. Many library patrons are disabled, and many of them have complained about access, she said. A ramp at the side of the building, for example, is too steep for many to use.

Part of the cost could be defrayed with a donation from the Community Preservation Commission, but that local board has a number of projects before it and its resources are limited.

Faced with such spending at a time when they also face a multimillion-dollar bond for a new Higgins Middle School, the council agreed to advertise the project, but only with the understanding that some or all of the plan could be amended in order to reduce the cost.

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