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