Salem Public Library Seismic and Safety Upgrade Project

​​En español

Work is under way at the Salem Main Library to complete final construction details and move equipment, books and staff back to the renovated building. Over the past year and a half, renovations to the 1972 building have made it safer in an earthquake, more accessible inside and around the exterior of the building, and completed other critical improvements including:

  • Systems updates (heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, roof)
  • Solar panels
  • More windows
  • Upgrades to the parkade

The renovated building is set to reopen to the public on Wednesday, September 1.


Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday 1-6 p.m.

Temporary closure

In preparation for the Main Library reopening, all Library locations will be closed to the public from Wednesday, August 18 to Tuesday, August 31. Library book drops will also be closed during this time. Salem Public Library at Broadway will permanently close August 18.

This will allow staff to focus their full time and attention on reopening tasks.

Online Library Services: Access to the library catalog, downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, and other virtual resources will remain available 24/7 throughout the closure. Direct staff contact will not be available.

Our library is committed to welcoming, open, and inclusive service to everyone in our community.

About the project

In November 2017, Salem voters passed General Obligation Bond Measure 24-432 for $18.6 million to address seismic, safety, accessibility and system improvements to the Salem Public Library.

The original, 1972 building was built before scientists discovered that a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake could impact the Salem region. A 2014 City-commissioned engineering study by the Portland firm BergerABAM, found that the library and parking structure don't meet life safety standards and library users, staff, and volunteers would be at risk in a major earthquake.

A seismic retrofit was chosen to increase life safety during an earthquake. Improved accessibility and cost-saving upgrades to the building's systems were also part of the project.

Residents helped shape project 

Several opportunities were provided through the planning process for residents to get involved and share their opinions, including:

  • February 19, 2019: Community Open House kicked off the design process and residents shared 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, 2019: Community Open House at the Library to share what we've learned and gather input on some of the initial design ideas. See what was presented.
  • October 26, 2019: Community Open House to share how your ideas influenced the preliminary design for the Salem Public Library Renovation.
  • Project schedule

The project is being completed in three distinct phases:

  • Design -- complete. The City of Salem partnered on the renovation with Howard S. Wright Construction and Hacker Architects, experts in library design. Their challenge was to finish the project within budget in a busy and expensive construction market, finding a seismic retrofit solution that doesn't adversely impact the library space. 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. The outcome of their work in Salem is a more open, accessible library with increased safety in the event of an earthquake. [KU1] 
  • Temporary Library Relocation – ending September 1. 
  • Construction – nearly complete. Work began in early 2020.

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.

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The Main Library is closed for seismic upgrades and renovations. Both the Salem Library at Broadway and the West Salem Branch are currently closed until COVID-19 precautions are lifted.

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 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
Tuesday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday 1-5 p.m.

Curbside Service Hours (by appointment only; library building closed to the public):
Sunday 10-11 a.m.


Virtual Library services are available 24/7. Download free eBooks, eAudiobooks, and movies, do research, find information, and study.
Mailing address:
555 Liberty Street SE RM 325
Salem OR 97301-3513
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