Long admired for its architecturally distinguished Richardsonian Romanesque exterior, Plumb Memorial Library now boasts an inspiring interior as well.
Patrons walking into the public meeting room — a central hub for the library’s adult and children’s programming as well as a gathering spot for numerous local organizations — will see a completely renovated space, with a 21st century technological feel.
“This was a good jumping off point,” library board member Julie Blakeman said of the meeting room work. “The entire library needs to be renovated, and we’re all going to have to work together — the city, the board, the friends — to make this happen.”
The project, paid for by the library board, was inspired by board member Stephen Bellis, who comes with a background in building and a desire to bring the library up-to-date with the latest technology.
“This is our one public meeting room, and it is used for everything, and it was a mess … the floors, the ceiling, cinder block walls,” said library Director Joan Stokes, who has been on the job for nearly two years, working alongside board members Blakeman, Bellis, Jean Cayer, Lou D'Agostino, Treasurer Aleta Miner and President Jim Geissler.
“This is just beautiful,” Stokes said as she walked around the refurbished room. “Everything is new — the floors, ceiling, wiring, electrical. They made us media savvy. We have a drop-down screen, a TV screen, more storage. The walls have sheetrock.”
"We are honoring the intention of our library’s donors to improve the library experience,” said Miner, library board treasurer, adding that the project was funded by bequests and totaled approximately $100,000 with the installation of state-of-the-art equipment and a newly renovated kitchen.
“We are excited to offer this room for the enjoyment of the public and believe it will be an asset for years to come,” said Miner. “We also acknowledge the support of the Friends of the Libraries who generously contributed to expenses for this room such as new tables and chairs.”
Geissler credited Bellis for being instrumental in the construction and coordination of this project.
“This effort has been ongoing,” added Geissler, “and we look forward to the public’s input.”
The work began three months ago, with all programming moved to the reading room in the meantime. And this is just the beginning, said Stokes, who has joined the board in pushing a plan to renovate and reorganize the entire library.
Among the other changes happening now are the installation of a new elevator and reorganizing the interior, placing the teen center in the newer addition while transforming the original library area into a quiet space for those reading or working.
“When I came here I could see what needed to be done — clearing out, cleaning up and streamlining,” said Stokes. “That’s my goal until I am gone. We need to bring the library into the 21st century, all while honoring the past. This is a beautiful building with so much history in it, but, technology wise, we need to get this library in the best possible place it can be.”
Overall, Stokes said the building needs to improve its handicapped accessibility, enhance the lighting, and refurbish all the interior wood.
The Plumb Memorial Library was designed by Bridgeport architect Charles T. Beardsley Jr. and built in 1895. It is named in memory of David Wells Plumb, a local businessman and philanthropist, whose widow donated land for its construction. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. A modern addition was added in 1975, significantly enlarging the library's space and look.
“Libraries have changed from what they were years ago,” Stokes said. “Libraries are now a cultural center. Books are only the beginning. Technology is important and being open up for community groups.
“It’s an exciting time at Plumb Library,” Stokes added, “and it will be a collaborative effort — the city, the board, the friends — and the patrons will be reaping the benefits.”