Library Celebrates the Past, Lays Foundation for the Future

New Canaan Library is excited to mark its 135 years of service to the residents of New Canaan.  Started in a store front on Elm Street with $70 and a small collection of books, the Library has grown to its current location at the corner of Main and Cherry streets, where it connects with hundreds of patrons each day.

On Tuesday, December 13, 2011, the Board of Trustees of the Library passed a resolution to stay on its existing site and move forward with plans to build a library that meets the needs of its patrons now and into the future.  “The Board of Trustees of New Canaan Library made the unanimous decision after years of thoughtful and careful consideration of our patrons’ values and needs, that our future is linked to our heritage.  Staying where we are is the best decision.  We are committed to an efficient and effective intellectual center and look forward to a building project that every New Canaan resident will be proud to support,” stated Board of Trustees President Laura G. Einstein.

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi echoed Einstein.  “The Library is a significant part of the fabric of this wonderful Town and we are grateful for their input during the Long

Range Planning study.  We are thrilled that they have decided to both plan for their future and respect their roots by staying at the same location they have been in for 99 years.”

At the same meeting, the Board unanimously adopted a Request for Qualifications for an Architectural Firm.Elizabeth Ellsworth, Vice President of the Board and Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee explained, “We will work with our architects to determine the best and most pragmatic way to create a new facility that meets the needs of our patrons and corrects the facility’s shortfalls identified over the past few years of study—the need for more flexible and efficient space, improving our technology services to meet patron demand, accommodating the learning skills embraced by our excellent schools, including collaborative work environments for students, updating necessary aspects of our aging infrastructure and ensuring more and safer parking.”

Alice Knapp, Executive Director of New Canaan Library, expressed her excitement over the results.  “This is a strong board with both vision and fiscal acumen.  Every step of the way, the patron has been our priority and the Board has considered all the input they received from surveys, meetings, and focus groups in making the decision to move us forward on the same site.  I know that the emphasis will remain on the patron and that any plans will strive for minimal disruption on the community during any construction, but ultimately provide maximum impact on their future library experience.”

Einstein added, “New Canaan Library’s roots run deep in this community and we take our role as the intellectual center of the town very seriously, which is why we are embarking on this ambitious effort to significantly improve our Library.  We look forward to continuing to connect the community with each other and to the world of ideas.”

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. The spirit of philanthropy and support of the Library as a town treasure continues through gifts to the Annual Appeal, 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.

For additional information please contact Stephanie Schechter, Director of Advancement and Communications,at 203.594.5025.