New Canaan Library Director Lisa Oldham To Retire at Year’s End


New Canaan Library’s executive director for the past decade plans to retire at the end of this year.

New Canaan Library’s Executive Director Lisa Oldham was close at hand as Turner Construction took the monumental step in December 2021 of pouring footings for the construction of the new building. Groups of school children were on hand as well to witness this exciting milestone. Photo courtesy of New Canaan Library

In a message sent to library donors, Lisa Oldham said she has been “so privileged to lead the New Canaan Library through this wonderful period of change for the past ten years.”

“Thanks to your extraordinary support, by the time I depart the entire project for the Library and Green will be complete,” Oldham said in the email, sent Tuesday afternoon and obtained by “I am very proud of the Library, our team, and the vision you have helped us realize.”

Though the centerpiece of Oldham’s legacy is the hugely popular and well-received new library that opened in February, her achievements go far beyond the remade building and campus. Under Oldham’s leadership, the library has forged stronger relationships and partnerships with the town, local press and nonprofit and business communities, made several key hires and overhauled the organization’s programming, launching popular new series and learning experiences for patrons.

Past President of the New Canaan Library Board of Directors, Christian Le Bris, with Library Director Lisa Oldham, just after the board’s annual meeting, held July 14, 2015 in the Lamb Room. Credit: Michael Dinan

Asked about Oldham’s tenure, New Canaan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Budd said, “As a wise man once said, ‘Try to leave this world a little better than you found it,’ and Lisa Oldham has certainly done that for New Canaan Library and in turn our entire community. It has been an immense pleasure working with Lisa who served on the Chamber’s Board of Directors for six years. Her vision and tenacity have given New Canaan a world class center of learning that will serve our town for generations. We wish Lisa and Matt a well deserved retirement.”

Budd referred to Oldham’s husband. In her email, Oldham said they’re “looking forward to spending time in Europe where both our children now live and also spending more time back in New Zealand.”

L-R: New Canaan Library Board of Trustees then-Treasurer (later President) Bob Butman, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, Board President Alicia Wyckoff and Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham in December 2016. Following unanimous votes by New Canaan’s funding bodies, the town supported the library’s purchase of an abutting parcel with a $475,000 check. Credit: Michael Dinan

Rob Mallozzi, first selectman of New Canaan at the time of Oldham’s hiring, noted that he “may have been the first town official Lisa met upon her arrival to New Canaan.”

“Lisa came into my office straight off a flight from New Zealand,” Mallozzi recalled. “Now, I would have been a zombie, but Lisa was absolutely energized. Her enthusiasm for our library and community was clearly on display; I sensed immediately that she would be a transformational leader. Based on all I saw in Lisa’s ability to team build and define the library’s role in our community, I initiated the effort to place a funding placeholder for a new building back in 2015. I don’t think I would have had the confidence in any other Director to have done so.”

Over the years Mallozzi and Oldham developed a friendship, he said, and “were always there for each other when things got going sideways.”

Lisa and Matt Oldham at New Canaan Library’s “speakeasy,” March 25, 2015 in the Lamb Room. Credit: Michael Dinan

“It was great to have a determined and confident friend to strategize and talk through the various issues that popped up,” Mallozzi said. “The trait I most admired about Lisa was her ability to keep things moving and not get bogged down in the noise. Always sure of her convictions and with a staff, town and generous donors behind her, Lisa delivered a reinvigorated community asset, another one of New Canaan’s crown jewels, and one Lisa passionately spoke of 10 years ago in my office. Best wishes my friend and thank you.”

Steve Karl, chair of the Town Council who served as liaison for the legislative body to the library during its building project, said the community was “extremely fortunate” that Oldham accepted the position here.

L-R: Bob Butman, Nick Williams, Lisa Oldham, Ellen Crovatto, Todd Lavieri and Steve Karl. The new New Canaan Library on the day of its opening—Feb. 14, 2023. Credit: Michael Dinan

“Her positive outlook, creative thinking and energetic style of leadership were evident from day one,” Karl said. “She inspired and built an amazing team at the library, who continue to demonstrate the highest level of service for their patrons. Over the years Lisa also developed a great working relationship with the town and worked closely with two administrations as plans unfolded for the development and eventual build of the new New Canaan Library.”

Oldham’s “incredible work ethic, gritty determination and vision” were focused on one of the biggest public-private partnerships in New Canaan history, Karl said, “and the results of her efforts will be felt for generations to come.”

New Canaan Library Director Lisa Oldham stands by an out-of-commission elevator at the old library in September 2015. Credit: Michael Dinan

“Lisa also volunteered above and beyond her activities at the library, and truly immersed herself in our community,” he added. “She could be seen at many Chamber of Commerce events, directing traffic at the Sidewalk Sale and at every meaningful charity event and luncheon in town. She will be missed dearly, but leaves behind a legacy that is nothing short of remarkable. I’m sure our residents will all be sending her well wishes on her travel and leisure plans in the future, as she has certainly earned some well-deserved time off.”

On a personal note, Karl added that “it has been a pleasure to work with Lisa over the years, and get to know her husband Matthew and their beautiful family.”

The Library’s Board of Trustees has launched a nationwide search for Oldham’s successor “who will work with our exceptional team to continue delivering extraordinary library services to the community of New Canaan,” she said in the email.

“I know that I leave the institution in good heart and well supported,” Oldham said.

10 thoughts on “New Canaan Library Director Lisa Oldham To Retire at Year’s End

  1. While this makes me sad, I am happy Lisa will be getting much deserved rest. New Canaan is a better town from Lisa’s leadership. She is a task master, a change maker and a true visionary. My family will be forever grateful for her many talents. Wishing Lisa and her family the very best. She will be missed enormously!

  2. Ooooo Noooo!!!! Lisa, you have been so fabulous, and your perseverance in getting the New New Canaan Library done has been nothing short of amazing. So many other leaders would have given up in the face of such opposition from a vocal and litigious minority. You leave a great legacy.
    Thanks for all you have done. Enjoy retirement!

  3. Speaking as but one voice in a grateful community, I say THANK YOU Lisa for your dedication and leadership to our New Canaan Library over the past decade. The new library campus will be the lasting legacy of Lisa’s leadership, but it goes well beyond that.

    What really makes the new library so special is the staff that greets you in every corner of that beautiful building. Inside the library, Lisa has overseen the building of a team and nurtured a culture of caring that is evident with every interaction. Outside the library, as has been covered in the article and comments, Lisa is a wonderful relationship builder. She has helped to create so many meaningful connections between the library and community that will only continue to grow over time.

    When you think about it, coming from New Zeland, Lisa could have landed in literally any community in the world. Yet, to our great benefit, she chose New Canaan. So, Lisa, no matter where you travel to or settle next, please know you have a piece of New Canaan with you! So once again, THANK YOU, congratulations, and all the best – Leo

  4. Impressed by her resume, her credentials, and her presence during the interviews, the Library board of trustees felt confident in its decision to hire Lisa. Little did we know ten years ago just how significant that decision would turn out to be. Simply said, the new library would not exist if Lisa hadn’t been there to make it happen. Lisa, we will miss you, and we wish you and your family much happiness in the years to come. Adieu mon amie.

  5. I have been a New Canaan Library employee for five years and have received so much incredible mentorship from Lisa. She is a rare leader– possessing both big picture visions for future and the attention to detail needed for day to day operations. I will miss her boundless energy and unique thinking, but I will treasure the many lessons she has taught me through the years.

  6. Thank you Lisa, you have certainly changed the footprint of New Canaan with a wonderful New Library. And thanks for preserving the 1913 portion. You created a learning space for young & old. A safe haven and it’s learning power…
    Norm Jensen

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