Westport Library project booked for June completion
WESTPORT — In just three months, Westporters visiting the library will be able to do much more than check out books.
The $21 million renovation project is slated to offer visitors an array of new resources, including a state-of-the-art TV studio, cafe and even after-hours access.
“No other library is going to have what we’re going ot have here,” Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer said Friday. Construction on the upper levels are 80 percent complete, according to Harmer, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for June 23.
The extensive project broke ground in 2017, with the town contributing $5 million and the remaining $16 million raised through private donations. A $1 million construction grant was awarded by the state, as well. Upgrades to the Riverwalk lower level were completed last summer.
As part of the renovation, older book collections will move to the first floor, and newer materials to the second-floor “hub” area, which will also house customer service. The opposite end of the room promises to be an interactive, flexible forum for community members to read, work, hang out and, in the evenings, host events for up to 650 people.
Separating the 6,000-square-foot space is a grandstand, with additional storage and seating for visitors. “It’s a place to meet. It’s kind of the center of gravity for the new building,” Harmer said.
Two broadcast studios, a TV studio, multipurpose conference rooms, cafe, store, outodoor deck and the children’s library round out the space. Additionally, floor-to-ceiling windows now exist where brick walls used to be, offering views of the Saugatuck River on all levels.
“We’re trying to think of ways that we can make the library more interactive and engaging. You still have the tradition, you still have the books, but how can we do more informal learning and connecting other people with each other as well,” Harmer said.
What separates Westport’s library from others, he said, is its plan to offer the community 24/7 access to the facility.
After-hours entrances will allow visitors to access program rooms, a maker space, the cafe and a post-production suite. Security for late-night events has yet to be determined, but Hermer said he envisions library cards acting as IDs to enter the building, as well as cameras.
“We may charge a small fee for that because that is an add-on,” he said. “... I’m not aware of another public library that’s open 24/7.”
Harmer sees the new and improved library as a benefit not only to visitors, but to the Westport community as a whole.
“Being close to the town is really important tro us because we consider ourselves to be the anchor for the town, in terms of the number of people coming into the building,” he said. “We hope that bodes well for the other businesses in town. If people are coming here, then heopfully theyre going out to eat, they’re spending money at local businesses.”