GREENWICH — The doors of Greenwich Library have been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. And during that time, a massive renovation project has been underway to rebuild the interior space of the historic institution.
“I am really looking forward to the day we can invite everyone into the building to see how we reimagined, renewed and repurposed the space,” Greenwich Library Director Barbara Ormerod-Glynn said Wednesday.
The library is zeroing in on completion of the approximately $17 million project that will change the look of every floor of the library; add new features including a reading room, auditorium and cafe; and expand the children’s room and more.
Library officials hope all of the construction will be completed by the end of the year. The COVID-19-related closure allowed the library to get ahead of schedule. Under the original plan, the Greenwich Library would have remained open throughout construction and it would have been done in early 2021.
Once the construction is complete, Ormerod-Glynn said there will be a weeklong “virtual celebration” slated for Jan. 28 through Feb. 4, with special speakers, programs for all age groups and a new video about the finished work.
Ormerod-Glynn and the project team gave their update during a virtual talk before the Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich.
“This is a source of great civic pride,” she said. “The library has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally for its service excellence. But to remain the cultural center of Greenwich, we felt compelled to rethink and repurpose the main library space, services and programs to meet changing times, changing technologies and changing patron needs.”
Ormerod-Glynn outlined the changes, all of which are happening with significantly increasing the building’s footprint on West Putnam Avenue.
On the outside, a new entrance from the Baxter Courtyard will improve accessibility and send visitors to the new café. And there is an entrance to the new 294-seat “state-of-the-art” auditorium, she said.
On the first floor, there will be five new meeting rooms that can seat six to 14 people each in the Peterson Room, more tables and chairs for work and study, more study room space for young adults and an innovation lab with 3D printing, virtual reality and laser cutting, she said. The old periodical room will be turned into a reading room.
The second floor, where the Flinn Gallery is located, will be dedicated largely to art and music. And in the top floor children’s room, the space will be doubled for programs for youngsters.
“Overall our goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment that maintains the collection of great depth and breadth while accommodating more individuals and groups with redesigned space to work, study, meet up with friends at the cafe or attend stimulating programs that better inform us as citizens of the world,” Ormerod-Glynn said.
She showed off the designs and changes during the presentation, where she was joined by several members of the project team, including architect Michael Tribe.
“We had seven objectives that guided our design (including) that the library would be flexible, that it would be adaptive to change over time, that it would become a center of information technology and education, that it would be a place for community gathering as a cultural center, that the collection would be permeable and intermingle within the patron seating (and) that we would design a variety of meeting spaces at all scales,” Tribe said.
Based on community surveys, Tribe said the priorities are more study rooms and meeting rooms; expanded children and young adult spaces; a new cafe; the business center; and turning the periodicals room into a reading room.
When asked who would run the new cafe, Ormerod-Glynn would only say that a decision has been made but she was not ready to officially make an announcement. The cafe will be run a nonprofit group under a three-year contract, with food provided by four local businesses, she said.
The announcement is expected “very soon” Ormerod-Glynn said, adding she was “very excited” about the agreement and hoped it would “very long term.”
The Greenwich Library remains closed due to the ongoing pandemic. Patrons can check out materials via online reservations and pick them up. Computer access is available by appointment as well.
Ormerod-Glynn said appointments will be available soon for the Flinn Gallery as it holds its new exhibition and for access to the Innovation Lab.
“We will continue to offer incremental services as community health and library space permits,” she said.
Full video of the speech, as well as the presentation of the design work, will be available online at www.greenwichrma.org.