The Westport Library adds the final touches to its renovation project By Serena Ye '20

The Westport Library has been under renovation since September of 2017, and will officially be back open on June 23, 2018. This will be the library’s first big renovation since it was first built in 1986. Totaling up to $21 million in new upgrades and features, the goal of the library’s “Transformation Project” is to foster a stronger sense of community between people from all walks of life, and to house a creative space for original ideas. These renovations include a new open stairway from Jesup Green, an outdoor cafe, a children’s library, music production studios and a larger Makerspace: all within the space of the old library.

The outdoor terrace cafe will also include a deck lounging area that overlooks the Saugatuck River, as well as an updated, expanded gourmet food menu.

The new children's library will be located on the second floor and will contain books, activities and toys for children and families. The floor to ceiling windows, family lounge area and first-ever family bathroom are just some of the newest creative additions to the library.

The children's library interlaces its unique green jungle theme as well as the Westport Library's theme of circles in their "dot dot dot" logo, that can be seen throughout the whole renovation. The acoustic tiling paneling, shown here, is also recurrent throughout the whole library to help preserve sound.

The individual study rooms are located just off the main floor in a more quieter section of the library. Students and the public can schedule to book a room on the Westport Library website in advance.

“I think we got a vision unlike any other of really transforming the space so that it becomes the focal point of the community and creating opportunities to bring in different groups of people,” four-year executive director of the “Transformation Project” Bill Harmer said.

The architecture of the new library has been tweaked and upgraded for a more sleek and modern look. The designs of the wooden bookshelves the red color scheme that help connect the whole library are based off of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Waters” project, according to the Westport Library’s director of strategic community partnerships Jennifer Bangser. Complete with floor to ceiling windows that draw in more natural light during the day, the library has emphasized the advantage of using the views of the Saugatuck River and surrounding environment.

The new renovations utilize many intricate designs and color schemes to create a modern, yet homey feel that is mirrored off of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The library’s biggest project takes place in the main hall. What once used to be rows and shelves of books will now be transformed into an auditorium-like space that can now house up to 600 people. “The Forum” will be decorated with one of Connecticut’s biggest video screens as well as a grand piano on the stage.

The main hall floor will be renamed the "Forum", and will become more of an auditorium-like gathering space that can house up to 600 people.

“So on a Friday or Saturday night, you can come to see something you could go to New York to see,” Harmer said. “Anything from stand up comedy, hot shot film makers, putting on movies, video gaming tournament, inviting a DJ over or even rock concerts.”

"The Forum" will also include a main staircase as a casual hangout spot for families and teens. Near the front entrance will be a bookshelf that serves both as a circulation desk for librarians, and as a display for the hottest and best-selling books.
One of the most eye-catching additions of the “Transformation Project” is the grand staircase that will connect downtown Westport in Jesup Green to the library. Mirrored after the New York Public Library, the staircase is both handicapped-accessible opens up more foot traction to the library.

“I’m so impressed that they’ve been able to repurpose it [the library] for a whole new variety of needs,” the Westport Y’s Women communications director Merle Spiegel said. “You know, families, students, small businesses, independent operators, and people who don't have a place to see clients.”

The Westport Y's Women is a club for retired and elderly women to participate in community service. The club has establishments throughout Fairfield County and is currently 300 members strong.

Among the Westport Y’s Women, vice president Barbara Stephens hopes that the club will be able to hold their meetings in the new, individualized conference rooms on the second floor.

“We’ve missed the old library a lot for the past few years,” Stephen said. “And we’re really excited for the new features that they’re going to include.”

Some new concepts that the library will have is the idea of high school students creating new and original content with their resources. With new soundproof green screen, music production, and post-production studios, this can be a space for future filmmakers and artists. The library is also in the works of making this section available to the public 24/7 after normal library hours. Additionally, with individual study rooms and a “laptop vending machine” that will allow students to check out computers, the library provides more open spaces for collaboration.

The production rooms will be completely soundproof and filled with audio equipment, green screens and more resources for the public to use.

“Maybe someone has an idea for a new podcast, and maybe this is the seed for that podcast, and that one day it lives on an NPR public radio program,” Harmer said. “This is an opportunity to be creative and pursue your passions.”

Phots by Serena Ye '20

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