‘It’s Been a Wonderful Place To Work’: Jeff Zaino Retiring After 37 Years at New Canaan Library

When Jeff Zaino started as a serials clerk at New Canaan Library in January of 1983, visitors found books by using a card catalogue. 

There was no such thing as the World Wide Web, and Center School—New Canaan’s original elementary school, now an underused parking lot—stood across Maple Street in its final months of occupancy. Now the head of infrastructure at the library—through the years he’s worked as head of circulation, when that involved stamping and signing out books, reference librarian, go-to computer guy and head of digital services, and also helped with collections, selecting religion, philosophy and foreign language books—Zaino will go to work Wednesday for the last time. 

“There’s a lot of excitement and a little bit of anxiety because it’s a new lifestyle,” Zaino said of his retirement. “But certainly I would put it at 90% exhilaration and 10% anxiety.”

His final day bookends a career that has bridged the digital age at New Canaan’s community hub, and marks a farewell to one of the town’s most familiar faces. Zaino is described by longtime colleagues and patrons as a smart, funny, dedicated and adaptable professional whose significant behind-the-scenes work has helped the library staff excel. “He’s super-interesting as a human being,” said Lisa Oldham, the library’s executive director.

New Canaan Library Reopens with ‘Limited Express Service’

New Canaan Library announced Thursday that it has reopened with “limited express service” for all visitors. The organization has completed its COVID-19 certification “and is taking all measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” a press release said. “Masks are required at all times, and the library asks that all observe distancing,” it said. The news comes days after the library served as a destination for New Canaanites displaced during the day by lack of power, air conditioning and Internet access following a tropical storm that caused widespread and lasting outages. 

The library’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday for “express self-service.” The children’s library is open by appointment (see here). Masks must fully cover the nose and mouth while inside the library and patrons must maintain a distance of six feet from others, the library said on its website.

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.

“Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered” presented via Webinar by Nora Wendl as part of Glass House Presents at New Canaan Library

The collaborative series Glass House Presents at New Canaan Library is pleased to present a live webinar by artist, writer and architect Nora Wendl, speaking on the Farnsworth House and its owner, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. The live webinar will be presented on Wednesday, July 1 at 7 p.m. EST. Please register at newcanaanlibrary.org; Zoom sign in information is provided upon registration. This webinar is co-presented with the Farnsworth House. Marking the 70th anniversary of the groundbreaking for one of the world’s most recognized modern buildings, the Farnsworth House presents “Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered.” This new installation interprets for the first time the interior as Dr. Edith Farnsworth would have inhabited it in the early 1950s and explores the life and legacy of the fascinating client behind the iconic house designed by renowned architect Mies Van der Rohe.

New Canaan Library’s “Exploring Connecticut Archaeology” Series Wraps Up with The Contact Period in Connecticut: Looking at Indigenous Sites from the 1630s and 1670s

New Canaan Library’s, “Exploring Connecticut Archaeology” concludes with The Contact Period in Connecticut: Looking at Indigenous Sites from the 1630s and 1670s, presented by Dr. William Farley on Tuesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. via live webinar. Please register online at newcanaanlibrary.org; Zoom sign in information will be provided upon registration. The first half-century of European colonization in Connecticut and the impact that this period had on the colony’s Indigenous people is the focus of Dr. Farley’s talk. This particular aspect of Connecticut archaeology will be explored by way of two Pequot domestic sites: The site of Calluna Hill, which was occupied in 1637 during the height of the Pequot War, and the site of Monhantic Fort, which was occupied by Pequots and visited by their English allies during King Philip’s War in the 1670s. Dr. Bill Farley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Southern Connecticut State University, where he has taught since receiving his doctorate from University of Connecticut in 2017.