Construction continued on the Library's Transformation Project officially wrapping up with a grand reopening and ribbon cutting on June 23. The opening ceremony was attended by over 3,000 people including Governor Ned Lamont and First Selectman Jim Marpe and the entire delegation to Hartford. Immediately following the opening the Library celebrated 30 Days of the Westport Library with a campaign highlighting the myriad new spaces, places and services made possible by the Transformation. In September, the Library hosted its 2nd annual Saugatuck StoryFest bringing more than 60 authors and creators to Westport with a keynote delivered by beloved bestselling author R.L. Stine.
2018 saw construction continue on the Library’s Transformation Project but programming continued! WestportREADS read Regeneration by Pat Barker, which included honoring the centenary of the end of WWI. We honored Westport native and Academy Award-winning songwriting sensation Justin Paul at our annual BOOKED for the evening fundraiser. We welcomed more than 2500 people to our inaugural Saugatuck StoryFest. The festival brought more than 70 authors to the community and was the only literary festival that was a partnership between a public library and a public school system. 2018’s Malloy Lecture in the Arts celebrated icon of American theater Leonard Bernstein with a live performance and panel conversation with two of his three children to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday.
WestportREADS focused on Bettyville by George Hodgman, which included a visit from the author. In September, the Library officially broke ground on the long-awaited Transformation Project. The project, expected to take about 2 years, will reimagine the existing space by building a flexible, modern, collaborative space better equipped to meet the changing needs of the community.
The Malloy Lecture for the Arts brought Broadway to Westport with an unprecedented performance and panel discussion at the Westport Country Playhouse featuring writers James Lapine and William Finn, Broadway star Stephanie J. Block and Executive Producer of Live! From Lincoln Center Andrew Wilk. The BOOKED for the evening honoree was Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor and author Alan Alda.
WestportREADS focused on Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride, which included a visit from the author.The “Geek the Library” awareness campaign kicked off with the goal of increasing public awareness of Library programs and services by inviting people in to pose for a professional photograph with what they “geek,” or are passionate about. BOOKED for the evening honored Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Hamilton, Ron Chernow.
WestportREADS discussed Dubliners by James Joyce.The 5th annual Maker Faire attracted 8500 attendees and 114 makers. In July of 2015, the Library welcomed Bill Harmer as Executive Director. Prior to joining the Library, Harmer was the Executive Director of the Chelsea District Library in Michigan where he garnered national recognition for the library, including its selection as the Best Small Library in America by The Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Library Journal named Harmer to the Class of 2009 Movers & Shakers. He joined a list of emerging leaders from around the world making a difference in the library field. Bill created the unprecedented Rock & Roll Library Tour, which brought live music to more than 250 libraries in 48 states, including Cuba.
Vincent and Nancy, two NAO robots from Aldebaran, joined the Library staff.The Library also received Five-Star status from Library Journal once again putting the organization in the top 1% of public libraries nationwide. Author Salman Rushdie delived the annual Malloy Lecture in the Arts.The BOOKED for the evening honoree is Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario.
The third Mini Maker Faire attracts over 4,000 people. Library officials travel to Moscow on invitation from the US Embassy to present workshops on makerspaces in libraries. The Malloy Lecture in the Arts honoree is music legend Clive Davis. The BOOKED for the evening honoree is music producer and composer Nile Rodgers.The WestportREADS selection is My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme.
Technology-related instruction accelerates with workshops on coding, 3D printing, invention kits, soldering, Arduino boards, robotics and mini computers.Museum passes to 26 area museums were offered for the first time.
The second Mini Maker Faire attracts 3,500 people with 20% more “makers” participating. The Library wins a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences to expand MakerSpace offerings including monthly Makers-in-Residence, tours, workshops and camps for people of all ages. The grant establilshed the Library as a role model for how libraries can change to adapt to a community’s changing needs and encourage economic development.
A group of Russian librarians visited the Library as part of a trip to the US that included the Library of Congress and Harvard University. The Library earned “5-Star Status” from Library Journal. The award is a reflection of how a public library is used by its community.The Library and its MakerSpace is featured on the cover of the national publication Library Journal. Ebook offerings expanded with the addition of the service 3M Cloud Library. Two streaming services were added, providing free movies, music and audiobooks for patrons. Plans to renovate the building were informally introduced to the public and the approval process by the town of Westport began with presentations to governmental bodies. The WestportREADS selection is The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald. The BOOKED for the evening honoree is movie titan Barry Levinson.
The Library becomes a national leader in the expanding role of public libraries with the installation of a MakerSpace with a focus on collaborative learning and accessible 3D printing. Connecticut’s first Mini Maker Faire is held at the Library, attracting more than 2,000 people. Plans are initialized for a building renovation. A new catalog system, Polaris, is implemented, modernizing the way materials are circulated. The WestportREADS selection is I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn. The BOOKED for the evening honoree is producer, director and screenwriter Barry Levinson. The Malloy Lecture in the Arts features pre-eminent classical dancer Jacques d’Amboise.
The Library begins evolving into a community hub offering creative and interactive events and exhibits while maintaining traditional services. Participatory learning becomes fundamental to creating a culture of encouraging people to work and discover together. The WestportREADS selection is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Free, downloadable ebooks are introduced from the service Freading. Director Maxine Bleiweis is recognized as Librarian of the Year by the Connecticut Library Association. Assistant Director for Innovation and User Experience Bill Derry was honored by the Connecticut Association of School Librarians for significant contributions to the library media field on the local, state and national levels. Sally Berry, Linda Collins and Lynn Goldberg are given the Special Friend Award for outstanding contributions to the Library. The BOOKED for the evening honoree is musician and writer Patti Smith. The Malloy Lecture in the Arts features actor John Lithgow.
The Library remains one of the most active in New England. In Connecticut, it is second after Hartford in reference transactions, 2nd in program attendance, 5th in the number of programs offered, 4th in circulation of materials and 4th in visits per capita.
The WestportREADS selection is The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. During a devastating storm that cut power to most of Westport in March, the Library provides shelter, heat, electricity, hot running water, and food to more than 12,000 people. The 12th Westport Library Award honors Will Shortz, New York Times crossword puzzle master. The Friends of the Westport Library Special Friends Award honors the Spoken Word Committee: Simone Dubow, Carol Diamond, Phyllis Groner, and Nikki Untermeyer. The Malloy Lectures in the Arts feature cartoonist Roz Chast and actor Christopher Plummer.The Library adds free downloadable music and language lessons, begins to lend Kindle e-readers, and updates its logo and website. Circulation reaches a record 949,000 items; 569,000 visit the Library; and 53,000 attend over 1,100 programs.
The 11th Westport Library Award goes to Adam Gopnik. Hedi Lieberman receives the Friends of the Library Special Friend Award. The Library experiences unprecedented use, with demand driven by a weak economy. Library staff increases the number of programs offered for jobseekers and follows up with individual consultations. Circulation totals 832,000; visits to the Library total 563,000; and more than 47,000 people attend over 1,000 programs.
The Library celebrates its 100th anniversary, commemorating the 1908 Library building funded by Morris K. Jesup. The WestportREADS selection is The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The 10th Westport Library Award goes to author Oscar Hijuelos. The Friends of the Westport Library present the Special Friends Award to the Book Sorters for the Friends Book Sales. Malloy Lectures feature author Joyce Carol Oates and President of the Carnegie Corporation, Vartan Gregorian. Circulation exceeds 775,000 items borrowed; 531,000 visit the Library; and more than 46,000 people attend over 1,000 programs.