Save The Pequot Library!

Sure, this is “06880” — not “06890.” But that doesn’t mean I can’t write about non-Westport places — particularly if they are beloved by Westporters.

Like Stew Leonard’s, which I’ve commented on before.

And the Pequot Library, which I haven’t.

The iconic building — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — is a perfect counterpoint to the Westport Public Library.

The Pequot Library.

The Pequot Library.

Where our downtown Westport building all hustle and bustle — a hands-on workshop in the Great Hall! language discussion groups! a 3-D printer! Blu-Rays to rent! a cafe! — the tucked-away-in-sleepy Southport Pequot is everything a library used to be. It’s quiet (shhhhh!). Its rooms are cool and musty. Mostly, there are books and (to use a very quaint word) journals.

Westport Library pulses in the image of energetic, innovative director Maxine Bleiweis.

Pequot Library always reminds me of the longtime, legendary Stanley Crane, whose looks, demeanor — even literary-sounding name — came right out of Library Central Casting.

Westport’s library was founded in 1908. Located since 1986 on the river near Jesup Green, it is bright, airy and modern.

Pequot Library signPequot has been around since 1889. It looks like something you’d see on a 19th century New England college campus — or in an old European town — right down to its original Tiffany windows.

There is a place in the world for both the Westport and Pequot Libraries.

But the Pequot Library is in grave danger of closing. Fairfield’s Board of Finance cut all of its funding — $350,000. That’s 1/3 of the total budget. Library officials say there is no way they can raise the entire amount privately. If the cut is not reversed by the RTM on April 22, Pequot will close in July.

In years past, the library has been helped by donations (average gift: $150). In just a few years though, its endowment has declined from $3.2 million to $2.6 million. And $1 million of that is restricted to the rare books collection, not available to fund most operating costs.

Westporters cannot (in good conscience, anyway) plead with Fairfield RTM members to restore funding. But Fairfield residents — some of whom are former Westporters who read “0688o” — can.

Pequot Library logoLike many non-Fairfielders, I have fond memories of the Pequot Library. I discovered it as a Staples student, writing my junior research paper. I spent hours in the stacks, and went back often in the years after.

If the Fairfield RTM does not restore the $350,000 cut on April 22, I can’t afford to save the Pequot Library. But maybe a few angels in Westport — men and women with similar wonderful experiences there, or who understand its importance to this entire region — have an idea or two.

(Click here for a News12 video on the Pequot Library issue.)

63 responses to “Save The Pequot Library!

  1. I remember Stanley Crane from the 1960s. He was the epitome of what a librarian should be. I hope Fairfield finds a way to keep this library open.

  2. Patricia Orr

    So sad. I have wonderful memories of bringing my children there on many snowy Saturdays to sit by the fire and read. I hope a few people can reach into their pockets and save a beautiful place.

  3. Don Willmott

    Funny, I have *terrible* memories of the Pequot Library. Not only did I have to perform in terrifying piano recitals in its small auditorium, I also had to take ballroom dancing classes there which, for a 7th grader, was the ultimate in embarrassment and humiliation. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful and historic place and I wish it well.

  4. We love the Pequot Library! It is the perfect neighborhood retreat.

  5. Holly Wheeler

    Not to mention that Pequot Library was/is THE go-to place for PRIMARY source material of American history — brought to life by Stanley Crane. We cannot let this institution be closed !!!

  6. Thanks for the great words about the Westport Library, Dan! One thing, though, our blu-rays are free unless they’re late…best wishes to Pequot.

  7. Dan, You really do a wonderful service in keep all of us informed on so many matters that we’d not access through any other medium. Thanks to you for what you do and how well you do it.
    As to the Pequot Library matter:
    It’s sad that Fairfield can’t bring itself to support this iconic library and its place in a McMansion world of over-blown displays of wealth and opulence.
    I never used the library as a library, but I’ve passed it by hundreds of times and marveled at its architectural impact. I’ve been to jazz concerts there, played music with friends on the little stage during book sale events. I’ve admired the wonderful woodwork throughout the building.
    It’s just a terrific asset that Fairfield has, apparently, discounted and “written off.” A sad statement indeed.
    So, if there is to be a fund-raising, an organized fund-raising that will truly save this wonderful asset, many of us would like to know about it. To the extent that we can, many of us would be happy, I’m sure, to make our contribution if we thought that Fairfield would step up to the plate and do more to keep the Pequot Library alive and operational.

    Best,
    Gerry Manning

    • Peace Out, Wepo

      It’s amazing how many people automatically jump to the town being the boogy man and that they’re doing this because of a “McMansion world of over-blown displays of wealth and opulence.” That frankly has nothing at all to do with Pequot.

    • Gerry

      The fine people of Fairfield already pay twice the property taxes of the fine people of Westport. Look at any given house of any given price and you will find that to be true. Look at the fine people of Westport whining over every minor tax increase they face. Then talk about how sad it is that those horrible Fairfield people do not want to use their tax dollars to support a non town owned non-profit organization but would prefer to spend their tax dollars on, I don’t know, education? police? fire department?

      What is the matter with you?

      Cheers

      Jerry

  8. Peace Out, Wepo

    If people really care enough, there are plenty of individuals both in Fairfield (Think about that area of Southport – the amount of wealth is out of this world) and/or Westport who, I am sure, would gladly donate. Dan, your story is lacking in that it doesn’t explain why the Library automatically writes off raising the $350,000 privately. All they say is that it’s impossible. A fundraising consultant or expert in institutional development would definitely say otherwise. No reason why they can’t get this privately. It’s also really easy to attack the town and paint them as the bully. Without all of the facts, however, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I’d like to know what their reasoning was but you do not provide it in this story.

    • Well, OK then. If it’s not a decision by a wealthy community to de-fund one of its iconic structures and “living” institutions, what is it then?
      “Bashing” Fairfield for a seemingly short-sighted decision might just help to spur on a review and, hopefully, re-funding with an effort by the town to raise money to save the library from some unknown plan for alternative “development” and removal from the public access.

    • Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson

      It’s easy to attack the town because its officials made the decision, a shortsighted and bad one.

    • As a former board member of Pequot Library, during which I headed the book sale (the largest single fundraiser every year), I can attest to the virtual impossibility of rapidly increasing annual giving by $350k in an environment where the economy is still stagnant and non-profit giving is down everywhere. So while you say “it’s really easy to attack the town”, I certainly challenge the idea that there are “plenty of individuals…who would gladly donate”.

      There’s a larger point here, one that seemingly gets lost in this type of conversation. Pequot has come to rely on approximately one-third of its operating budget (and none of its capital) from the town in return for providing a variety of library and cultural center activities “as free as air for all” for over 120 years. It’s certainly true that Fairfield is under no legal obligation to continue its support, but it seems completely unfair to yank the rug without any prior notice.

      It takes time to develop new revenue sources, and a move like this should, at the very least, be phased in over several years to give the institution a chance to change direction and remain viable. This action by the Fairfield BofF was incredibly short-sighted, recklessly endangering a beloved part of the community.

      If you feel as I do, please show up at 1:30pm on Saturday April 20th to protest. Thanks

      • Yes, all Westporters should come protest that other people should pay taxes for the Pequot Library. My guess is that 90% of the citizens of Fairfield have never set foot in the Pequot Library. Maybe Westport should include $350,000 of support for the Pequot Library in their much less taxed budget.

    • Arthur Champlin, Esq.

      On another thread, you stated you hated Westport and therefore, left. Stay away, Wepo.

  9. Some Westporters may not know that Westport-based organizations use the Pequot Auditorium and its marvelous grand pianos to host the highly acclaimed Music for Youth free concert series and the Westport Arts Center chamber music concerts. The threatened withdrawal of $350,000 of funding from the Town of Fairfield represents a third of the Library’s operating budget, and an annual sum of this magnitude is nearly impossible to replace at the last minute for a small nonprofit. Please visit pequotlibrary.com to read up on this issue, contact the Fairfield legislators, and/or donate if you care about the Library’s future.

    • Better yet Westporters, contact your Westport legislators and ask them to support the Pequot Library.

  10. Dan’s comparison of Pequot Library to Westport Library is an interesting observation. Yes, the Westport Library is similar to the Fairfield Public Library: an active town-supported public library. (In fact, the town of Fairfield supports 2 public libraries: the main library on Old Post Road and a branch library on Fairfield Woods Road). I suppose the Pequot Library could become a third “branch” of the Fairfield Public Library and it would receive public funding from the RTM and the town of Fairfield. But Pequot wants to remain a private, nonprofit organization – with their own governing board and their own endowment fund. The price for remaining private is that they must raise their own funds. Do you want (or expect) the town of Westport – or the town of Fairfield – to support with public money every worthwhile nonprofit organization that serves its residents?

    • Pequot does function as a branch library in Fairfield. More books are sent from Pequot to other Fairfield libraries every year on interlibrary loan than come the other direction. They all share the same technology. The funding in the past was in direct recognition of that role, which is why the current decision is so unexpected.

  11. God points, DanzFanz. I wasn’t aware it’s a privately owned NPO. That explains a whole lot. Well, the 3rd branch idea might save their bacon. Certainly the endowment would go a long way to making that case for the town. Good points and thanks for that very important detail, DF.

  12. Westport Delight

    This is a perfect example of how Mr. Woog is doing a disservice to his readers and followers by not providing the full story and ALL of the facts on the more hot button issues, such as this one.

    Whether it’s failing to reveal what DanzFanz has done here, or failing to investigate further on Mr. Liefer’s private parking lot, these are just tiny samples of someone who will stop at nothing to use the town and county we have come to love as his own political platform. True colors are beginning to show much more frequently for Mr. Woog.

    • That’s a smug mischaracterization of this blog. Why don’t YOU stop sitting on YOUR thinking cap and do it yourself?

    • Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson

      We all see your”true colors” over and over, pal, as an incessant sniper. I’ve seen enough.

    • I am not sure that Dan is aware of his biases. However, it is his blog and he can be as biased as he chooses to be. You do not need to read anything Dan writes. On the other hand, Dan should not be surprised when his posts stir up hostile exchanges.

    • Response to Westport Delight

      Westport Delight,
      On this issue, you seem to be the one with an agenda. Did you look at the News 12 coverage? The “professional” journalist did not “reveal” what DanzFanz did here either. All that Dan posted were facts provided by the news coverage: the funding was cut, the library will have difficulty making up the shortfall, the institution may close. His “editorial” comments amounted to contrasting the two libraries and saying that if he could make up the shortfall he would. No hidden agenda. He says he likes it and that it would be great if someone would ride to the rescue. I don’t recall Dan ever representing that this blog was intended as a source of in depth news reporting. So why is that your expectation?

      If you think that you are getting the “full story” from any source on the internet, in the news media, or anywhere else then you are living in a fantasy world. If you don’t like the message then ignore it. If this blog is a “disservice” to you then why do you frequent it?

    • William Johnson Clancey

      Westport Delight: Your consistent negativism is getting very old. If you don’t like this blog, take your hate somewhere else. In the words of Thomas Benton: “I don’t quarrel, sir, but I do sometimes fight and when i do, sir, it is usually followed by a funeral.” Take note.

    • “True colors are beginning to show much more frequently for Mr. Woog.” Geez — give it a rest, Westport Delight. I seem to recall Dan continually asking for more civility and a “kinder, gentler” blog for several months now, going so far as even closing down comments on certain posts to make sure his blog stayed within some bounds of common humanity. So… give it a rest and let the good people of Westport debate with great fire, passion and civility and actually learn from each other as just has happened here. I learned something just reading the comments. And as to this topic, what a gorgeous landmark and one I remember well. Hope it can stay open. Thanks Dan for posting the topic. Maybe it will spur on some action to keep it open.

      • Just to play Devil’s Advocate here, because I can’t help myself. But couldn’t you argue that the commenter – their nasty tone notwithstanding – actually is prompting a “debate with great fire” and passion? Probably not. But I had to ask

        • No, you’re giving him way too much credit. What he does isn’t debating. He’s just a misanthrope.

        • Good question but I’ve always learned that lively and healthy debate is largely devoid of personal attacks. Keep on the issues and agree to disagree without resorting to personally tearing down another. Tear down their issues all you want if you disagree with one but uphold the individual is the old school way but… that’s my education. Shake hands at the end. But if you tear down the individual, there’s no possibility of a friendly hand shake at the end or at least it makes it highly unlikely. Don’t live in Westport anymore but it’s a small town and hope you all can see each other at Compo and shake hands or maybe you don’t.

        • Response to Westport Delight

          Frank,
          Westport Delight wasn’t engaged in debate of any kind. WD was complaining about the quality of the information and twisting this topic into an attack on Dan. I am not really certain how this topic registers as a “hot button issue”.

          What folks fail to understand is that some topics warrant debate, but others rate a simple discussion.

          • I don’t mind debate. Even angry debate can be healthy. But “Westport Delight” (oxymoron) has an agenda against Professor Woog and that, I will not tolerate. To his credit, the Professor doesn’t delete this hater’s constant complaints and attacks.

          • Yes, I totally get it. And I side with you. But, on the flip side, who is to decide which topics warrant debates? Also, I do agree about the unnecessary attack.

            • This blog is infamous for its various tangential arguments with little or no guiding by Professor Woog. I am not worried about the restraint of subject matter, Frank. My concern lies with the constant negative attacks on Dan and its negation of many to comment or even read the blog. If “Westport Delight” would like his own blog, as he attempts to control this one, I suggest he start his own?

  13. I would frequent Pequot when my children were younger.. Sorry to hear they are closing. If I could, I would save it!

  14. Nancy Powers Conklin

    I have very fond memories of riding my bike from our home on Maple Ave. to the Pequot Library to read, hang out and just feel independent at the age of 8 or 9. The library is a big part of my childhood and will remain a very fond memory. I live in Fairfield now and am very saddened that the town has decided to withdraw these funds from the library. The Pequot Library is a gem historically, educationally and an active part of Fairfield County. It is a treasure that should be preserved for future generations to enjoy and experience.

  15. defrgt

    Sent from my iPad

  16. I grew up within walking distance of the Pequot Library and lived in Fairfield for fifty years and my children and grandchildren live there now. Dan is not to blame for his reporting, as the library was utterly blindsided with this decision, with no reasons given by the Board of Finance except to cut funds, so the back story on this has not, to my knowledge, become public, (although surely there is one.) They did not cut back, giving the library a chance to do some planning, but de-funded the library 100%. Out of the blue, no forewarning. This lack of transparency and lack of understanding of the library’s many contributions to the town is one of the major complaints. There are people in Fairfield who think that only Southport residents use the library, but research has shown that well over 50%, maybe even 70% of its attendees are from other areas of Fairfield as well as surrounding towns such as Westport. Therefore, not only is it not inappropriate to contact RTM members, it is both helpful and necessary for them to see how this architectural, intellectual, cultural, and historical gem contributes to the better good from non-residents. The private (2/3) and public (1/3) relationship between the library and the town of Fairfield has served the community well and provides a creative model for any kind of not-for-profit entity to provide for the community what it may not otherwise be able to do.

    • I contribute both books and cash to the Pequot Library. I think it is a lovely place. I hope it does not close. But seriously, posters on this blog (at least those not from Fairfield) really ought to think twice before telling another town’s citizens where they ought to spend their money, particularly when Fairfield citizens are paying higher taxes than they are.

  17. Carl Addison Swanson III

    During one of our many power outages and our great library without electricity, I found refuge with the Pequot library. What a treat. They were the nicest folks around. Keep that gem open.

  18. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    I always preferred it to the old Wetspot Library for Saturday studying and term papers. Stanley Crane was one and a million. Is he still with us?

  19. I have very positive feelings about the Pequot Library but was surprised to see that it is getting 350K a year from the town of Fairfield–but perhaps that reflects my ignorance about the contributions area towns make to local non-profits. Who are the biggest non-profit recipients in Westport and how much do they receive from the town?

    In any case, it does seem like short notice to change the public funding so dramatically. I was discussing this with my mom today who wondered whether Pequot could implement some kind of membership fees for families or individual users, along with perhaps rental fees for those who want to use the space for group activities.

    I hope this gets resolved in a way that avoids closing down the library for any period of time.

    • Pequot is an “association” library (not “private” — which has a different meaning in this context) which means it “belongs” to its members. The membership program starts at $25 with rising benefit levels at more expensive levels, and anyone can join (you don’t have to live in Fairfield). Members (and the general public) are invited to attend an annual meeting where officers are elected and the budget is approved. Pequot also charges rental fees for outside events, such as using the auditorium or having a birthday party.

    • Fred, I wouldn’t think of a public library as a local non-profit receiving support from the town — a public library is an essential public service (like schools, parks and beaches) that, in addition to town (public) funding, receives some private support (like schools, parks and beaches).

      Libraries are more than books and research materials — libraries are centers for life-long learning and community engagement, open to all regardless of their means, and providing access to information and programming without charge. [In fact, under public libraries’ charters, libraries cannot charge fees for essential services.] Libraries provide a safe place to learn and share ideas; to access and explore technology (internet access at libraries may be ubiquitous now, but was nonexistent just a couple of decades ago); a place for quiet contemplation and as well as social and interactive learning; they support early childhood literacy; they entertain; and can foster a love for learning and a sense of community. And that’s just scratching the surface of what a good library can do.

      We are fortunate that, in addition to the budgetary support allocated through our town governing bodies (the Selectman, RTM and Board of Finance), Westporters value our library enough to provide their personal support (donations), which together enable our library to provide exceptional programming and services (and, of course, books).

      Yes, I am biased — I love public libraries, what they stand for and what they do. And, in the interest of full disclosure: I currently serve on the Board of Trustees of the Westport Library.

      • And, interestingly enough, Fairfield has two Public Libraries that it supports. Fairfielders aren’t Phillistines. Maybe Westport should annex the Pequot. Or fund a second library in Westport.

  20. Jocelyn–I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments about public libraries. On a recent book I co-authored about the neighborhood in Queens where I spent the first part of my childhood, my co-author and I donated 100% of our royalties to the neighborhood library branch because I grew up just down the street from that branch and wanted to give something back. But the Pequot Library is not a public library, so I think there is a distinction in terms of what a town government should do in committing resources. And I’m not saying the town shouldn’t help support it in some way. I was just surprised at the amount and I was wondering about the levels of contributions by the town to other local non-profits.

  21. Various comments are grappling with the nature of a public versus private library. Both Pequot Library and Westport Library are nonprofits and their financials are accessible on Guidestar. Both allow just about anyone to obtain a library card and both are open to the public for reading, art-viewing, lectures, and concerts. The major differences are that Pequot only receives a third of its funding from the town where it is located, its employees are not town employees, and it owns the land that the library building sits on. Basically, Pequot Library has to self-manage and provide for itself much more than the other area libraries. Frankly, the town of Fairfield has been getting a bargain out of the arrangement and so has the residents of other towns (like Westport) who use the facilities!

    • Elise–I guess I still see a real distinction between the Westport Public Library, which was originally established as a non-profit, and the Pequot Library in that Westport government took on a major role many years ago in making the downtown library THE town public library. The Pequot Library operates much more like a traditional non-profit. Again, I’m not saying that Fairfield should not provide support–and it certainly doesn’t seem appropriate to cut off funding altogether on such short notice. My question had to do with what is the level of town support for other non-profits, and what is the appropriate amount in this day and age?

      • Fred: If I recall correctly, the town of Fairfield only provides $1 million of support for ALL nonprofits in Fairfield, and the Pequot Library is about one-third of this. Fairfield is a much bigger town than Westport is in terms of geography and residents. The town of Westport is providing dramatically more support to its nonprofits than Fairfield is — both in terms of absolute dollars as well as per capita. For example, according to the Westport Library’s 2011 Tax Return, the Westport Public Library alone received $4.1 million in “governmental grants” mostly from the town Westport, $636,000 in “other” contributions (largely individual donations), $62,000 in investment income, and some fundraising event income. In contrast, Pequot Library received only $350,000 in “governmental grants” from Fairfield (or less than one tenth of the WPL amount), $576,000 in “other” contributions (donations and grants), $52,000 in investment income, and some fundraising event income. In conclusion, Pequot Library is serving the general public of Fairfield and Fairfield County with an absolute bare minimum of governmental support compared to other libraries. And Pequot is not just a library — it is the primary concert hall for chamber music in the area. Thus, to take all of its governmental funding away at the last minute seems very drastic and the implications not well thought through.

        • But you’re still missing Fred’s point, I think. I also feel that with two other libraries, it’s kind of unfair to expect the Town to turn around and provide 1/3 of the Pequot’s entire revenue.

          • Pequot Library is not just a multifaceted library: it is THE major venue for chamber music in the area. It has a huge auditorium that seats about 220 with a raised stage, excellent acoustics, and two fabulous concert grand pianos. One actually wonders why Pequot receives so little governmental funding compared to other area libraries given its broader mission.

            • Maybe it gets so little funding because it is not a PUBLIC library; It is “owned” by those who are members.

        • Perhaps you hadn’t noticed but “per capita”, Westport is wealthier than Fairfield so probably not unexpected that Westport can afford to provide more support to its non-profits “per capita” (assuming that is actually true) even though they carry a lesser property tax burden (which is what covers most of the town budget) paying lower taxes per $ of value than citizens of Fairfield. Why don’t you beat on Bridgeport or Norwalk too – I’m sure they contribute even less “per capita” than Fairfield notwithstanding their even higher tax rates.

  22. Scott E. Brodie

    This short-sighted decision on the part of the Town of Fairfield should not stand — the Pequot is a true regional gem.

    Like Dan, I, too found the Pequot’s collection an invaluable resource as a high-school student. Researching term papers for Ken Poppe’s AP US History class at Staples, there was no quicker route to a good grade than to mosey over to the Pequot, and delve into the stacks for some contemporaneous material on the matter at hand. In my report on the epic conflict between Andrew Jackson and the Second Bank of The United States, I asserted that the First BUS had been considered a success — Mr. Poppe was skeptical, but I had the references from history texts of the period to back me up. It was nice to get favorable reviews on my bibliographies!

    Here’s hoping this experience can be preserved.

    Scott.
    Scott E. Brodie
    New York

    • Scott – Why don’t you petition Mayor Bloomberg to have New York cough up the $350,000 for the “regional gem”? Or Westport since you, as a Staples (that’s in Westport if I’m not mistaken) student, used the facility.

      What is it with people wanting to spend other people’s tax dollars but not their own?

  23. By the way, at least Dan recognizes that “Westporters cannot (in good conscience, anyway) plead with Fairfield RTM members to restore funding.”

    I apologize if all of the posters whose comments I have responded to are, in fact, from Fairfield. In which case, if you feel strongly about the Pequot Library and want your tax dollars to go there, by all means, contact your RTM members.