The Westport Library has long supported all types of educational efforts, whether that is furthering your studies, providing reference materials and experts to help with research, or learning technical skills through our MakerSpace or Verso Studios.

Starting this spring, we’re building on those efforts with the launch of Verso University, a year-round series of high-level classes, workshops, and lectures designed to further education and learning — and above all, learning for a lifetime.

Offerings will run the gamut of educational opportunities to take your learning to the next level, ranging from one-time lectures to ongoing courses to classes that meet weekly or perhaps monthly. And they will cover a wide variety of topics, with classes and courses to appeal to all ages and interests, from our younger patrons to our most experienced.

Each semester, we’ll be offering classes tailored to your interests, responding to what our community wants to deliver programs that will resonate.

“Fundamentally, a library is a place of learning, of engagement, where patrons can come to explore and grow,” said Bill Harmer, Westport Library executive director. “Verso University is a natural extension of that lifelong interest and curiosity. Our innovative spaces and innovative technologies enable us to lead the development of 21st century models of literacy and learning. These models are community-based and focus on dynamic, interpersonal learning integrated with 21st century infrastructure and technologies.”

Here is a closer look at what we’ll be offering for the spring semester (more classes to come this summer and fall):

Launch Lecture: Martin Yellin on Space
Monday, March 13, 1-2 pm, Trefz Forum

We kick off the spring semester with a launch event for the ages, courtesy of longtime Westporter and scientist Martin Yellin, who will visit the Library to offer an overview of the fascinating and sometimes unexpected discoveries we’ve made in space, and how, from absolutely nothing, we’ve begun to understand where we are and how we got here.

The Range of Literary Realism: Four Masterpieces of 21st Century Fiction, with Dr. Mark Schenker
Tuesdays, April 4 & 18, May 2 & 16, 2-3 pm, Brooks Place

In this series of classes, Mark Schenker, renowned lecturer in English at Yale University, examines four novels that reflect the range of literary realism as portrayed in 21st Century fiction. The novels are considered masterpieces, three of which are ranked by The Guardian in the Top 50 of “100 Best Books of the 21st Century”:  

Got Problems? Think Them Through for Better Problem Solving!
May 2023

Problem solving is making a decision, accomplishing an objective, working toward a goal, and solving a dilemma. Join problem-solving coaches Mike Hibbard PhD and Patricia Cyganovich EdD to learn thinking-it-through problem-solving processes to use in any area of life, to learn how to think through a situation and use strategies to identify and solve the problem, and much more.

Fiction Writing Master Class, with Gabino Iglesias
May 2023

Renowned noir writer and Westport Library StoryFest alum Gabino Iglesias will be on hand to teach a master class-style writing workshop.

Crew Call 
Rolling Admission, Spring through Fall

In 2022, more than 100 people participated in Verso Studios training and more than 30 engaged in Crew Call — a training program focused on live media production skills. Crew Call is an incredible opportunity for volunteers of all ages to gain real-world experience in video recording and production. Crew Call participants are now regularly supporting the many productions that happen every week in the Library. Available spots are limited.

In recent days, we have listened to, heard, and read the comments from some members of the community regarding the decision of The Westport Library Board of Trustees to not reinstall the River of Names tile wall at The Westport Library.

To address the concerns raised and to avoid any misunderstandings, below is a timeline of the River of Names project:

  • The River of Names was a fundraising effort for a Library Capital Renovation project in the late 1990s (1997-98). Contributions ranging from $100 to $1,500 were sought. Former Second Selectwoman Betty Lou Cummings and Dorothy Curran, a trustee of the Library Board at that time, co-chaired and graciously led the effort.
  • Marion Grebow of Grebow Tile Fundraising Murals was contracted to create the tiles, which were installed onto a reinforced, interior wall on the Library’s Riverwalk Level. Thus, due to how they were adhered, tiles cannot be separated without causing damage. The entire wall is approximately 26 feet long and 6 feet tall and weighs nearly 6,000 pounds.
  • Plans for the Library’s 2017-19 Transformation Project called for the removal of the interior wall that held the River of Names and other walls on the Riverwalk Level to create a more open, light-filled enclosure that allowed for greater use of the space and views of the Saugatuck River. A space on the second floor was designated in the plans for the tile wall.
  • Prior to start of construction, the Library hired Crozier Fine Arts, a leading art storage and logistics firm, to remove the River of Names tile wall. The wall was professionally disassembled into sections, at considerable expense to the Library, in order to remove it safely.
  • Prior to removal, the tile wall and the individual tiles were each professionally and meticulously photographed for posterity and preservation.
  • Since the transformation build started, the River of Names has been in climate-controlled storage at the Crozier facility, at the Library’s expense.
  • To make sure future generations are aware of the project, the Library created a dynamic River of Names digital platform that showcases the tile wall in its entirety. It is available on the Library’s homepage.
  • As part of the original design for the Transformation Project, the tile wall was to be reinstalled in the renovated space on the upper level, outside the Children’s Library. It would have been mounted and wrapped around a corner, where patrons could see it and enjoy it for many years. This location was unequivocally rejected by the individuals involved in the original development of the tile wall because it wrapped around a corner.
  • Upon the rejection of the proposed location, the builder, along with the trustees, re-analyzed the design and determined that there was no other suitable location in the building to re-hang the tile wall, according to the requirements provided by the individuals involved in the River of Names original development.
  • At that time, and for several years afterward, we explored, in earnest, both public and private locations in town to re-hang the River of Names on a reinforced wall. While one location was potentially identified, the funding to prep the space and reinstall did not exist.
  • The Library honors the donors whose names were recorded on the tile wall. Their names are listed on the new donor wall located at the main entrance that was designed as part of the recent Transformation Project.
  • In September 2019, the Library Board met and decided unanimously to keep the tile wall in storage, and cover the storage fees, hoping another location could be found. The Board informally discussed that paying to store the wall for an additional three years was reasonable.
  • In October 2021, as the town was reviewing its public art collection, the Board asked the Library staff to contact community partners to obtain their points of view on the River of Names. The staff reached out to representatives of the Town’s Art Advisory Council, TEAM Westport, and the Westport Museum for History and Culture. These organizations independently expressed concerns about historical inaccuracies and the lack of representation of diverse people who played a significant role in Westport’s history. These opinions have been shared publicly.
  • The Library's Board of Trustees confirmed the decision to not reinstall the River of Names. The decision was made after years of thoughtful discussions, looking at multiple points of view and consideration of numerous factors.
  • In April 2022, members of the Board met with Dorothy Curran and Betty Lou Cummings and informed them that there was no place to reinstall the wall at the Library and reminded them that they were welcome to have it. The Library offered to pay storage through the end of the year, or longer, if they needed additional time.
  • The Library has offered and remains open to transfer ownership of the River of Names to any responsible party who demonstrates a reasonable interest.

The decision not to reinstall the tile wall was one made by the Library’s Board of Trustees and the Board alone. We appreciate that not everyone agrees with the board’s conclusion, and we understood that it might not be universally popular, but it was made in good faith based on the mission and values of the Library.

We love Westport for many reasons, and one of the things we cherish most is that Westporters are passionate and engaged. We believe that reasonable people can disagree, at times strongly, on an issue, and we support that conversation. In fact, it aligns with the Library’s stated commitment to empower the individual and strengthen the community through dynamic interaction and the lively exchange of ideas.

The Board advocates for civil conversations that are respectful and topical, not derogatory, or personal. We ask that varying points of view be shared respectfully and for the ongoing discussion to be one of learning, sharing, decency, courtesy, and growth.

We are grateful for our continued partnerships with the Town’s Art Advisory Council, TEAM Westport, and the Westport Museum for History and Culture. The Westport Library looks forward to continuing to work on our shared interests with the goals of enriching the lives of the residents of Westport and beyond. It is unfortunate that through this recent discourse, these organizations are being attacked for a decision the Library’s Board of Trustees made regarding the tile wall.

The motto of the Library is “open to all” — and we truly see it that way. That is not only those who agree with this decision or those who will disagree with a future decision. The Library is for everyone, a gathering space and a community resource. We are thankful to all who have reached out to share their thoughts constructively. Please know we have listened and regarded every opinion. And we look forward to sharing this community space — in the days, weeks, and years to come.


Westport Library Board of Trustees

After thoughtful consideration, detailed analysis, and consultation with multiple parties, the Library’s Board of Trustees no longer intends to reinstall the River of Names Tile Wall.

The Board of Trustees unanimously supports this move. The decision was reached after the Library consulted with the Westport Arts Advisory Committee and the Westport Museum for History and Culture, which reviewed the content of the Tile Wall to determine if it depicted the town’s history in an accurate and inclusive way. Both organizations independently expressed concerns about historical inaccuracies and the lack of representation of diverse people who played a significant role in Westport’s history.

We recognize the original intent of the Tile Wall was to celebrate Westport and its history, while raising funds for an expansion of the Library in 1997-98, and we are grateful for the generosity of all those who contributed to that effort. To continue recognition of their support, the Library has included these donors on the donor appreciation wall on the Library’s main floor.

In addition, prior to removal of the Tile Wall in connection with the Library’s 2017-19 Transformation Project, the Wall and each of its tiles was professionally and meticulously captured digitally and may be viewed online together with an extensive narrative.

The Tile Wall was professionally removed and preserved in a climate-controlled warehouse. The Library has offered to transfer ownership to any responsible party who demonstrates a reasonable interest in the Wall. To date, no one has come forward.

Westport has a long and proud history, and we are humbled to play a small yet vital place in it. As we look toward the future, we will continue to work with all Westporters to celebrate our community and maintain the Library as a center of knowledge, learning, creativity, and growth for everyone.

- Jeremy Price, President, Westport Library Board of Trustees

20 Jesup Road
Westport, CT 06880

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