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’s accomplishments are — well, special. Working for the New York Times, National 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 “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)
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.)