A library-goer checks out a book at Salem Public Library. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
A butcher paper tree is taped to the wall at the Salem Public Library between the nonfiction new arrivals and the fiction stacks.
A sign on a nearby table invites visitors to take a post-it leaf and write a favorite memory about the library before affixing it to the tree.
It’s an effort to preserve some of the building’s history before books are packed into storage or carried to a new location.
The downtown library is closing in early February for a seismic retrofit, and a temporary location at 1400 Broadway St. N.E. will open two weeks later. The main library will re-open in the summer of 2021.
City librarian Sarah Strahl has already added her leaf to the memory tree: a teen and adult talent show held while she was interviewing for the city librarian job. No one act stood out, but she was struck by the skills on display.
“It was such a great showcase of the community,” she said.
Other submissions range from childhood memories (“coming with grandma to crawl up and down the stairs”) to library visits gone wrong (“that time I get stuck in the elevator”).
The downtown library’s last open day will be Sunday, Feb. 2. It will re-open at the Broadway location on Feb. 18. The temporary location has free parking and a bike rack.
During the closure, the West Salem library branch will remain open, and all holds ready to be picked up will automatically move to West Salem. Anyone wishing to pick up books at another regional library can switch the settings in their account by following directions on the library website.
Friends of the Salem Public Library has already moved. Their former storefront inside the library is now contains only empty CD racks and boxes.
On Monday, Jan. 13, they’ll reopen in their new location at 1127 Broadway St. N.E., three blocks from where the library itself will be.
Perhaps the biggest impact for library users is the temporary home will have a downsized collection of books, DVDs and other materials. The 300,000 items now in circulation at the downtown library will be reduced to fit on a smaller shelf space at Broadway.
At least two-thirds of the collection will be temporarily stored.
City librarian Sarah Strahl invites Salem Public Library patrons to leave favorite library memories on a tree in the downtown building (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Strahl said a library committee has been at work for months deciding which items to move. One of their goals is keeping a balance of materials to serve different library users: picture books, items for teens, fiction and non-fiction, and materials in Spanish.
"It will have a lot in it. And it will have something for everyone," she said.
Patrons now have about 60,000 materials checked out, she said. Most of those items will come to the new location.
The Broadway location only has space for about 22,000 items on shelves, but they're able to move more because some will always be checked out.
New additions and Lucky Day items - popular books and DVDs that can't be placed on hold - will come too. And the library will continue adding thousands of new items each year.
Still, “We know that’s going to be an impact,” Strahl said.
Salem Public Library is part of the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service, a regional group of libraries that share a catalog, allowing cardholders to reserve and check out books from any of the 17 participating members.
Others in the group include libraries at Chemeketa Community College and in Dallas, Independence, McMinville and Woodburn.
That means the downsizing will have impacts beyond Salem library patrons. But it also ups the odds that another library will have a book a Salem patron is seeking, even if Salem’s copy is in storage.
Salem patrons can access those books by placing holds or visiting other regional libraries in person. Salem librarians can also get books on loan from other libraries if no one in the cooperative has a copy.
And Salem patrons also have access to e-books, audiobooks and other digital items through the library website.
“The likelihood of it still existing in a format we can get is high,” Strahl said. “Don’t panic.”
More information about the move is on the City of Salem website.
Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.