The library of the future: Library renovation gets $5 million from town

WESTPORT — A drastic renovation project of the library is well on its way to materializing.

Through a unanimous vote, the RTM appropriated $5 million to help the library fund the $19.5 initiative. Thus far, $10.2 million has been raised by the library, but even with the town’s contribution, they still need to collect an additional $4.3 million to start construction by August.

The library’s executive director, Bill Harmer, who is confident they can raise the necessary funds, aims to evolve the space from a traditional library to one where community interaction and engagement are a major focus.

“Great libraries not only contain exemplary collections. Increasingly, those collections are not just about books, or even digital books and artifacts. They are places where learning and reflection join together to promote an open and lively exchange of ideas and collaborative spaces for community programs, events and social interactions,” he said at the RTM’s Tuesday meeting.

A major component of the construction involves inverting the library: The stacks will be moved to a quiet, contained space on the Riverwalk level, while the assembly space will be installed on the main level of the building. Harmer said there will be a recording studio for patrons to create video and audio projects.

Also in the works is a HackerSpace to complrment the already popular MakerSpace. Where the MakerSpace serves as a place to design, collaborate and build things, the HackerSpace will act as a workshop with 24/7 access, complete with equipment like laser cutters and wood lathes. A new, more-expansive café will be built, as well as a demonstration kitchen BakerSpace complete with cooking demonstrations and guest chefs.

Jessica Bram, RTM 6, who spends time in the library writing and reading, asked what percentage of the library space will be allocated for quiet workspaces. Although not able to give an exact percent, Harmer assured Bram all three levels will have increased and ample space for such work.

The project is expected to be completed by summer 2019.