[Samantha Haley is a New Canaan High School sophomore.]
Many residents watched the construction of the “new” New Canaan Library in real time. Driving past the construction site on South Avenue this winter, New Canaanites watched as stone, glass and concrete morphed into the community’s beautiful new library, now a bustling destination for locals across generations.
New Canaan teens say it was worth the wait.
Asked about the new facility, which opened in February, New Canaan High School senior Kelci Haley said it’s “amazing.”
“I love all the open spaces and light and the atmosphere is really inviting,” Haley said. “I really love everything the library has to offer and all the uses it can have for people of all ages.”
On the upper floor of the library is a large Teen Room, a space dedicated to teens with comfortable study booths, collaborative tables and teen books. Outside the room are additional individual study spaces, young adult book and graphic novel collections, printing and computer services and private study rooms that can be reserved for focused study, group work or tutoring sessions.
It’s typical for New Canaan High School students to use the library for a few days per week or more, after school or in the evenings.
“It’s usually crowded right after school,” said Haley, who is at the library every day, either studying or shelving materials as a part-time library employee.
Students often study on their own or gather for group work on the teen floor. Many use the tables to do homework or reserve a more private study space.
Julia Sarda, an NCHS senior who goes the library to study two to three days per week, said the Teen Library’s “atmosphere is really nice.”
“If I want a quiet space I have the study room option, or if I would rather work and be able to talk to my friends there are spaces for that,” Sarda said.
Down one floor from the Teen Library is the light-filled mezzanine level reading room with a fireplace, as well as a MakerLab. The main floor offers local fresh food items at The Farmer’s Grind café, as well as the newest books and DVDs.
Asked about NCHS students’ use of their designated area, Teen Librarian Megan Hutto said in an email, “I think the most exciting thing about the new teen space in the library is seeing how they’re really making it their own. We’re consistently bustling in the evenings and it’s wonderful to have a place that kids from different schools can meet and hang out (and maybe do a little homework). The Young Adult collection has seen increased borrowing since we moved into the new library, and a lot of that is entirely due to having a place that teens feel comfortable and welcome.”
In the midst of AP exams and with final exams right around the corner, the “new” New Canaan Library couldn’t be here for NCHS students at a better time. The popularity of the new library among high school students was evident one recent Saturday afternoon. Dozens of kids and adults poured out of the library at closing time. Some of the kids came out in groups smiling and chatting, while others headed toward their cars or into town.
For NCHS sophomore Anna Riccardelli, who goes to the library occasionally to do homework, the study rooms are ideal because they’re “nice and quiet,” she said.
Haley agreed, saying: “I like how there’s a place for everyone, whether you want to study in groups and talk, or work by yourself and have a quiet place to do that. There are also couches where you can read and a variety of classes you can take.”
The library’s convenient in-town location makes it an appealing place to get work done or meet up with friends to study together, according to Sarda.
“The New Canaan Library is really close to my house so it is very easy to get to, and I like being able to run home really quickly if I need to,” she said. “It’s also a good place to go to get away from distractions that I have at home.”
Having nearby food options—beyond the café in the library itself— is another plus, teens say. Healthy food alternatives at hand is a strong draw for hungry students, the teens say.
“I also love having the cafe right there because it’s nice to go for a quick break,” Riccardelli said.
The library’s plans were unveiled in January 2020 and after a series of hearings before the Planning & Zoning Commission, the 48,000-square-foot building came online, replacing an aging facility with a failing, costly physical plant that hadn’t seen a significant renovation in four decades.
The relocation of the original 1913 library will make way for an outdoor event terrace and town green that teens will get to enjoy, along with all other library patrons. In addition to its dedicated teen space, the library offers many free programs geared toward teens such as book groups, writing workshops and MakerLab workshops.
The library is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.