Library Timeline Calls for P&Z Approvals Early 2021, Late-Spring Start of Construction 

The $36 million rebuilding of New Canaan Library will commence next spring and construction will continue for about two years, according to plans shared Tuesday with town officials. 

Under a Memorandum of Understanding or ‘MOU’ with the town that’s been under negotiation for months, the town will contribute $10 million toward the project while the library bears the balance of the cost through its own fundraising and a $15 million commercial construction loan from Bankwell, the documents show. A traffic engineer hired by the library has found that an original proposal to create covered parking is problematic, according to a letter from the library’s executive director, Lisa Oldham, and its Board of Trustees. 

Addressing questions that had been raised by the Board of Finance, it’s one of several documents sent to members of the Boards of Selectmen and Finance as well as the Town Council. “The library is committed to the incorporation of a Library Green which is an integral and important part of the overall project,” the letter said. “Therefore, in discussion with several officials at [the town of New Canaan], the Library has commissioned further studies from its engineers and are in full agreement with a plan to accelerate and resolve a plan for parking.”

Taken together, the documents—they include five-year operations budget projections, project schedule and a narrative reviewing new revenues and costs that will come with the rebuilt facility—present a new layer of detail on the widely anticipated project. The town’s funding bodies in preparing to vote on a bond resolution have called in recent meetings for additional information from the library, and the documents address their questions.

Podcast: New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham

This week on 0684-Radi0, our free weekly podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham about the organization’s offerings for the summer and how she anticipates the library will operate as public health-related restrictions are relaxed in the future. Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:

Local Organizations and COVID-19: New Canaan Library

In today’s Q&A, we hear from New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham about services that the organization is offering through the COVID-19 emergency and how the staff is faring, among other matters. 

Here’s our exchange. New Canaanite: I want to talk about the library. First, though, how are you faring? 

Lisa Oldham: Thank you. I’m well. Give me a rundown on what library services are available while the building is physically closed. There are a lot! Digital lending, live-stream programs and technology help are three of the big ones. Our digital collections are excellent and we continue to add more digital content to meet the huge increase in demand. Many library members have not previously borrowed e-books or e-audio books from us so we’ve created how-to videos to help them get them started.

Skeptical Historical Review Committee Member Calls for Access to Library To Gauge Problems with Facility 

Saying she didn’t believe that New Canaan Library’s building and systems are failing, a town resident and preservation architect on Tuesday called for the town to direct a municipal committee to gain access to records and study the reported problems. 

A review and assessment by the Historical Review Committee “would provide the town with objective, professional information on the status of the existing facility,” Rose Scott Long-Rothbart told members of the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall. A member of the appointed five-member Committee herself, Long-Rothbart continued, “This information, in conjunction with a full accounting by the library of what has been spent in the last 10 to 15 years on maintaining its facility, will give the taxpayers a better picture of what they are being asked to support.”

She referred to the library’s request for $10 million in town funding for its $30 million rebuilding project, unveiled last week. Plans call for demolition of the current facility, including an original 1913-built fieldstone-exterior section overlooking Main and Cherry Street, to make way for a town green. Long-Rothbart said she and others don’t believe the original structure cannot be incorporated into the library’s plans. “I appreciate being invited by the library to view those plans, although at the eleventh hour,” she said.