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Category Archives: Library
With spectacular weather — and a wise move from Parker Harding Plaza, back to its original Main Street roots — this weekend’s 44th annual Fine Arts Festival drew twice last year’s numbers.
An eclectic mix of 148 artists, sculptors, photographers and jewelry makers — and the addition of new dining options — drew raves from longtime festival-goers and newcomers alike. The event is sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.
A few steps from the art show, the Westport Library sponsored its annual ginormous Book Sale.
In a world filled with Kindles and iPhones, it’s nice to know thousands of people still love to read books.
And listen to CDs and vinyl, which were also on sale.
Like those tens of thousands of books — all could be had for a song.
The art show and book sale were only 2 of many events in Westport this weekend.
And there’s much more to come. Happy summer!
It takes a village to raise a child.
And it takes a small city — well, 300 to 400 people anyway — to run the Westport Library’s annual Book Sale.
The tents are already up for the July 15-18 event. That’s done professionally.
But nearly everything else — hauling boxes, unboxing books, shelving, signage, on-site help, line control, security, checkout, cleanup and takedown — is done by volunteers.
They converge on Jesup Green from all corners of town (and beyond). They come in all shapes and sizes (and ages). They represent the Y’s Men, Staples Service League of Boys, National Charity League, the Gillespie Center and a local addiction recovery house.
Some are giving back to their community. Some are performing court-ordered community service. Some love the library, or books in general. Some welcome a chance to socialize.
All are welcome.
Mimi Greenlee is the longtime c0-chair of the Book Sale. She’s also one of those uber-volunteers who epitomize the saying, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.”
Since moving here in 1971 with her husband Chuck, Mimi has raised 4 kids; taught at Burr Farms Elementary School; served with the Westport Young Woman’s League, United Way, Westport Soccer Association and a slew of PTAs, and run the Westport Downtown Merchants Association art show.
Still, the Book Sale is special. It’s a true community event, with that huge volunteer/collaborative component.
“It’s like a puzzle. I love watching the pieces come together,” Mimi says. “And every piece is a person.”
As the book sale grew — from one tiny table in the McManus Room, to an outdoor tent, to the many tents now on Jesup Green — so did the need for help.
Suzy Hooper gets the volunteers for the 9 days it takes to set up, run and take down the event.
There’s a job for everyone. Some of it is very physical. (“Those Y’s Men put me to shame,” Mimi marvels.)
Some can be done sitting down — even in a wheelchair.
Mimi, Suzy and the library staff have it all down to a science. Last year, it took just one hour from the end of the sale Tuesday, until everything was packed away.
“We get everyone,” Mimi says. There’s a man from New Canaan who arranges his travel schedule every year to do this. There are people who volunteered when they were living in the homeless shelter just across the way. Now they’ve got housing, but they still want to help.”
Mimi invites everyone to the book sale. It starts Saturday, July 15 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); continues Sunday, July 16 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday, July 17 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., half-price day), and ends Tuesday, July 18 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; everything is free, but contributions are welcome).
And if you’d like to volunteer on the sale days — or help with the book sorting process throughout the year — just email firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here.
I never thought the original Staples High School building on Riverside Avenue looked like the original Town Hall on the Post Road (now Jesup Hall restaurant).
Or like Greens Farms Elementary School. Or the original YMCA (now Bedford Square).
But some readers did.
Many more, however, knew that last week’s photo challenge showed our first high school. Built in 1884 and razed in 1967, it sat where the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium is now.
Lynn U. Miller’s photo was a close-up of one of the many tiles that form the River of Names, on the lower level of the Westport Library.
At least, that fascinating mural is there now. After the library’s transformation project, it will be relocated elsewhere.
Just like Staples High School eventually was.
Fifteen alert “06880” readers got either or both parts of the challenge — Staples and the library — correct. Congratulations to Bobbie Herman, Ana Johnson, Fred Cantor, Michael Calise, Seth Schachter, Rosalie Kaye, Philip Millstein, Cathy Romano, Linda Amos, Leslie Flinn, Linda Gramatky Smith, Barbara Railton-Jones, Amee Borys, Dan Beddingfield and Mousumi Ghosh. (To see the photo and read all the comments, click here.)
Here’s this week’s photo challenge. If you think you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.
It’s not a “renovation.” Nor is it a “remodeling.”
On August 1, the Westport Library breaks ground on a “transformation” project.
Through 21 months of construction — during which it remains open for use — the 31-year-old building will be reimagined, top to bottom.
The stark and dark lower level — currently home to the video department, offices, the cramped McManus Room and a few offices — turns into a place of light, nature and activity.
The offices facing the river will be recaptured for patrons’ use — with larger windows, to enjoy the view.
The functional Taylor parking lot entrance becomes more welcoming. A 2nd entrance — midway up Jesup Green — offers another access to the main level.
The result of all this is a better visual and visceral connection between the library, the river and the green.
The DVD/BluRay collection — accounting for 35% of the library’s check-outs — moves to the main floor.
So does the very popular McManus meeting room — where it will be 4 times larger.
The main level — the one accessible now only from the Levitt Pavilion lot — undergoes a mind-boggling transformation.
The cafe expands threefold. With more food choices, an outdoor terrace, a new connection to the Sheffer Reading Room and a special entrance allowing it to be used after hours for events like author and poetry readings, this area can become an actual destination.
The newspaper and magazine reading rooms — with their gorgeous river views — remain. But mobile furniture makes them more flexible.
The hulking service desk gets revamped, to be more open and inviting. Director Bill Harmer calls the area next to it “The Hub,” where staff members offer assistance.
The main room gets acoustic tiles, helping noise and aesthetics. Dozens of power outlets will line the perimeter.
But that’s only the start.
A raised floor will be built over the art display kiosks (which are actually air intake vents, too costly to move). The grandstand will be similar to Times Square. Harmer envisions similar excitement, interaction, dreaming and activity.
A giant LED screen and excellent sound system add to the possibilities.
The current book stacks move one floor below, freeing up room for what Harmer calls “open, flexible community forum space.” With room for 500 people (and a large screen), it’s a spot for collaborative work, and large programs.
The entire space can be cleared if needed, for exhibitions or trade-type shows.
The Maker Space has already been disassembled, and reopened temporarily on the top floor. It will reappear — in a larger form — where the reference section, offices and computers are now. It too will have an after-hours entrance.
Harmer describes the new area as “community-oriented hacker space.” Laser cutters, lathes, power tools, sewing machines and kilns will allow for even more than tinkering, robotics, coding and 3D printing.
“We’ll provide the tools of invention,” Harmer says. “We’ll bring the community together to create magic.”
Sounds interesting, but noisy?
No problem: It’s all sound-proofed.
The nearby recording studio will be sound-proofed too. “It’s not Abbey Road,” Harmer apologizes. But — designed by Rob Fraboni, an audio engineer who has worked with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Band, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker — it will offer another immersive experience for patrons.
Seven conference/study rooms — more than double the current 3 — will be loaded with technology.
The new McManus Room is planned for the far end of the main floor — closest to the police station — where the stacks are now. Windows will brighten that now-dark corner of the library.
Upstairs, the balcony comes out another 5 feet. That provides “box seats” for all that goes on below, while easing the current hallway space crunch.
The Children’s Department gets an extreme makeover too. More natural light, and a bit of reconfiguring of shelves, enlivens that important area. Giant porthole windows will enable kids to look out over the Great Hall.
The price tag for all this is $19.5 million. The town of Westport provides a quarter of the funding. The other three-quarters comes from individual, foundation and corporate donations (including a $1 million state grant).
The library has raised all but $4 million of what’s needed. Bridge financing is already in place.
The Westport Library sits on some of Westport’s most beautiful — and valuable — real estate.
It’s also one of our town’s most used — and valuable — resources.
Less than 2 years from now, the library will be “transformed.”
The project will transform more than the building, and Jesup Green around it.
It will transform all of downtown.
And all of us, too.
(To learn more about the Westport Library transformation project, click here.)
“06880” posts one Pic of the Day, each day.
But the Westport Library hopes for hundreds — on one special day.
All Westporters — professional and amateur; old and young; native and newcomer; those with Nikons and those with iPhones — are invited to take photos at any time (or all day) on Wednesday, June 21.
That’s the summer solstice, so there should be plenty of light.
Shoot anything, or anyone. The only requirements: It must be somewhere in Westport. And use a high-resolution setting.
Send your 3 best images — one at a time, at the largest option offered — to email@example.com. Put your name and “Westport” in the subject line.
Photos chosen will be featured in the library’s Riverwalk hallway (lower level) from July 3-21. An opening reception is set for Thursday, July 6 (6:30 p.m.).
So on June 21, go for it.
Give it your best shot!
The largest crowd in the 19-year history of the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraiser listened, laughed and learned with Alan Alda last night.
After video clips from many admirers — including former Westporter Marlo Thomas, and the Chilean doctor who saved his life in 2003 — the actor/singer/director/activist/humorist/humanist (as introduced by Westport actress/singer Cynthia Gibb) took the stage.
Speaking without notes — but with tons of energy, his trademark smile and a clear love for his subjects — Alda wove together his ideas about communication, empathy, science and wonder.
There was plenty of audience participation — even a couple of opportunities to test out his theories on active listening.
The final episode of M*A*S*H — which Alda co-wrote — drew a record audience. It still stands.
More than 3 decades later, the record library crowd understood why.
Westport Library patrons are smart people.
Last week’s photo challenge — Jerry Kuyper’s intriguing shot of the shadows cast by a sculpture on the wall of the upper level library entrance — was quickly identified by Elaine Marino, Leigh Gage, Seth Schachter, Dominique Dwor-Frecaut, Kris Nash, Valerie Kermoal, Melody James, Audrey Doniger and Amee Borys. (Click here for the photo, and all guesses.)
Maxine Bleiweis added the fun fact that the sculpture — called “Walter” — was created by Westonite Carole Eisner. “It looks like something Naiad Einsel might have done,” Maxine said, referring to the mis-identification of the sculptor by some readers.
Maxine should know. She’s the former director of the library.
Ed Simek sends along this week’s challenge. I have to admit: I didn’t think I’d ever seen it before. But it’s another one of those pieces of Westport hiding in plain sight.
Bonus challenge: Tell us the family this memorial is named for! Click “Comments” below.