Letter: Keeping Original Library Building ‘Would Be A Huge Mistake’


To the Editor:

I would like to express my enthusiastic support for the library rejuvenation project. While I have extremely fond memories as a small kid going into the old library (even before the “current renovation” in 1979) to participate in the summer reading program and get a continual source of reading material, I recognize that the time for upgrading the physical facility of our amazing library has long been upon us. While it would be nice to be able to keep one foot in the old and one in the new, I believe that doing so in for this building would be a huge mistake.  There would essentially be nothing left of the existing structure if we choose to attempt to preserve it. Even attempting to preserve any substantive part of it would cost millions of dollars (as a builder, I understand how expensive it is to even attempt to bring antiquated structures up to modern standards for air quality and accessibility) and would result in what could only kindly be called a far from optimal new structure.

While I do not like to play a “keeping up with the Jones” game on town facilities, I would challenge anyone to visit the relatively recently (past 15 years) completed libraries of our neighboring towns such as Darien, Westport or Ridgefield that are our competition for new residents. I would submit that most people would consider our current library buildings to be an active negative against our community and certainly not a positive. I firmly believe that the new library facility will greatly enhance the opportunities for our town to be a leading example of a community dedicated to continual learning. The contribution from the town in this period of extremely low interest rates will more than pay for itself over the next few decades while enhancing the lives of our residents.

Scott Hobbs

3 thoughts on “Letter: Keeping Original Library Building ‘Would Be A Huge Mistake’

  1. Renovating the 1913 Library can be done for $828,000 per a study commissioned by Friends of Our 1913 and conducted by a world re-known preservation architecture firm based on two walk throughs of the building and a building conditions report. Through the Freedom of Information Act, we obtained a renovation estimate commissioned by the New Canaan Library dated 3/24/20 for the same renovation of the same 1913 space for $3,304,603 by Dharam Consulting. For more information and to decide for yourself what the accurate cost is to renovate 1913, please see the detailed estimates broken down in categorized dollar amounts at newcanaanpreservationalliance.com.

  2. I totally agree with Scott. This was a similar situation where the Ferguson Library in Stamford kept park the old building as the entrance. This ended up with space that was not fully utilized. However, having a multilevel building it wasn’t too bad. When they built their Harry Bennett Branch they used a more modern approach and better utilized the space. So I think our library should stay with the current plans and provide more to the community.

  3. The real debate seems to be between (a) those who want a new library and are happy to demolish the 1913 original and (b) those who want a new library and want to preserve the 1913 original. I look at the oft-cited comparables (Darien, Westport, and Ridgefield), and here’s what I see: Darien built a huge new library at a new location and the old one was not demolished, but became the office for Darien public schools; Westport built a huge new library at a new location and the old one was not demolished but became retail space; Ridgefield expanded its library on location and incorporated its legacy building into its elegant new LEED-certified facility. In none of these cases was a prominent local civic icon demolished. As well-documented, the New Canaan Library has long known there is strong community desire to preserve the 1913 core (not the slew of additions), and promised us for years that it would be incorporated. We’ve all just learned in the past few months that this is no longer so. Generally, especially when asking for $10 million from taxpayers, public input should be prioritized, not hidden. I renew my call that debaters on both sides of this debate (demolish v preserve) can and should work together on a new library that doesn’t scrape a “symbol of our town” into the dumpster.

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