'New' New Canaan Library—January 2023
We put some questions to Executive Director Lisa Oldham as this major milestone for the community approaches.
New Canaanite: The public opening of the new library is close. What is your target date for that and how are you feeling now?
Lisa Oldham: I am hoping to have some information today [Monday] that will help us to make the best decision we can on getting the balance between our desire to re-open with the remaining work to be completed. However – we are aiming to be open by the middle of February.
What’s it like having the vision that you and the library board, working with Centerbrook, materialize in front of you?
It is really quite amazing. Working with such leaders in their fields as Centerbrook and Turner has turned a shared community vision into a wonderful reality. Every single day we delight to see it come together as each area is finished. The vision to create a facility that enables us to deliver a future-focused, best-in-class service; a place that truly is New Canaan’s center for lifelong learning, cultural appreciation and community connection is now reality. To see the incredible new spaces where we will create new opportunities for learning, in the children’s library and the beautiful Auditorium, each get their finishing touches, is a source of joy. The team is excited to plan the programs that will fill them the spaces to delight and inspire future visitors.
As you’ve brought library patrons, supporters and other New Canaanites through the new building in recent weeks, what are some of the features of the new building that are most striking to them?
Really each person or family has been excited by the whole, and also finds something that really resonates quite specifically with their interests and stage of life. In recent visits I’ve heard delight and excitement about: The auditorium and community room; The children’s garden; The teaching kitchen; The large open area for remote working; the Living Room and fireplace; The conference room; The tween Cave, The teen Library, The café, The MakerLab, The rooftop terrace, and especially The Children’s Library—which is an absolute jewel in the crown.
The benefit to New Canaan businesses, as laid out in the Economic Impact Study, has always been one major benefit of the project. What are you hearing from New Canaan business owners?
We are hearing a lot of enthusiasm from various elements of the business community on many fronts. We are working with local hospitality businesses to encourage library visitors to follow an upcoming event with dinner at one of our many great restaurants. We are always supporting the goals of the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism and Economic Development Advisory Committee. Over the past six months or so we’ve communicated with every independent food establishment in town as part of a competitive RFP process for operating the café in the library. Through that process we’ve had some wonderful communication with local businesses who are all extremely positive about how the new library and green will help bring more people into the center of town.
What is your big message for the community at this point?
One of my favorite quips about a community library was written by Caitlin Moran: [Community libraries] are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. To create such a place here in New Canaan is a credit to the community at large. My message is: Thank you for supporting the Library to make it happen. This is truly an exceptional whole community effort to create a beautiful community anchor that supports wellbeing and fosters community as it functions as infrastructure for lifelong learning and social connectivity.