The Westport Library

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The Westport Library
Country United States
Established 1908
Location 20 Jesup Road Westport, CT 06880 Map It
Access and use
Population served 26,508
Other information
Director Maxine Bleiweis
Staff 90
Phone number 203-291-4800
The Westport Library as seen from the opposite side of the Saugatuck River in Westport, Connecticut

The Westport Library, formerly known as the Westport Public Library,[1] is a public library in the town of Westport, Connecticut that was originally established on February 4, 1886 by members of the Westport Reading-Room and Library Association.[2]:p.382


The group received books, periodicals, and monetary donations from townspeople and set up two rooms over the Nash Pharmacy on the south side of State Street (now the Post Road). Mrs. Frances A. Gray was the first librarian, serving without pay.[2]:p.382

Library building[edit]

On July 25, 1905, a special town meeting convened to discuss plans for a new library building. The town’s citizens voted to accept a gift from a native son, philanthropist Morris K. Jesup, of a parcel of land on State Street and $5,000 to support a new library building, estimated to cost $20,000 altogether.

Jesup specified that "The Library shall be called The Westport Library."[3]:p.4 He also tied his gift to a town contribution of $1,000 annually "to be used for the expenses incident to the proper conduct of this library, especially for the salary of a librarian and other expenses attending the care of a library building, including water, repairs, heating, lighting, cleaning, et cetera."[3]:p.4 Jesup was not to see his library to completion. He died in January 1908, three months before the dedication ceremony, attended by 300 citizens including Mrs. Jesup, who toured the building and signed the deeds conveying it to the Westport Library Association.[3]:p.6

Artists' Colony and Edith Sherwood[edit]

In 1916, Edith Very Sherwood was appointed Head Librarian. Sherwood established a children’s department and reference collection that would serve the needs of the resident artists that came to Westport. Circulation grew to about 50,000 books a year under her tenure.[3]:pp.13-14

1930s, '40s, and '50s[edit]

The first expansion of the 1908 building was in 1935. The library became a headquarters for collecting books for overseas troops during WWII. Sherwood left her post in early 1944 and died following a long illness on New Year’s Day, 1945.

Smoking was banned in the library in December 1949.

In 1951, The Westport Library became the first library in Connecticut to use microfilm to take an image of each book borrowed.[3]:p.20

An addition to the library was completed in 1956. This new modern brick structure extended toward the Saugatuck River. This was also the year that Albert Dorne, Head of the Famous Artists School, donated his pictorial resource file of over 500,000 items.

1960s and '70s[edit]

The 1960s saw the installation of the library’s first photocopier (1963), which took 30 seconds to print a page. A new Reference Room opened as part of a remodeling project in 1965, increasing shelving by 25% and seating by 100%. Yet in 1969 the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) determined that the library was still overcrowded.[3]:p.20

More liberal library policies were adopted in the 70s: younger children, once required to write both their first and last name in order to get a library card, could now receive a card by just writing their first name. Middle school students, who were previously restricted to the children’s department, could now use the adult section. The Mail-a-Book service, for home-bound users, began in 1977 and continues today.[3]:p.22

1980s and '90s[edit]

Front entrance

By 1982 the library offered the DIALOG online retrieval system for newspapers and magazine articles, business and scholarly information. Between 1973 and 1983, films became such a large part of the collection that they demanded their own space. They were separated from the rest of the library. In 1983 fundraising efforts were underway for a new library adjacent to Jesup Green.

The cost of the project was 4.6 million dollars. The new library opened its doors to the public on Sept. 8, 1986.

In 1992, the Library added lamps, benches and shrubs along the river bank and a sidewalk of bricks with donors’ names. Robert Lamdin’s WPA mural "The Pageant of Literature," was restored and prominently displayed in the Great Hall of the Library.

In 1994, the library replaced the card catalog with the digital OPAC (the online public access catalog).

After the 1986 expansion, in 1996 another expansion was underway. It was discovered that the library had settled unevenly in several places and engineers were called in to re-mediate the situation.

Recent history[edit]

It was reported in 2000 that the library's average 1,200 visitors per day on a circulation of 578,379 items ranked the library as the second busiest in the state of Connecticut per capita.[2]:p.350

In 1998 Maxine Bleiweis succeeded Sally Poundstone as director. The “As You Like it Café” was added to the lobby. Circulation climbed 60% in the first year following the addition. In 2002, the library went wireless, offering access to laptop users. In 2007, wireless printing followed. In 2012, a "MakerSpace" was added, a place for people to design and create objects and inventions on 3D printers. In 2013, the Library received a $246,545 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the enhancement of the MakerSpace, creating wider opportunities for innovation while retaining traditional library services.[4]

On September 22, 2013, the building was renamed from the Westport Public Library to The Westport Library.[1]

Coordinates: 41°08′27″N 73°21′42″W / 41.1408°N 73.3616°W / 41.1408; -73.3616


  1. ^ a b James Lomuscio (August 22, 2013). "Library Drops ‘Public’ From Its Name". WestportNOW. Retrieved August 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Klein, Woody; Westport Historical Society (Conn.) (May 2000). Westport, Connecticut: the story of a New England town's rise to prominence. Greenwood Press. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-313-31126-0. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Wagner, George. The Westport Library 1908-2008 Century Report. 
  4. ^ "National Leadership Grant for Libraries". Institute of Museum and Library Services. Institute of Museum and Library Services.