BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
---- — SALISBURY — Playing its final role in the community, the 1950’s-era, now-empty former Salisbury library presented the perfect backdrop for the actualization of a “dream,” — the groundbreaking for the 17,000 square foot library soon to be built in its place.
Though rain made an appearance early in the morning, by 10 a.m., as Town Manager Neil Harrington took to the podium to welcome the scores in attendance, the sun had came out.
Following a 10-year campaign by town officials and community members to get a new library in town, yesterday’s ceremony had a joyous mood.
“The dream will become a reality when we dig the first shovel of dirt today,” Selectman and co-chairman of the of the Library Building Committee Henry Richenburg said.
Richenburg reminded the crowd that though townspeople will see the fruit of everyone’s labor when the new library is completed, two dedicated library champions who worked long and hard on the project will not be around to see it become a reality. Library Trustees Bill Carroll and Donna Stucker died before seeing the community cast votes on more than one occasion in support of the library, Richenburg said, as Stucker’s son, daughter and two grandsons stood in the crowd.
“We miss you,” Richenburg said, of Carroll and Stucker. “Your hard work will never be forgotten. You will be in our hearts forever.”
With so many residents involved in the project, it would be impossible to name everyone, Harrington said, but he did highlight the efforts of Library Trustees Jeannette Lazarus, Maureen Dupray, Karen MacInnis, Dianne Masiello, Nicholas Sullivan, and Joseph Stucker, as well as Library Building Committee members Selectman Freeman Condon and Larry Cuddire, Library Director Terry Kyrios and Salisbury Planning Director Lisa Pearson.
Lazarus compared Kyrios and Pearson to the character in the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could,” who climbed a high hill by chanting, “I think I can, I think I can.”
In 2005, Lazarus said, when Kyrios compiled a long-range plan for the library to get a state grant for a few computers. Kyrios then realized the long-range plan could pave the way for millions in future state grants that could allow the town to build a larger library.
From there, with Pearson’s help, the process took off. There would be planning grants from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and design grants, and the $3.8 million construction grant paying for more than half the $7.5 million project. Describing Pearson as “a force of nature,”Lazarus said, together with Kyrios and others, the “Little Engine that Could” did achieve it goal. The final hurdle was cleared in May 2013 when Town Meeting approved the borrowing necessary to build the new library that will augment grants and more than $750,000 in grants from the Institution for Savings, the Newburyport 5 Cents Savings Bank, the Arakelian Foundation and others.
“This is such an exciting day for the town,” Harrington said. “We’re here to make a statement and this (new library) makes a tremendous statement about (Salisbury’s future) and its commitment to its children. It’s a terrific community effort.”
State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, said the coming of the new library was only the “beginning of great things for the town,” thanks to a collaborative community effort.
The new library will allow access to learning for everyone, including the handicapped, she said. There will be children’s and young adult sections, more shelving for books, reading areas, study rooms, 18 computers and open public spaces where people can meet and talk, she said.
“It a truly a magnificent structure for all to share,” O’Connor Ives said.
Perhaps some of the most encouraging comments came from a woman Harrington described as “bullish” on community libraries. Massachusetts Library Board Commissioner Mary Ann Cluggish will soon hand over the $3.8 million grant, and perhaps another because Salisbury’s library is a “green project.”
When the technological era ushered in the computer age, she said, everyone thought libraries were dead, but it never happened. Libraries have been more in use in current decades than ever before, she said, and during the recent recession, people used libraries for everything from job searches and resume development, to retraining and job applications.
“In the state of Massachusetts, someone sits down at a library computer every six minutes,” Cluggish said. “And more people visit libraries in Massachusetts every year than the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics combined.”
The new library is slated to open in the fall of 2015.