1986 witnessed many significant cultural events, such as Phantom of the Opera, Oprah, acid-washed jeans and the construction of the Westport Library. While Phantom and Oprah have completed their runs, our beloved library and, sadly, acid-washed jeans, have not. Instead, they have overhauled themselves to appeal to a modern eco-minded and tech-savvy clientele. At least, the library has. Acid-washed jeans look the same and still baffle me.
You probably know that WL is in the final throes of a multi-million-dollar renovation. While we await its completion in June 2019, here’s what you can expect: WOW.
What’s the same? It’s in the same blueprint as the 1986 structure, and it’s still full of books. What’s different? Everything else. According to Paul Mazzaccaro, CAO, the new WL is more of a community center.
“[We want] to reach as many people as possible, whatever your passion is.”
Do you love the earth? It’s eco-friendly, using reclaimed materials from the old library and many bio-based and recycled materials on flooring and acoustic paneling.
“I am proud of how we achieved those goals with this design: repurposing materials, sourcing green, eco-friendly new materials and finding opportunities to promote and support recycling and efficiencies by our patrons and staff,” says Bill Harmer, director of WL.
Even the chairs in the children’s section are made from 3D printers using recycled materials.
Would you rather be outside? Walls were popped out and replaced with large windows to frame gorgeous views of the river and downtown. Outside lighting is increased, and globe pendants on the first floor echo the exterior lamps, enhancing the library’s communing with its environment.
Thoughtful details abound: Stonework at the entrance and tiles in the bathrooms evoke the spines of shelved books. The outside staircase mimics New York City’s hi-line, with wide surfaces for lolling about during study breaks.
If you crave a cookie or enlightenment, an expanded cafe area has an oven/stove unit for cooking classes, and several rooms, or program spaces, are nearby for hosting authors/speakers and their audiences. There’s an A/V room to create content and record podcasts that can be streamed from the website or—wait for it—the Jumbotron on the second floor!
Hi. Are you still with me?
The dramatic among you will love the large stage and green room for performers. The East Program Room behind the stage is big enough for 120 people and contains cameras to record events. There’s a recording studio/video editing/post-production room with state-of-the-art equipment. Actually, all of equipment is state-of-the-art.
The new Maker Space includes 3D printers and, possibly, pottery and or/woodworking. A “library of things” offers all sorts of items to check out other than books, such as instruments, sewing machines and twin rhesus monkeys. OK, no monkeys yet. But WL wants to know what you’d like, so if you want to borrow primates or learn, say, the fine art of tattooing in the Maker Space, give them a shout.
Conference rooms generously sprinkled throughout are available for reserved or impromptu meetings, a business center contains a copier and fax machine, and the bathrooms have the coolest faucets in the free world.
Finally, the Children’s, Teen and Adult book sections are bigger and better in case, like, you go to the library for a book.
The new WL is an enviable resource, well-equipped to launch Westport into the next phase of education, technology and community.
“We can’t predict what the library will do 10 years from now. But with this functionality, we will always have the ability to adapt,” Paul says.
If only the same could be said for acid wash.