Tag Archives: Westport Library

Library Closed Until Further Notice


Westport Library executive director Bill Harmer says:

The health and well-being of our patrons and staff is the highest priority of the Westport Library. On Thursday, we made the decision to close our doors in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Other libraries in the state also acted and now nearly all are closed.

Over the past few days, I attended meetings at Town Hall to work with local health officials on developing a plan for how the community could mitigate and contain the virus.  I have talked to friends who work in hospitals and had an ongoing dialogue with the library’s board of directors.

The library hired a cleaning company to do a 2-day deep disinfectant of the building, top to bottom.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

All evidence points to the fact that things are going to get worse before they get better. The virus is likely to spread exponentially and our infrastructure, especially doctors’ offices and hospitals, are woefully unprepared to handle the onslaught that is coming.

The question for every institution, business, or school is not whether we should do something, but rather what the best course of action is.

For me, containment and mitigation are the answers. The only way to truly reduce the spread of the virus is through social distancing.  We did not believe that social distancing could be achieved by keeping the library open.

Therefore, we have decided that the library will remain closed until further notice.  Our book drops will also be closed, and we are waiving all late fees on Westport owned materials.

The library offers extensive downloadable and streaming digital resources, eAudiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, music, movies, and many other entertaining and educational resources are available to all cardholders. Click here for links to the digital collection.

During the closure, we will continue to provide email support: for tech assistance visit support@westportlibrary.org; for reference questions ref@westportlibrary.org; for the children’s staff kids@westportlibrary.org, and for account assistance circulation@westportlibrary.org

A scene we won’t see for a while. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Pic Of The Day #1059

An hour or so after the Westport Public Schools announced they’re closing, Trader Joe’s looked like the day before a snowstorm. Or “The Day After.” (Photo/Armelle Pouriche)

Meanwhile, hand sanitizer is in such short supply, the Westport Library took special precautions — plenty of tape — to make sure this supply stayed in the Hub.

COVID-19 Update: Lamont Declares Emergency; Library Cancels Programming; “Seussical” Postponed; State Basketball Tournaments, WIN Canceled

The coronavirus continues to play havoc with Connecticut life.

Gov. Ned Lamont has declared both a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency.

The first edict gives the state power over quarantine. The second allows the governor to restrict travel, and close public schools and buildings, among other powers..

Right now, however, Lamont says that decisions about school closings and large gatherings are being made by local government and public health officials.


The Westport Library will postpone or cancel all “in-person programming” through the end of March. Some events may be live-streamed — as was Sunday’s public meeting on the COVID-19 virus.

The Spring Book Sale scheduled for this weekend has also been canceled. The summer book sale will be held July 18 through 21, at a new location: Staples High School.

Right now, the library plans to remain open for patrons, and is “extra vigilant” about cleanliness.

Executive director Bill Harmer encourages users to take advantage of the library’s “extensive downloadable and streaming digital resource, eAudiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, music, movies, and many other entertaining and educational resources are available to all cardholders.” Click here for links to the digital collection.


Staples Players’ production of “Seussical” — scheduled for a 2-week run, beginning this weekend — has been postponed until April 24 and 25 (matinee and evening shows) and April 26.

Ticket holders will be contacted by the box office within the next few days regarding transitions or exchanges.

“We will work as quickly as we can to respond to patrons, but we ask the public to be patient,” say directors David Roth and Kerry Long.


The actors and tech crew — who have dedicated themselves to the show since December — are not the only Staples students disappointed by the effects of the rapidly spreading virus.

Wrecker basketball players were stunned today to learn that the Connecticut State Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceled the boys and girls state tournaments. (Click here for a video of the announcement.)

Both Staples teams were having their best seasons in decades. Last night, the girls beat Glastonbury to advance to the semifinals. The boys were set to begin their tournament this evening, home against Enfield.

It’s an abrupt ending for both squads.


Meanwhile, the Westport Soccer Association’s WIN tournament — for over 30 years, the kickoff to the spring season — has been canceled too.

The event — which draws over 160 boys and girls teams to indoor and outdoor fields at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools — is a fundraiser for the Coleman Brother Foundation.

Over the years, it has collected and donated more than $100,000 in scholarships.


The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — which looks out for the interests of local businesses — has forwarded a CDC document: “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers/Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus.” Click here for the link.

Sunday Coronavirus Forum: How To Watch From Home

When town and local health officials announced they’ll hold a public meeting on the coronavirus tomorrow (Sunday, March 8, 12 noon, Library Forum), many Westporters breathed a sigh of relief.

Others wondered why there’s an open forum about a disease that could be passed along in large gatherings.

Fear not.

The event — which includes 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, Fire Chief Robert Yost (Westport’s director of emergency management); Suzanne Levasseur (Westport Public Schools health supervisor) and others — is available remotely.

The meeting can be viewed live on the library’s website. It will also be livestreamed on the Westport Library Facebook page. 

If you do venture out in public: The Library opens at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Pics Of The Day #1044

Downtown Westport, courtesy of Brandon Malin’s drone:

National Hall, and the west bank of the Saugatuck River

Downtown

Bedford Square

Westport Library

Town Hall (Drone photos/Brandon Malin)

Library Book Sales: A Bold New Venture

The Westport Library book sales are a wonderful Westport tradition.

Every July — and, in a smaller form, spring — thousands of book-lovers find countless treasures. And it’s not only books (in every category imaginable). CDs, DVDs, even sheet music are also on sale.

After more than 2 decades, the sales are taking a new step forward. Today the library announced the launch of Westport Book Sale Ventures.

The new entity has a dual mission: raising funds to support the library, while providing meaningful employment for adults with disabilities.

Starting next month, the Westport Library book sales will be operated by Westport Book Sale Ventures, Inc. — an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit.

A typical summer Westport Library Book Sale scene.

“The book sales are a beloved community tradition that provide essential support for Library programming,” says executive director Bill Harmer. “The sales are powered by a dedicated team of volunteers, and tens of thousands of book donations from our generous community.

“Facilitating meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is squarely aligned with the Library’s mission to strengthen our community, motivate engagement and serve diverse constituencies, and we are incredibly proud to launch this new initiative.”

The new venture is coordinated by Jocelyn Barandiaran, Sharuna Mahesh and Linda Monteiro-Hopper, Westport residents with a passion for the Library and the expanded book sale mission.

Mimi Greenlee and Dick Lowenstein — who have led book sales for 2 decades — will provide guidance.

Dick Lowenstein, Mimi Greenlee and Suzy Hooper — longtime Book Sale stalwarts. (Photo/John Karrel)

Barandiaran notes, “The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities is twice as high as the rate for people with no disabilities. For many young adults with disabilities there is a significant gap following high school, when individuals no longer have the support of the public education system’s transition services, and their social networks disburse.

“We hope this new venture will provide transferable job skills and opportunities for community engagement, and motivate our community and our businesses to be ever more inclusive of people with disabilities.”

The Annex, which was installed in the upper lot to receive book donations, will continue to function in the same way. Donations may be made at any time during the Library’s operating hours.

The first Book Sale Event managed by the new venture is set for Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 15, in the Library Forum of the Westport Library. To learn more about Westport Book Sale Ventures, click here.

“Vagina Monologues” Comes To Town

It began as casual conversations with friends. Soon Eve Ensler began talking with women she did not know. Eventually she spoke with 200 of them.

Their discussions about sex and relationships often turned to the topic of violence against women. The project — which Ensler had envisioned as a celebration of vaginas and femininity — became a crusade to stop that violence.

Since its off-Broadway debut in 1996, “The Vagina Monologues” — which explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, sex work and other topics through the eyes of women of various ages, races and sexualities — has become one of the most impactful plays of our time.

It also sparked the V-Day Movement, a global non-profit aimed at ending violence against women and girls.

“The Vagina Monologues” forms the cornerstone of the movement. Benefit performances take place worldwide each year between February and April. All  must stick to an annual script that V-Day puts out.

Performances benefit rape crisis centers, shelters for women and similar resources. So far, they’ve raised over $120 million.

This year, Westport Library has been chosen to produce a V-Day event. Beneficiaries are the Center for Family Justice and the Rowan Center sexual assault agency. Many cast members are Westport residents.

Set for Friday, February 21, the event begins with a 6:30 p.m. cocktail reception. The performance will be followed by a conversation between the cast and audience, about themes and issues brought up in the play.

The suggested donation is $20. However, all donation levels are accepted (and appreciated). For tickets, click here.

Photo Challenge #266

The snow in Kathleen Motes Bennewitz’s image last week made it hard to figure out exactly what the Photo Challenge showed. (Click here to see.)

But not so hard that Andrew Colabella, Seth Schachter, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Amy Schneider, Arthur Hayes, Mousumi Ghosh, Sean Doyle and Peter Barlow didn’t know the answer.

It was the big, abstract steel sculpture, created between 1976 and ’81 by Charles Ginnever titled “Charities.” It sits on Jesup Green, near the new entrance to the Westport Library by the Taylor parking lot.

According to Ann Chernow and Miggs Burroughs, writing in the Westport News’ “Art Town” column, it was donated to the town in 1996 by a friend of Ginnever,

It was originally placed in Winslow Park, facing the Post Road. The next year it was moved to Jesup Green.

It’s been there ever since, framing the library and serving as an inviting spot for kids to scamper on.

And for snow to collect.

This week’s Photo Challenge is easy to identify — for longtime Westporters, anyway. It’s the lighthouse that for decades stood between the marina and pool entrance at Longshore (near where the pavilion and snack bar are now).

So that’s not the challenge. What we want to know is: Where does this painting hang today?

That’s a question that any Westporter — no matter how recently you moved here — might be able to answer.

If you know, click “Comments” below.

Pics Of The Day #1020

The Westport Library was quieter than usual today — some of the time.

The 21st annual Crossword Puzzle Contest drew a record 130-plus cruciverbalists, from as far as Pittsburgh and Illinois. 

A small portion of the 130-plus puzzlers.

Led by New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz — the host and grandmaster for all 21 years — the contestants tackled 3 crosswords. 

That was the quiet part. During breaks, there were loud, animated conversations — about puzzles, the genius of Will Shortz, and life. 

The judges at work.

After those preliminary rounds, the finalists took the stage. Glenn Ryan of Norwich dethroned defending champion Ken Stern, finishing a “Friday puzzle” without a mistake in a blazing 4 minutes, 50 seconds.

Finalists,just minutes after the championship round began.

He won a book about the origins of words — and an hour test drive in a Maserati, courtesy of the Westport dealer.

From left: finalists Ken Stern, Jesse Lansner and champion Glenn Ryan, with Westport Library executive director  Bill Harmer and New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz.

That may the only thing faster than Glenn.

Not to brag, but — well, okay, a little. (Photos/Dan Woog)

 

WestportREADS: Library Celebrates 100 Years Of Women’s Suffrage

The United States has never had a female president.

Then again, 101 years ago women were not allowed to vote.

As the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — women’s suffrage was ratified in 1920 — the Westport Library joins in. A year-long series of events looks back on that then-controversial decision.

They’ll also examine the current voting landscape. A century after half the country finally joined participatory democracy, our country grapples with issues like voter suppression, and the security of our ballots.

The library’s programs are part of its first-ever year-long WestportREADS initiative. Formerly a one-month event, it’s now expanded into a full campaign: “Westport Suffragists — Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders.”

More than a year ago, Westporters Lucy Johnson and Marcia Falk asked  director Bill Harmer if the library could note the upcoming 19th Amendment anniversary.

He embraced the idea, and suggested it fall under the WestportREADS umbrella. The program encourages the entire community to read the same book, and organizes events around that theme.

Last fall’s kickoff featured journalist Elaine Weiss. She discussed her book “The Woman’s Hour,” a riveting account of the far-harder-than-it-should-have-been political and social drive to pass the amendment.

The next book event focuses on fiction. On Tuesday, March 3 (7 p.m.), Kate Walbert welcomes Women’s History Month with a discussion of “A Short History of Women.”

Her novel explores the ripples of the suffrage movement through one family, starting in 1914 at the deathbed of suffragist Dorothy Townsend. It follows her daughter, watches her niece choose a more conventional path, and completes the family portrait with a great-granddaughter in post-9/11 Manhattan.

The battle for suffrage was long and hard.

But that’s only part of the WestportREADS schedule.

Here are just a few other events:

  • The League of Women Voters tells its story (February 9, 1:30 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club)
  • “Battle of the Sexes” video, about the groundbreaking tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (February 18, 2 p.m., Westport Library Komansky Room)
  • Opening reception for an exhibit on Westport women central to the suffrage movement (March 6, 6 p.m., Westport Library Sheffer Room)
  • Talk about Lillian Wald, social activist and founder of the Henry Street Settlement who retired to Westport (March 18, 7 p.m., Westport Library Forum).

Lillian Wald: social justice warrior, and Westporter.

Authors, historians and journalists will present other panels and exhibits through August. That month — marking final ratification of the 19th Amendment (you go, Tennessee!) — WestportREADS sponsors a final, big program. Details will be announced soon.

Working on this project has been enlightening, Johnson says.

“The fight for suffrage began long before the 20th century,” she notes. “It took a long time. But without television, the internet or social media — through sheer will and determination, with marches and lobbying, state by state — people got it done. It was an amazing feat.”

The library has partnered with the League of Women Voters. Representatives will be at every event, to enroll new voters.

All women are encouraged to register.

All men, too.

(For more information on the “Westport Suffragists” WestportREADS program, click here.)