Salem Public Library Seismic and Safety Upgrade Project

Woman reading to young girl

In November 2017, Salem voters approved a bond that pays for upgrades to the Salem Public Library to make it safer in an earthquake, improve accessibility within and around the exterior of the building, and make other critical improvements to include replacement of Library shelving. These changes ensure the  Library will continue to be a resource for the Salem community for decades to come.

Project schedule

The project schedule has a few distinct phases:

  • Design. The City of Salem is proud to be partnering with Howard S. Wright Construction and Hacker Architects, experts in library design, on the Salem Public Library renovation. This design-build team is uniquely positioned to address the unknowns of this sizeable renovation project. The challenge is to finish the project within budget in a busy and expensive construction market, finding a structural seismic retrofit solution that doesn't adversely impact the Library space. Also, ongoing Library operations needs to be maintained during construction. The team has worked together with other communities on library design and construction projects successfully in the past including the Vancouver Community Library, Hillsboro Shute Park Library, and Sherwood Civic Center. 

  • Temporary Library Relocation. This project will require us to temporarily relocate the Library to a during construction. We’re looking now for the best location, considering input from our community.

  • Construction. Work is scheduled to begin in early 2020 with the Library set to reopen in the summer of 2021.

We’re listening

Tells us what you think. Opportunities to provide input include:

  • February 19, 6-8 pm at the Salem Public Library: Community Open House to kick off the design process and share ideas about what we treasure about the Library building and what we hope could be improved.  An online and paper survey was made available before and after the Open House to gather input from those unable to join the community conversation.

  •  April 30, 6 p.m. to 8 pm.: Community Open House at the Library to share what we've learned and gather input on on some of the initial design ideas.  See what was presented.

  • Fall 2019: Community Open House to share how your ideas influence the preliminary design for the Salem Public Library Renovation.
Timeline showing the renovation timeline

Keeping up with the project

Look on social media to keep updated and involved. Subscribe to the project’s email distribution list to begin receiving updates in February 2019.

DateDocument TitleFile Size
7/19/2019456 KB
6/18/2019442 KB
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2/15/2019537 KB

The Library serves more than 165,000 people in the Salem area annually and maintains a collection of 337,000 items. Statistics show 1,600 people check out 3,700 books and library materials each day. The Library hosts more than 2,000 programs for children, teens, and adults each year, and makes five meeting rooms and Loucks Auditorium available for community members to host their events. This project includes the following improvements:

Making the Library structurally sound

The Library and adjacent parking structure were built before scientists discovered that a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake could impact the Salem region. In 2014, the City commissioned an engineering study that found the Library and parking structure do not meet standards for life safety. Library users, staff, and volunteers would be at risk in a major earthquake. Seismically retrofitting the Salem Public Library and parking structure will improve patron and staff safety in the event of an earthquake.

Making the Library accessible

The current building opened in 1972 – before ADA requirements. Improvements to the building require it be brought into ADA compliance. These improvements will allow the library to provide improved services and accessibility for all of its patrons.

Other upgrades

  • Replacing library shelves designed in the 1950s. These will not withstand the effect of a major earthquake and cannot be repaired or retrofitted.

  • Security cameras are at the end of their useful life and must be replaced.

  • The current audio system is at the end of its useful life and must be replaced. It requires frequent and expensive maintenance, and does not cover all areas of the building.

  • The project will also replace or repair multiple building systems. Electrical wiring, plumbing, and ducting systems are old and will be displayed by the installation of the seismic strengthening elements.  Replacing these systems will extend the Library building’s useful life and reduce annual maintenance costs.

​An alternative contracting method, known as Progressive Design Build, was approved by the Salem City Council for the Library Renovation Project in October 2018. In Progressive Design Build, there is a single contract between the City and General Contractor (GC) and the architect contracts directly with the GC. However, unlike a traditional Design-Build method where the GC proposes a single design solution, Progressive Design Build features a collaborative design process from the outset where the design solution is developed by the GC’s team and the Owner. This benefits the project in several ways. The design process will benefit from closer team coordination at the beginning of the project where we will be able to incorporate critical GC input on the structural solution, sequence of activities, and how best to maintain Library services. We will also benefit from real-time evaluation of how market conditions are impacting the cost of construction. Finally, this method reduces the risks of cost arising from lack of coordination between the designer and GC since they are bound by a single contract to the City.

Contact us

Aaron KimseyProgram ManagerPublic Works Department
Mailing address:
555 Liberty Street SE RM 325
Salem OR 97301-3513
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