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.


5 responses to “Westport Library: A Home And Haven For All

  1. David Schaffer

    Many things I did not know in this piece. I was unaware the Westport Library provided such humanitarian services. I also did not know there was a homeless shelter close by. Thanks for the learning experience Dan!

    • The Gillespie Shelter is across Jesup Road from the library. (Sort of behind the old Fine Arts theater, if you remember that.) It’s a very important place, run by Homes With Hope, with tremendous community support.

  2. Susan Hopkins

    The quintessential library tribute.

  3. So touching. For some of us with less dramatic stories, the Westport Library has also filled roles in our lives that have gone far past the “traditional” definition of a library. For quite some time, the library was my office when I first moved to Westport. I kept being amazed as I faced one business challenge after another, from meeting space to making copies to wifi to databases to tech support to business librarians who took a personal interest in being of help. At practically every inquiry, I was met with “Oh, we can help with that.” It’s a “can-do” place, something exceedingly rare these days in a public institution.

  4. Louis Gagliano

    A wonderful and inspiring place- I spent many hours of reflection when I started and became Chairman of the Downtown Planning Committee looking out at the river and looking at downtown. It inspired my thinking and hopefully the same type of thinking that inspired me to do community work will continue to promote others to work on making our community better.

    The legacy and the foundation that Maxine leaves will continue to improve lives for many Westporter’s for many years to come.