(column reworked for April 6 Fairfield Citizen news)
By Mike Lauterborn
Of late, my Man About Town missions have taken me to cafes, diners, taverns and other eateries popular with area citizenry. As important from a local perspective are the institutions and communal meeting places that are anchors of our vibrant town. A leading example is Fairfield Public Library at 1080 Old Post Road, where I found myself one recent sunny Sunday afternoon.
According to historical records, the forerunner of the public library was the Fairfield Memorial Library, which opened Dec. 27, 1876 in the Fairfield Academy building. For a fee of one dollar a year, a borrower was permitted to take a book at a time from a collection of 677 volumes.
In June 1903, a new building, at the library’s present location, was established. A two-story Colonial, it was designed so it could be added to in future years. In 1950, operation of the facility was taken over by the town and its current designation adopted. Additions to the building were completed in 1959 and 1981, followed by a major renovation in 2004/2005, which resulted in many updates and new spaces.
According to Library Director Karen Ronald, “Today, we offer 353,000 volumes of media, have about 38,000 patrons and are used by 75% of town residents. It’s been a community center for over 100 years and kept up with the times in terms of programs that meet changing societal needs and 21st century technologies.”
One of the facility’s newest spaces is The Children’s Library, on the second level. It is divided into “neighborhoods” each reflecting a familiar historic town landmark: the Gazebo, Penfield Lighthouse, Town Green, a farm yard, book shop, train station and Town Hall.
A frequent destination for Fairfielder Kerry Micinilio, visiting with daughter Mollie, 3, she said, “Mollie likes to play on the computer, picks out different movies and books, uses the sound tubes to chat with me and plays in the playhouse. It’s full of a lot of learning resources for the young kids.”
The Teen Room functions as a separate space for teens to gather, and includes materials and computers geared to their use. Ongoing events are featured here including chess matches and video game competitions.
Buried in a book, Ashley Vazquez, 15, said, “I usually come here to work on projects. It’s a good quiet room and has a lot of resources that are helpful.”
The Periodical Room on the main level houses more than 275 magazines, journals, newsletters and newspapers. It’s a relaxing space with deep-seated chairs and original marble mosaic floors.
Flipping through a newspaper, Fairfielder Jim Janniello, 88, said about the library, “It’s almost my second home,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on the computer trading stocks and read the daily papers. The library is one of the most important parts of town, for people to stay current, educate themselves and relax.”
Other facility features include the Bruce S. Kershner Gallery with exhibits that change out monthly, three meeting rooms that are utilized for movie showings, live performances, author talks and more, and the Harold B. Harris Computer Lab offering 15 terminals for public use.
A Reference Area with work tables, New Books/Large Type Books area and Audio/Visual section with hundreds of DVDs, audio books and CDs, round out main library departments. The resources are truly astounding and there’s never a dull moment with all the daily activities and goings-on for all segments of the library’s patronage.
On that note, I’ll “check out” of this chapter of Man About Town with a goal to eye other important town anchors in forthcoming installments.