Category Archives: Library

Town Takes Over Riverwalk Maintenance

In 1992, a volunteer committee led by the indefatigable Betty Lou Cummings created the Library Riverwalk and Gardens.

A 6-month fundraising campaign drew 5,000 contributors, donating cash as well as services.

Together with a 2nd phase 7 years later, the accomplishments are stunning:

  • 11,000 bricks, many of them engraved, in a path 638 feet long
  • 57 benches, 3 picnic tables, 23 pole lights and 2 sculptures
  • 127 shrubs and bushes, plus 19 trees (and a sprinkler system)
  • Stairs from the library to the water, and a boat launch walkway.
A small portion of the library Riverwalk.

A small portion of the library Riverwalk.

After 22 years, the committee has asked the town to take over responsibility for maintanance. They’ve turned over $15,000 in their account to help.

Parks and Rec is happy to accept the responsibility. Over the past several years they’ve taken a more active role in assisting the committee. With the opening of the renovated Levitt Pavilion nearby, the time is ripe for the transfer to happen.

The Riverwalk is one of Westport’s hidden gems.

Okay, it’s not really hidden. Plenty of people enjoy it, at all times of day and throughout the year.

But many others don’t know it exists. And not many know the back story of its creation.

Thanks, Betty Lou and the 5,000 donors who helped make it a reality. More than 2 decades later, your work is greatly appreciated.

And it looks better than ever.

Shirley Land Memorial Service Set For October 18

A memorial service for Shirley Land — Westport’s uber-arts-and-history volunteer who died in July — will be held on Saturday, October 18, at the Westport Library (1:30 p.m.).  That’s a fitting site, as the library was one of her greatest passions. Shirley served it well for many decades, in countless capacities.

Immediately following the service, the family will gather at the nearby Westport Senior Center (21 Imperial Avenue).

Contributions in Shirley’s name can be made to the Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

 

Check Out These Robots!

The Westport Library long ago branched out from books, newspapers and magazines.

From a fantastic art collection to DVDs, CDs and Blu-rays, to a cutting-edge Maker space and 3D printer, our li’l ol’ library has served a broad range of interests, tastes and technologies.

Get ready now for robots.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that library officials have acquired a pair of humanoid NAO Evolution robots. The main object is to teach “the kind of coding and computer programming skills required to animate such machines.”

One of the Westport library's new robots. (Photo/Danny Ghitis for the Wall Street Journal)

One of the Westport library’s new robots. (Photo/Danny Ghitis for the Wall Street Journal)

Westport, the WSJ says, is the first public library in the nation to offer instruction using “sophisticated humanoid bots made by the French robotics firm Aldebaran.”

According to library director Maxine Bleiweis, robotics is the next big technology — so it should be made accessible to everyone, to learn about it.

Bleiweis adds that from economic and job development perspectives, this is an important step.

The library will debut the robots October 11, with programs and workshops to follow.

Unless the robots have other ideas.

(Click on the full Wall Street Journal story.)

Steve And Toni Rubin Say Goodbye (Y’All)

35 years ago, Steve Rubin’s medical and surgical supply company was considering a move from Long Island to Norwalk.

Steve and his wife Toni lived in Douglaston, Queens. They began talking about moving to “the country.” Their friends thought they were crazy. They sort of did, too.

“We both grew up in New York City,” Steve says. “For us, Westport was the edge of the earth, before it cracks off.”

But fresh air, and a produce stand on North Avenue, lured them in. The Rubins rented the big white Rippe house, next to 7 acres of corn farmed by a guy named Buster.

“We truly felt like we lived on a farm,” Steve recalls. “We fell in love with this place.”

Toni and Steve Rubin.

Toni and Steve Rubin.

The 1st folks they met were Betsy Wacker — from Welcome Wagon — and her husband Watts. George Underhill, from the town tax office, soon became a good friend too. All 3 introduced the Rubins to many aspects of their new home town.

Steve’s company never moved to Norwalk. He spent 5 years commuting to New York.

Then, 23 years ago — at age 47 — he suffered a heart attack.

The Rubins’ Westport friends responded immediately. Meals poured in. People drove him to the doctor. They did whatever they could for the couple.

Steve Rubin

Steve Rubin

The heart attack led Steve to retire from his stressful work. He got a job with Westport’s Parks & Rec Department, manning the Compo gate.

He organized workers for the Compo Beach playground construction project. He joined the Y’s Men. Toni created the Respect program, for children with special needs.

“It snowballed,” Steve says. “It was like we’d lived here 100 years. This town has a magic effect. It makes people feel like natives.”

The Rubins’ activities grew. Steve spent many years as the voice of Festival Italiano. He did not stop until the last raffle ticket was sold. “I made a whole bunch of new friends there too,” he says.

Perhaps his most important contribution began the day he complained to Gordon Joseloff about “some safety issue.” Joseloff — at the time the moderator of the Representative Town Meeting — urged him to run for the legislative body.

Earlier this month — almost 20 years later — Rubin resigned from the RTM. In an emotional farewell, he announced that he and Toni are moving to Charleston, South Carolina.

Steve and Toni Rubin's t-shirts say it all. He adds, "I could not have done any of this without my wife and best friend."

Steve and Toni Rubin’s t-shirts say it all. He adds, “I could not have done any of this without my wife and best friend.”

The impending move is “bittersweet,” Steve admits. After a couple of years of consideration, the lure of warmer winters and a lower cost of living was too good to pass up.

“We don’t want to wait until, god forbid, we’re too old to do it,” Steve says.

The Rubins don’t know a soul in Charleston. But, he notes, “We didn’t know anyone when we moved here. We did it before, and we’ll do it again.”

Steve adds, “we’ll love this town forever. There are so many great people here. It seems like Westport is filled with mensches.”

Steve Rubin in the Memorial Day parade.

Steve Rubin in the Memorial Day parade.

The Rubins leave knowing they’ve made a major mark on their adopted home town. Their name appears on the quilt at Town Hall, the library River of Names and brickwalk, the Wall of Honor at the Staples football field and the Longshore pool wall mosaic.

They’ll miss the many activities they’ve participated in, and enriched: the Memorial Day parade. First Night. PAL fireworks. Downtown trick-or-treating.

They’ll miss Compo, Longshore and Saugatuck. “We’ll even miss the Post Road and Main Street,” Steve laughs.

They’ll miss Westport a lot. But not as much as we will miss Steve and Toni Rubin.

Library Honors Robin Williams

Robin Williams’ death saddened countless fans around the world.

The Westport Library is honoring the brilliant actor/comedian by screening some of his best films.

This Friday (August 15, 1 p.m.) they’ll show “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

Saturday (August 16) offers a double feature: “Dead Poets Society” (11 a.m.) and “Good Will Hunting” (2 p.m.).

On Sunday (August 17, 2 p.m.), it’s “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

Of course, the library has plenty of other Robin Williams videos in its collection.

Though I’m betting they’ve all been checked out this week.

Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting" -- one of his best roles ever.

Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” — one of his best roles ever.

Thankful For Trees

The driver of a Toyota Camry is thankful for the bank of trees bordering the Saugatuck River, at the Westport Library riverwalk. They kept her from plunging into the water, after she lost control of her vehicle in the upper parking lot.

(Photo/Susan Holden)

(Photo/Susan Holden)

Fortunately, the driver was not injured.

Talking Big Bucks And Milwaukee Bucks With Marc Lasry

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But this Sunday at the Westport Library, you can hear — for free — a wide-ranging talk by probably the wealthiest man in a town filled with money.

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

On August 3 (2 p.m., McManus Room), hedge fund titan Marc Lasry — whose $1.7 billion fortune lands him at #1047 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires — talks about the US and global economy, and the current investment climate.

Lasry — CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group —  will address why good investments are getting harder to find, regions and industries where his firm is finding them, and how they find them.

And — because there is more to life than hedge funds — Lasry will also discuss his recent purchase of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team, and his hiring of Jason Kidd as coach. Plus Lasry’s interest in politics, philanthropy and comic books.

This being Westport, Lasry will be introduced by fellow resident Arthur Levitt. He’s only the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Rick Eason Flies Under The Radar

Rick Eason graduated from Bedford Middle School in June. But the teenager knows aircraft technology, FAA regulations — and Westport skies — like a pro.

Rick has always been interested in electronics. Not long ago, the rising Staples freshman got a drone. His DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter is amazing. Equipped with a GoPro camera providing very high quality 2.6K resolution still photographs and video at 30 fps, plus 4 rotors, it tilts, spins and zooms its way over beaches, homes and fields.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Thanks to GPS it holds its position in wind, moves around a center point, and can even return to the exact spot it was launched if contact is lost.

“It’s so much fun to fly,” he says. “It’s so easy and intuitive to control.

“You can get views no one has ever seen before,” Rick adds with pride. “This is not like Google Earth. You can see your house from 20 feet above.”

Or the Westport Library. Here’s a view from Rick’s website that I’m pretty sure is the 1st of its kind:

Library - Rick Eason's drone

Rick’s dad, Tony Eason, installs solar panels. Rick’s drone helps him inspect roofs.

Drones are still pretty new. Rick saw another Phantom at Winslow Park. “06880” has posted amazing videos, taken by another owner, of Compo Beach and Sherwood Mill Pond. But right now they’re rare, and Rick gets plenty of admiring stares — and questions — when he launches his.

Drones are so new, in fact, that federal regulations can’t keep up. Though drones can rise 2000 feet high, the FAA classifies them as “remote controlled aircraft,” with a limit of 400 feet.

Technically, they can’t fly beyond the owner’s “line of sight.” But, Rick says, he can watch and control his drone through the GoPro camera, using goggles or a laptop.

Rick Eason's drone hovers over his front lawn.

Rick Eason’s drone hovers over his front lawn.

Owners need a license to make money off drones. So legally, Rick can’t charge for his photographs and videos. (That hasn’t stopped others from doing so.)

Rick has learned about privacy laws too. “When you’re 30 feet up with a fisheye lens, you might catch someone’s private home,” he says. “If they ask me, I’ll delete it.” But, he notes, “it’s really no different from taking a photograph of someone’s house from the beach with an iPhone.”

Drones are here to stay. Just a couple of years ago, they cost thousands of dollars each — and did not fly particularly well. Now, Rick says, “you can buy one for $300 at Barnes & Noble.”

Rick's drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick’s drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick loves his drone — but he’s already looking ahead. He’s saving up for a gyroscopic gimbal, to keep the camera even steadier than it is now.

Meanwhile, he’s thinking up clever new uses for his drone. At Staples, he might contribute aerial photograph to Inklings, the school newspaper.

And last Thursday Rick was at Compo, for the 2nd annual “06880” party. While the rest of us were eating, drinking and chatting, he was hard at work.

So here’s the “06880” community — 2014-style:

 

Cool Weather For Very Hot Art Show And Book Sale

It’s a Westport rite of summer: Artists and art patrons bake on the blacktop at the annual Fine Arts Festival. Book lovers swelter in the Jesup Green tent, at the library book sale.

It’s a satisfying — if sweaty — search for gems.

This year is different. The temperature is in the mid-70s. There is no humidity. Clouds are keeping crowds away from the beach.

Compo’s loss is downtown’s gain.

Art show culptures frame the Saugatuck River.

Art show sculptures frame the Saugatuck River.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

There is more artwork -- plus food and kids' activities -- on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

There’s more art — plus food and kids’ activities — on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

What's an arts festival without music. Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

What’s an arts festival without music? Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

Some book sale patrons can't wait to start reading what they've bought. Or maybe they're deciding whether  to buy.

Book sale patrons read up before deciding whether to buy.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

The Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival runs today — Saturday, July 19 — until 6 p.m., and tomorrow (Sunday, July 20) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Across the Post Road, the Westport Library book sale is on today until 6 p.m. It continues tomorrow from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted).

 

 

Library Dedicates Book Sale To Shirley Land

Visitors to this weekend’s Westport Library Book Sale may be surprised to see Shirley Land there.

The longtime Westport civic volunteer died Sunday, at 96. Among her many accomplishments: She started the book sale 21 years ago, as a fundraiser.

It’s fitting for the library to honor her at the event. Her photo will be posted prominently, in the Jesup Green tent and throughout the adjacent building.

Shirley’s image will be surrounded by over 80,000 items, in categories from “Art” to “Zoology.” There are hardcover and paperback books; vinyl records, CDs and audiobooks; artwork by Westporter Stevan Dohanos; civil rights memorabilia (some signed), from the estate of Westport’s Tracy Sugarman; special collections — even plenty of Playboy magazines.

Shirley would love them all. She’d even smile at the Playboys. Nothing says “Westport Library Book Sale” more than that.

The Westport Library Book Sale runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (July 19-21). Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted). For more information, check out this website.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.