Library transformation reaches halfway point

WESTPORT — The $20.8 million project to transform the Westport Library has reached the halfway point.

While the lower, or riverwalk level was renovated during Phase I of the transformation project, the second phase is tackling the main floor and second level, which include the Great Hall and children’s section. During this second phase, the library will remain open, with all library services moved to the riverwalk level that borders the Saugatuck River.

“We’re providing every function in the previous library but scaled down and compacted,” Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer said of the interim riverwalk level library that will serve patrons until the full-transformation project is complete, likely in June 2019.

The interim library still has a reference desk, mini-cafe, stacks of books, consolidated makerspace, and children’s section, resident and library volunteer Donna Hyman said while leading a tour of the riverwalk level interim library.

Indoor globe lights on the riverwalk level match the globe lights that direct the path outside the library and seek to make patrons feel connected to the outdoors while sitting in the library, Hyman said.

One of the major aims of the transformation project is to take advantage of the library’s location along the Saugatuck River and at the base of Jessup Green, which will now be connected to the building through a grand staircase entrance patrons can sit on, Harmer said.

“The previous building didn’t have a relationship with its surroundings, but with the staircase and lower riverwalk level, we’ve married the outdoors with the building,” Harmer said.

Major donors have contributed the bulk of the project’s funding, which is 90 percent complete, Harmer said. When the project is finished the lower-level will primarily house stacks of books and be a quiet place for people to read, research, study, and enjoy views of the Saugatuck River while the main level will be the more social and collaborative floor, Harmer said.

Until then, residents don’t seem to mind the smaller space of the interim library.

“I love it. It feels open, accessible, and familiar with the books. I’m happy it’s still open,” resident Robert Costantini said.; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1