The Westport Library will soon be adding a new language program, with the English Conversation Group holding its first meeting on Monday, January 29.

The group will meet weekly on Mondays after that, from 11 am to 12 pm, in the Board Room (Room 210) on the Library’s upper level. The group is offering the opportunity to practice your English language conversation skills with others. It will be informal conversation and is open to both non-native and native speakers.

With its inception, the English Conversation Group joins a host of language conversation groups offered at the Library, including French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

The Library’s language conversation groups are for those interested in practicing speaking in another language. The groups are open to all levels of experience and are self-directed. If you are interested in starting a group in a language not offered, contact Jennifer Keller at [email protected].

Those interested in the English Conversation Group should reach out to Youn Su Chao at [email protected].

The Westport Library, well-known as a hub for lifelong learning, cultural events, and innovation, is now the recipient of a post-COVID $57,462 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant enhancing the Library’s technological infrastructure and wireless connectivity. The ARPA grant bolsters the Library’s capacity to serve as an emergency hub in times of power outages.

In previous years, extreme storms like Irene and Isais caused power and wireless disruption for many, with more than 12,000 patrons utilizing the Library’s wireless internet connectivity in a matter of days. In many cases, service could not meet demand. The ARPA grant extends the wireless signal to Jesup Town Green and the Levitt Town Pavilion, with four additional wireless access points installed. In addition, the Library’s firewall has been updated for added safety and security.

The State of Connecticut reports, "The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) is the sixth federal COVID-19 relief bill passed in the last year, and is by far the largest infusion of resources to the state. The scale of assistance and time-frame over which funding remains available spurred Governor Lamont to direct his administration to ensure that the state’s recovery efforts were oriented toward transformative initiatives that would enable Connecticut to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger, healthier, and ready to resume the progress that has made the state a leader in many areas, and a desirable place to live."

By providing Fairfield County with resilience in times of emergency, The Westport Library can better execute its charge of service to the community and serving as a community hub, all while providing patrons with fast, free wireless internet service with added security.

“The Westport Library is delighted to receive ARPA grant funds to upgrade our service and infrastructure,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “This is a win-win for Fairfield County emergency planning and the countless number of patrons and programs that rely on our connectivity.”

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.

Staples High School students will be on hand at The Westport Library now through Thursday, April 27, for drop-in tutoring in a range of subjects for grades 2-8.

Tutoring will take place starting at 4 pm in the Children’s Library, on the Library’s second floor, covering the following days, grades, subjects, and times:

  • Mondays – Grades 2-8 – History and Math (4-6 pm), Language Arts (6-8 pm, starting on March 20)
  • Tuesdays – Grades 2-8 – Language Arts (4-5 pm), Math (5-6 pm)
  • Thursdays – Grades 2-5 – Language Arts and Math (4-6 pm)

Please bring homework for which and workbooks with which you need assistance. And check back to the day’s schedule on the Library’s website for any cancellations or changes in schedule.

Adults with students under the age of 12 are required to stay in the Children’s Library while their child is being tutored.

The Westport Library’s Anyone Can Use… series is returning to the Library, with a series of four classes being held throughout November and December.

The classes offer live tech instruction and are open to all patrons. They will focus on using your Library card to download books, music, movies, and more (November 2); using Microsoft Excel (November 16); learning a language with Pronunciator (December 7); and using NoveList and Goodreads to review, rate, and share books (December 21).

All four events will be held from 11 am to 12 pm in Brooks Place, near the checkout desk.

Similar classes had been offered in previous years but were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re very excited to once again be offering the Anyone Can Use… series,” said Melanie Kelly, reference manager at the Library and the organizer of the series. “Recent advances in technology can be hard to keep up with and at times overwhelming to navigate. We hope these classes will help flatten that learning curve, and all in a way that patrons will find fun and engaging.”

For more on the Anyone Can Use… series and other offerings at the Library, visit our events calendar.

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