Category Archives: Library

Remembering Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy — a longtime Westporter, arts patron and philanthropist — died early this morning, of complications from pneumonia. She was 91.

Though she kept a low profile, Malloy’s mark on Westport was broad and deep. She donated generously to a variety of cultural institutions, including the Westport Arts Center, Westport Historical Society (for which she drew a 4-color map of 1960s-era downtown), and the Westport Library (which hosts an annual arts lecture in her name).

Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy

Malloy also supported the noted “Years in the Making” documentary — which pays homage to Westport’s arts legacy — and the Whitney Museum in New York.

An artist herself, she had her 1st New York gallery show in 2009 — in her mid-80s.

In 2012 — at 88 — Malloy published her first book. A “Guide to Paris” for young people, it contains sketches she made the previous year on a trip to France with her niece Ann Sheffer, and Malloy’s 17- and 10-year-old grandchildren.

Malloy’s family began summering in Westport in 1937, when her father Aaron Rabinowitz followed his mentor Lillian Ward (of Henry Street Settlement fame) here.

The family home — “Robin’s Nest” — was a farmhouse at the corner of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

After Malloy married, she and her late husband Edwin lived for many years in one of Westport’s oldest homes, in the Old Hill district. In 1986 they moved to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired property on Dogwood Lane.

Services are set for this Friday (April 17), at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El in New York City.

 

Lynsey Addario’s “Booked For The Evening”: The Back Story

The Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraiser is always special. Previous honorees have included Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz and Patti Smith.

This year, though, is especially special. On Saturday, May 9 (7:30 p.m.), the library welcomes Lynsey Addario. She’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner, internationally known role model — and a Westporter.

Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario

Lynsey’s accomplishments are — well, special. Working for the New York TimesNational Geographic and Time, she has documented life and oppression under Taliban rule in Afghanistan; conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Darfur and Congo, and humanitarian and human rights issues across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Now, Lynsey is a noted author. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War is an insighful, inspiring memoir. It’s also been optioned as a big-time film. Steven Spielberg will direct it, with Jennifer Lawrence playing Lynsey.

None of which may have been possible without our special Westport Library.

The other day, I asked Lynsey if she recalled her early library days.

Boy, did she.

Her parents came to Westport in the 1960s to open a salon, Phillips. They had finished hairdressing school in New Haven, and were attracted to Westport’s thriving, creative atmosphere. Artists and authors seemed to be everywhere.

As a Coleytown Elementary School student, Lynsey remembers making field trips to the “old” library. In that building, on the Post Road and Parker Harding Plaza — where Starbucks and Freshii are now — she learned how to use the card catalog, and search for books.

The "old" library, where a young Lynsey Addario learned a lot.

The “old” library, where a young Lynsey Addario learned a lot.

The “new” library — the one next to the Levitt Pavilion — opened when Lynsey was at Staples. She was discovering photography, and used the library to learn more about the field.

Today, most of Lynsey’s research is done via the internet. But she knows how important libraries are.

At the University of Wisconsin, she spent “countless” nights researching papers and utilizing resources.

“I have always seen libraries as sanctuaries,” Lynsey says. “Now, I work primarily in war zones. Basic resources like food, water, electricity and shelter are a priority. Libraries would be the greatest luxury in these places. They are a sad casualty of the realities of war.”

Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

The Westport Library is many things, to many people. We all use it in different, and varied, ways. But all of us find — and learn — something there.

On May 9, we can learn a little bit from Lynsey Addario — who learned more than a little bit in our own across-the-street library, a very brief lifetime ago.

(For more information on “Booked for the Evening” — including tickets — click here.)

Jane Yolen Tackles Cinderella

The other day, US News & World Report ran a story on “Cinderella.” Bottom line: the new Disney film perpetuates the wrong image of the famous fairy tale character. She’s not the “sweet, accommodating and passive heroine” we’ve been led to believe; in earlier versions of the tale, Cinderella was really a brave, clever, assertive, savvy and ambitious princess.

Jane Yolen today...

Jane Yolen today…

The story quotes Jane Yolen, “one of America’s best-known storytellers.” As far back as 1977, she warned that the 1950 Disney version of “Cinderella” sends kids the wrong message.

Instead of learning that a wish and action can make dreams come true, children learn “only to wait for something or someone to save them.”

It’s not enough today, Yolen says, to rely solely on niceness.

She should know. A child of the 1950s — a time when gender roles were far more rigidly enforced than today — she carved an exciting path for herself.

And she did it in Westport.

...and Jane Yolen, 1955-56 Staples basketball captain.

…and Jane Yolen, 1955-56 Staples basketball captain.

The author or editor of more than 280 books — including Holocaust novella The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight — she was a dynamo at Staples. Before graduating in 1956 she was news editor of the school paper Inklings, captain of the girls basketball team, and vice president of the Spanish and Latin Clubs.

She also sang in the choir, served on the yearbook and Soundings literary magazine staffs, won 2 “Voice of Democracy” contests, and worked as a Westport Library page and Sunday school teacher.

Yolen went on to Smith College, and published her 1st book at 22. She also raised 3 children.

Far fewer doors were open to young women 60 years ago than today. But Jane Yolen walked (or, more likely, ran) through the ones that were — and probably pushed a few stuck ones open herself.

Sounds as if young girls (and boys) in 2015 should be watching a movie about her.

Not Cinderella.

(To learn more about Jane Yolen’s life, click on www.janeyolen.com)

Westport Library: A Home And Haven For All

Last week — as part of the Westport Library’s nomination for the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal process — users were invited to share stories, videos and photos on the IMLS Facebook page.

Many did. The library appreciated all the shout-outs. 

But this may have been the most meaningful:

This Library is like having an educational center and cultural center, technology learning center and more… in the heart of our town.

With only laptops, coffee, books and food to sustain them, families huddled together for comfort in the Westport Public Library.

With only laptops, coffee, books and food to sustain them, families huddled together after a storm in the Westport Public Library.

They are the first to invite people in when storms have left most of the town without power… right down to having a smiling greeter at the door welcoming people in saying, “Come on in; we have power!”, and proactively setting up extra tables and power strips, and making all who come through the door feel welcome.

It is a place where people from the homeless shelter (within walking distance) come, read and participate in events and activities. They also are welcomed by the staff, which enriches their experience.

I myself come here to do research, or for pleasure reading, or free classes. I’ve made use of the library in both good times and bad, having at times lucrative consulting work and at other times been near penniless. But I am able to come to this dynamic, beautiful library, well-staffed with amazing wonderful people, to use free first-come-first serve conference rooms to get on my laptop and cell phone to take a phone and screen interview, which helped me be successful in applying and interviewing for new work.

After many years of using the library as a “normal” patron, there was a period of time (just less than a year) where I had been “under-employed,” as a result living in my car. No one (or very few) in town knew this, as I kept it secret, but this library provided warmth, intellectual opportunities, vibrancy (and internet access) during that difficult time.

The Westport Library provides a warm home for all.

The Westport Library provides a warm home for all.

I have been working steadily the past several years and moved closer to my work, but I consider Westport “my library.” I make a small donation every year without fail, even having my company match it this year.

Needless to say, I love the Westport Library! Thank you.

 

Frank Bruni: “A Generation Of High School Kids Throws Darts At The College Dartboard”

An overflow crowd filled the Westport Library yesterday, to hear Frank Bruni talk about college admissions.

Go figure.

The award-winning New York Times journalist — who has covered presidents and popes, served as chief restaurant critic, and now writes a wildly popular Sunday column — was here to talk about his new book.

Frank Bruni bookIt’s called Where You’ll Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote To The College Admissions Mania. On this topic, of course, Westport is one of the most manic places on the planet.

Bruni, who is 50, grew up in an area similar to Westport — a place that could give us a run for our (college-leads-to-Wall Street) money.

But even though there was an implied competition back then, based on college stickers on the backs of cars — and even though Bruni joked about going to a school (the University of North Carolina) supposedly less prestigious than those of his siblings — he said things today are far, far worse.

Which is why he wrote his book.

Bruni said that as he realized he knew so many contented and accomplished people — and that they’d gone to an enormous range of colleges — he understood that all the admissions talk has been focused on the wrong thing.

“We should focus much more on how students choose and use college, than on how to get in,” he said. “‘Success’ comes not from where you go, but from figuring out a school’s landscape, and how to till it.”

Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni

Citing examples from his book, Bruni talked about schools like Rhode Island School of Design (where the founders of Airbnb went), and the University of Waterloo (which produced the most number of graduates with successful Y Combinator venture capital pitches).

Last year, Bruni taught a course at Princeton. Though he was “in some way in awe” of the school, he realized that many students were tone deaf about their place in it, and the world.

One eating club tradition is “State Night.” Students dress, and act, “as if they went to a state school,” he said.

Part of the reason is that high school students in places like Westport hear messages about the perceived differences between private and state schools (and see “rankings” of every private school too).

College pennantsPart of the reason too is that some students spend so much time trying to “get in” that they don’t care much about what happens once they do.

“We have a generation of kids applying to 18 or 20 different college. They’re throwing darts at a dartboard. They can’t understand what all those schools offer. So once they get there, they don’t know what to do,” Bruni said.

Audience members had plenty of questions.

They wanted to know what Bruni thought about the importance of “making connections” at highly competitive schools. (He thinks that students at those college are already on the path to success. “If you’re someone who reaches far, it doesn’t matter which school gave you its imprimatur. You’ll get there.”)

There are plenty of reasons for this admissions mania, Bruni noted — and it’s not only parents who share the blame. Colleges “cynically” take measures to drive down their acceptance rates — like not requiring SATs, or sending information to students who are clearly not qualified — so their yields will look more impressive in the US News & World Report rankings.

The overflow audience at the Westport Library.

The overflow audience at the Westport Library.

Bruni says it’s important for “influencers” — teachers, counselors, anyone talking with students — to change the tone of conversations.

Of course, those conversations often begin at home. “Kids should not feel that where they go to college is a validation — or repudiation — of their parents.”

The crowd was large and appreciative. Bruni’s message was especially important for teenagers to hear. But there were very few of them in the audience.

I guess the sophomores and juniors were at SAT courses.

And the seniors were home, waiting to hear from 18 or 20 colleges.

Remember “Kunepiam”?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a story about a strange engraving, on an equally strange door, set in the brick wall that separates the train station parking lot from the lovely Stony Point homes just beyond it.

The engraving said “Kunepiam.” It was surrounded by what look like Native American pictograms, and perhaps settlers.

Kunepiam

No one was quite sure where it came from, or what it meant. “06880” readers thought it might have been part of witchcraft; perhaps a Christian symbol; maybe even more modern than anyone imagined. Mary Palmieri Gai wondered if it came from the Native American word meaning “long water land,” which Quinnipiac College was named after.

Yesterday, the Westport Library reference department posted the definitive answer. Most readers may have missed it — they were busy mourning the impending end of Mario’s, just across the tracks — so here is the complete result of what the researchers found.

But first, cue the applause for our library!

—————————————————

We started working on this question a few weeks ago when we saw this post. We are happy to report that “kunepiam” is derived from the Algonquin word “koonepeam,” meaning “thou art welcome.”

Our success in finding this answer was due to the extra effort made by Lucianne Lavin, director of research and collections at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Connecticut. She reached out to Carl Masthay, retired medical editor, linguist, and Algonquianist, who in turn reached out to Dr. Ives Goddard, a nationally known professional, senior linguist and curator in the anthropology department at the Smithsonian Institution. He was the linguistic and technical editor for the Handbook of North American Indians, and is a specialist in Algonquian languages.

Here is Dr. Goddard’s answer:

Westport Library logo“If (considering the picture at 06880, Westport, Conn.) you look up “welcome” in Trumbull’s Natick Dictionary [page 343], you find koonepeam ‘(thou art) welcome’ (cited from Josiah Cotton, with no page [1830]). I type “oo” for Eliot’s digraph (rendered “8” in Goddard & Bragdon: Native Writings in Massachusett, 1988). Some knowledgeable person has slightly re-spelled this, perhaps someone at the Bureau of American Ethnology that a letter was referred to. The word is a calque* on the English (“you come well”) but perhaps in use in Cotton’s day. “

[Ives Goddard, pers. com., 25 March 2015. Carl Masthay’s note: “Natick” is now referred to as “Massachusett.” Morphemes**: k-ooni-pia-m ‘you-well-come-animate.final’.]

Mr. Masthay suggested that a small plate be installed next to the stone to help “clear up this issue for eternity.”

Please reach out to us for any follow-up questions or reference questions in general!

— Susan Luchars, Margie Frelich-Den, and Dennis Barrow, Reference Department, Westport Public Library 203 291 4840, ref@westportlibrary.org

*The meaning of “calque”: a loan translation, especially one resulting from bilingual interference in which the internal structure of a borrowed word or phrase is maintained but its morphemes are replaced by those of the native language, as German halbinsel for peninsula. (Dictionary.com)

**The meaning of “morpheme”: any of the minimal grammatical units of a language, each constituting a word or meaningful part of a word, that cannot be divided into smaller independent grammatical parts, as the, write, or the -ed of waited (Dictionary.com)

———————————–

Amazing. Now all we need to know is:

  • How do you pronounce it?
  • And how did it get there?

40 Years, 40 Photos Of Sherwood Island

Larry Silver is well known for his iconic Longshore shots.

But the very talented Westport photographer has spent countless hours a couple of miles away at Sherwood Island too. That’s Westport’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind beach.

Tomorrow (Friday, March 27), the Westport Library introduces “Sherwood Island, 1975-2015″: more than 40 of Silver’s images, from the past 40 years.

"Woman With Boombox" -- Larry Silver, 1980.

“Woman With Boombox” — Larry Silver, 1980.

The photos show the changing styles of visitors to Connecticut’s 1st state park — and its timelessness. The shots — in black and white, and digital color; in every season, all over the park — are classics.

One of the library photos — “Sunset at Sherwood Island State Park” — is included in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art’s permanent collection.

"Man Barbecuing Next to Black and White Umbrella" -- Larry Silver, 2014.

“Man Barbecuing Next to Black and White Umbrella” — Larry Silver, 2014.

Every Westporter knows where the library is. Not everyone knows Sherwood Island — the overlooked gem right on our coast.

After Larry Silver’s exhibit, no one can forget it.

"Couple Photographing Children in Water" -- Larry Silver, 2014.

“Couple Photographing Children in Water” — Larry Silver, 2014.

Today’s The Day For A Library Shout-Out

How do you love the Westport Library?

Let the Institute of Museum and Library Services count the ways.

Our library is a finalist for the IMLS’ National Medal. It’s the highest honor for extraordinary public service, recognizing institutions that go waaay above and beyond as community anchors.

Each finalist gets 1 day for patrons to share stories on the IMLS Facebook page. Westport’s day is today: Thursday, March 26.

If you’ve got a Facebook account, click this link. “Like” the page, and post stories, fun facts, photos, videos — anything you’d like to share about the Westport Library. (Include the hashtag #NationalMedal too.)

Library museum page

Be creative. After all, this is Westport!

The IMLS says that the volume of posts doesn’t play into which finalist wins — but hey, you never know.

Technologically challenged? Don’t have a Facebook account? Head over to the Westport Library. Their staff will be happy to help you out!

Eric Burns: A Very Moving Story

Alert “06880” reader Eric Burns — prolific author, Fox News Watch media analyst for the network and Entertainment Tonight commentator and former Westporter — writes:

I moved to Ridgefield after my divorce because I wanted to get away from everything and everybody.

Bad idea.

I felt isolated. I drove into Westport 2 or 3 times a week, to Trader Joe’s, Christie’s Service Station, Five Guys, Acqua, Baker Graphics, Barnes and Noble, the Library — all of them places with which I am familiar, all of them places that I missed.

I spent a lot of money on gas, a lot of time on the road. Finally, I decided I had to move back.

Eric Burns...

Eric Burns…

But because I have about 2,300 books, I found no place in Westport that could accommodate them in a single room. So, next best thing. I moved to Norwalk, where my daughter and her fiance live — and, I hope, close to where my son will live when he finishes grad school.

I started preparing for the move a month before the van was due, filling 10 small boxes a day. I numbered them carefully, and carried them from my upstairs library into the garage. I am certain that, single-handedly, and not especially well-muscled, I moved at least a ton of product.

I lined up the boxes perfectly, in numerical order. I told the movers that when they unloaded the books into my new library, they needed to do just 2 things.  First, put the boxes on the floor in chronological order in front of the shelves.  Second, set down the boxes so I could see the numbers on them.

Because of the way I had prepared the boxes for loading on the van, it should have been an easy task for 4 men.

The ending of the story should be obvious.  My new library — a furnished basement on Linden Street — now contains 287 boxes of books in no particular order. Most are without the number showing. Some are upside down, others broken apart with books scattered into other boxes.

...surrounded by boxes...

…surrounded by random boxes…

Yesterday I found box #1. Now I have to go through 286 boxes to find number 2.  It could take an hour — to find one box. One box scattered senselessly in a pile of 286 boxes, which might just as well have been thrown on the floor from the top of the steps.

It took the 4 men from the moving company an hour and a half to wreak their havoc. Because of a bad back, and the fact that I am but one person, it will take me a week or more to find the right boxes, and fill the bookcases in their proper order. Even spreading the work out over that much time, I still expect sharp, stabbing pains in my back.

I am not young. Nor am I a professional mover.

I emailed the company to complain. They offered to clean up the mess. All I had to do was kick in an additional $119. I declined the offer. I had, I said, already paid my bill.

...and empty shelves.

…and empty shelves.

I love the feel of a book, the look of it, the scent of it — even, on occasion, the heft of it.  Now, for the first time, I find myself thinking longingly of a Kindle.

Do you remember the old TV show “All My Sons”? Not very funny, but pleasant enough, and successful in its time. Do you know the moving company All My Sons? Forget it.

Yet even with the shoddy work of some of All My Sons’ sons, I’m happy to be back near Westport. On May 21 I will speak at the Westport Library about my next book, 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar.

By that time my library will be intact. I will not say a word about the moving company that made the author roar, nor the amount of time it took me to find my copy of the book, a needle in the haystack of 2,300 such items.

Library’s Latest Shout-Out: Forbes.com

Forbes may be “the capitalist tool.” But it’s got a soft spot for a certain everyone’s-equal space: the Westport Library.

Forbes-logoForbes.com carries a story — “Remarkable Lessons in Innovation From a Public Library” — by Westporter Bruce Kasanoff.

He begins: “There are two ways to run a public library in a small town: the traditional way, or the Maxine Bleiweis way.”

After praising the director for being “a vibrant tool for bringing out the best in others,” he cites her for not knowing the definition of “can’t.” Her library, he says, can be “noisy, boisterous, provocative, outrageous (and) entertaining.”

Kasanoff adds that Bleiweis’ best talent may be bringing out talents in other people. He cites these traits that we all should emulate:

Boldness: If it will benefit the library, Maxine will ask anyone to do anything. She enlists CTOs of Fortune 50 companies, top journalists, famous authors, and a huge corps of enthusiastic volunteers. Just as importantly, she always has a bold idea and a few “asks” ready; if she spots you in the library, the odds are 100 to 1 that she’ll tell you about her latest projects and how you can help.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech writer-video star-guru happily obliges.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech guru-writer-video star happily obliges.

Warmth: The Westport Library is partially funded by the town, and also depends on donations from its supporters. There’s never enough money, especially now that the library is embarking on a capital campaign to reshape the building to be much more of a gathering, social and performance space. Leaders in such an environment don’t get to bark orders. Maxine leads with warmth, charm and enthusiasm. She understands that her role is to be uplifting and aspirational.

Imagination: What if we turned the middle of the library into a Makerspace? Could we teach kids to program computers by buying two Aldebaran robots for them to program? Maxine discovered the answers to both these questions was “yes.”

The Westport Library's Makerspace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.

The Westport Library’s Makerspace has a prominent position in the Great Hall.

Kasanoff concludes:

Maxine taught an entire town not to be limited by outdated conceptions of what you or your organization is supposed to be doing. She showed an entire generation that you are limited only by your own imagination, creativity and willingness to whatever it takes to bring your dream to life.

Most importantly, she showed us what happens when people with diverse talents, abilities and interests work together to uplift a community. The answer, of course, is that magic happens.