New Canaan Library has served as the town’s intellectual center since 1877, when it was founded by volunteers who contributed donated books and raised money to operate a reading room on Elm Street. In 1895, New Canaan Library became one of the first public-private partnerships with the town, when the latter gave the Library its first annual grant of $100. Recognizing the benefits of an excellent library for the residents and reputation of the Town, Albert Comstock and Jesse St. John made estate gifts to the Library. With these legacy gifts, the Library moved from the Elm Street storefront and built its present building in 1913. In the tradition of the original volunteers and Comstock and St. John, New Canaan residents continued to generously support the Library and its capital drives for the expansions in 1937, 1952, and again in 1979 with the addition of the Lapham Wing. The ability to touch all generations of New Canaan residents by giving to the Library has inspired donors over the years to endow programs such as the Salant Lecture and collections like the Karen Grimes Collection of classic children’s books to encourage the lifelong love of learning. The spirit of philanthropy and support of the Library as a town treasure continues through gifts to the Annual Challenge, to the growing Patron Society, to the Library Endowment, for capital expenditures, and for the many programs and collections that make New Canaan Library great.
Today the Library is home to excellent print, digital and audiovisual items. 79% of town residents have and regularly use their library card. Over the last several years, people have brought home roughly 500,000 items annually.
Each day, hundreds of New Canaan residents visit the library and its website to access the many and growing different resources New Canaan Library offers, including: excellent Wi-Fi, public access computers, a broad range of programs for diverse audiences, our new MakerSpace (early 2014), reference/research service, reader’s advice, tools for finding employment, computer classes, homework help for students, analogue and digital books, audio and movies for entertainment.
New Canaan Library is also home to many special collections on various subjects, established to honor notable residents such as Eric Sevareid, Orville Prescott, and Chester B. Hansen. It is also widely known for its Richard Salant and William Attwood Memorial Lectures, which bring well-known broadcasters, journalists and diplomats to the Library every year and its very popular annual fundraising events and much more. The Library continues to grow and evolve as New Canaan’s third space – a place for knowledge, collaboration, and community.