Tag Archives: Westport Library Transformation Project

Library Transformation Is Complete. Grand Reopening Set For Sunday!

Few things in life exceed my expectations.

The Westport Library’s transformation project does.

I’ve written about the remarkable process that, over the past 18 months, has turned what was already a town jewel into a sparkling diamond.

I won’t go into all the details here. Suffice it to say that from top (expanded children’s section, more meeting rooms, wider balcony) to bottom (nestle between the stacks and the river) — with special attention paid to the main Forum floor (state-of-the-art stage, amazing people-watching pyramid, beautiful reading rooms, recording studio, brand-new café) and outside (shape-shifting stairs and entrance on Jesup Green) — the transformed library will awe all who use it. And everyone else downtown too.

Artist’s rendering of the main floor Forum. Come see for yourself on Sunday!

The public gets its first look at it all this Sunday (June 23).

A ribbon-cutting takes place at 11, on the new Jesup stairs. After a couple of brief speeches, the library will host 5 hours of fun, interactive events.

Bands, artists, live podcasts, a performance by world-renowned/Westport neighbor pianist Frederic Chiu, children’s music, discussions, acoustic guitar, dance, exhibits, MakerSpace demos — that and much more is in store.

Community partners like Earthplace, the Westport Historical Society, Wakeman Town Farm and Westport Garden Club will welcome the library into its new home.

Click here for full details.

Then book it!

The new Jesup Green main level entrance.

Library Transformation Nearly Complete

June 23: Book it!

That’s the Sunday — just 3 1/2 months from now — when the Westport Library unveils its finished Transformation Project.

It’s on time. On budget. And on track to revolutionize not only the library itself, but Jesup Green, Taylor Place, and probably the rest of downtown.

The other day — as workers pounded nails, laid tiles and ran wires — library director Bill Harmer took “06880” photographer Lynn Untermeyer Miller and me on a tour.

A few months ago, we previewed the lower level. Yet with all due respect to the stacks and reading nooks, the upper level is where all the action will be.

The “Great Hall” gets a lot greater. Gone is the “battleship” circulation desk, clunky kiosks and scores of stacks.

Now, Harmer says, the library has “liberated” nearly 11,000 square feet of space.

The main floor becomes a grand space for working, collaborating, watching concerts and performances, and hanging out. It can be reconfigured for an art show, fashion runway — if you imagine it, the library staff will do it.

“You can even have a wedding here,” Harmer says. I don’t think he’s joking.

The centerpiece of the “Forum” — its new name — is a tiered grandstand. It faces 2 directions — one of which is a new performing (and extendable) stage. Behind it is a giant video wall that Harmer calls “unlike anything anywhere in the state.” Theater-quality lighting hangs above.

The grandstand, looking toward Jesup Green…

… and the view from the top of the grandstand, toward the stage (rear).

A close-up of the grandstand. Mechanicals fit underneath; the exterior will be used for periodicals.

The entryway —  now accessible from Jesup Green, as well as the Levitt Pavilion parking lot — will include a “Hub.” That’s where you’ll find popular, new material, and a very user-friendly service desk.

That new entrance is huge. With a heated landing and steps, and a sidewalk linking it to the police station parking lot, it overlooks a natural amphitheater by Jesup Green.

Harmer envisions programs taking place on the landing, and the green.

Library director Bill Harmer outside the new entrance. Jesup Green and Taylor Place are close by.

Suddenly, that part of downtown seems part of the library. We’ll be encouraged to walk more; to linger on the green; to see the library as part of — rather than apart from — downtown.

A path now leads from Taylor Place to the police station parking lot. A new library entrance is along the path.

The connection continues inside. Dozens of windows have been added on the northern side. Natural light will flood in.

Plenty of windows let in lots of light.

There are many new rooms. Each serves more than one purpose. A hangout for teenagers in the afternoon becomes a lecture room at night, for example. A production facility turns into a green room for featured performers.

The new MakerSpace has 24/7 access from outside. Creativity strikes at any time, so users can come and go even when the rest of the library is closed.

The Library Cafe has been expanded enormously. A view of the bathroom has been replaced by one of the river. There’s outdoor seating — and a “BakerSpace” for demonstrations and nutrition talks. (Yes, that’s a play on “MakerSpace.”)

Upstairs, the hallway has been widened by 5 feet. That makes a huge difference. Seven large conference rooms will be open to the public (along with 2 on the riverwalk level).

There’s more room to walk on the 2nd floor.

But the star of the top floor is the children’s library. Though the same size as before, but it feels much larger.

The renovated children’s library.

The ceiling has been raised, revealing a large skylight that no one knew was there.

A peek through the porthole, at the newly discovered skylight.

Kids can peer through portholes at the Great Hall below — or they and their parents can enjoy wonderful river views on the opposite side. Mobile stacks will make this one of the most exciting parts of the entire building.

Library director Bill Harmer, in front of one of the new portholes. Children will gaze out, at all the action below.

The view from the children’s library is not too shabby.

The Transformation Project is truly a 21st-century design. Power outlets are everywhere. That’s one thing no library can have too much of.

Architects also thought to raise the floor. Finally, you’re high enough to actually see out of the windows.

Seeing, as we all know, is believing. Mark your calendars for June 23. You’ll see a library you could never have imagined.

Its transformation will be wondrous. And complete.

(For more information on the Westport Library’s Transformation Project, click here.)

Even the light fixtures are dramatic. (All photos and video/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Library Reopens Tomorrow. You’ll Love What You See!

Phase I of the Westport Library‘s Transformation Project is complete.

When the lower level reopens tomorrow — after a 12-day hiatus to move books from the upper level, and finish the massive construction job — patrons will note a difference that’s night and day.

Almost literally.

The dark, poorly laid out Riverwalk level has been completely redesigned. It’s light, airy, dynamic and interactive. Inside and out work together, inviting everyone to explore, relax, work together or alone, or simply enjoy the river and trees.

Here’s a preview, courtesy of superb photographer — and longtime Westport Library lover — Lynn Untermeyer Miller.

Henry Myerberg of HMA2 Architects has cleverly integrated the exterior and interior. The “porthole” above, for example, honors the riverside location, while subtly reminding users of the library’s logo and color scheme.

Large windows replace the lower walkway that led past the old video collection and offices. As you walk to the new entrance, you see action inside.

Indigenous vegetation and new pathways lead to the lower entrance.

The new entrance that says “WEST” faces west …

… and “PORT” as it faces the river. Westport Library director Bill Harmer admires new plantings just out of the frame.

Here’s one of the reading nooks. Formerly staff offices, they’ve been reimagined completely. Globe lamps mirror those on the riverwalk outside.

Stacks have been moved downstairs. But — like Manhattanhenge, where a few times a year you see the sun set directly at the end of every avenue — there are stunning views from all aisles. Each table has many outlets to recharge devices.

The children’s section moves temporarily downstairs, until the upstairs renovation is done. Special chairs — with words like “Make” and “Read” — are part of the new attractions.

Also housed temporarily in the Riverwalk level: a program room, the Maker Space and cafe.

Still under construction: a “grand staircase,” leading to another entrance (upper left). It will bring patrons into the upper level, near where the teen section used to be. The staircase will also serve as terraced seating: a place to meet, or enjoy the panoramic view of Jesup Green and the river.

The plaza at the bottom of the grand staircase can function as a program space too. Benches at the bottom will be lit at night. There are even outlets to recharge devices, 24/7. Meanwhile, the design of the pavers is meant to evoke the spines of books …

… which is echoed in the tiles on the walls of the new bathrooms. Designers of the “new” Westport Library have thought of everything.

Especially what it means to be a library in Westport in the 21st century.

(NOTE: The Riverwalk level will function as the “interim library” while construction begins upstairs, on Phase II. The project is on schedule — and on budget — for final completion next June. Hat tip: Lynn Untermeyer Miller.)

Library Transformation: Phase One Nearly Done

What takes 9 months to grow and deliver?

Right! The Westport Library’s Transformation Project!

Nine months after breaking ground, Phase I of the long-awaited project is set to end.

On June 4, the new Riverwalk level and “interim library” opens to the public.

With construction debris cleared, the lower level is looking good. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Final construction ends next year — closer to elephant gestation time than human — but the first phase offers a great preview of the stunning views, latest technology, new rooms and quiet spaces that will be key elements of the finished project.

During Phase II, the library collection will be available on the Riverwalk level. Construction on the main and upper levels — including the new, flexible Forum and reimagined children’s space — is expected to take 10 months.

The Riverwalk level will feature stunning views of the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Westport Library)

Reference, circulation, inter-library loans and other services will continue to be available. Program space will be limited though, so in addition to the library, events will be hosted at the Westport Weston Family Y, Suzuki Music School, Saugatuck and Christ & Holy Trinity Churches, Conservative Synagogue, Beit Chaverim, Westport Woman’s Club, Earthplace, police headquarters, Westport Historical Society, Senior Center, Town Hall and elsewhere.

Teen and adult book collections will be temporarily unavailable from May 14 until they are moved to the Riverwalk. Children’s books, the audio-visual collection and new releases are unaffected.

An artist’s rendering of the completed project, as seen from Jesup Green. (Image courtesy of HMA2 Architects)

The library will close from May 23 through June 3 to transfer material, move technology and do other work. The good news: No fines will be levied during those 11 days.

Meanwhile — despite construction — there’s always something special going on at the library.

The other day, director Bill Harmer gave an informal tour of the project. Internationally acclaimed pianist — and longtime library supporter — Frederic Frederic Chiu got a look at the new space.

Spotting a piano, he delighted the staff — and construction crew — with an impromptu performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s dramatic “Toccata.”

Wearing, of course, his mandatory hard hat.

(Photo/Westport Library)

(NOTE: The library has raised 88% of the funds needed to complete the project. To help reach 100%, click here. For schedules and events, click here.