Courtland S. Wilson library branch in Hill nears completion
(6/2/2006) When the Courtland S. Wilson Branch Library opens in Fall 2006 at 303 Washington Avenue in the Hill neighborhood it will signal the end of a five year planning process for the staff of the New Haven Free Public Library and the beginning of New Haven’s first 21st Century library.
From the initial stages of a Hill Branch Building Program developed in 2001 by Tappe Associates, Inc. along with Hill neighborhood and organization’s input and a design for the building by Pozzi & Associates LLC, Architects, to the creation of a Wilson Branch Task Force formally in December 2005, the Wilson Library has taken shape inside and out. The Task Force, spearheaded by Cathy DeNigris, Chief of Public Services and Nancy Moscoso-Guzman, Coordinator of Hispanic Services, has been focused on planning, staffing, technology, outreach and services for the new branch in the library system.
“Last winter when we looked at what we needed to accomplish for making the building a library for the 21st century, it was imperative that Wilson Task Force be created,” insists City Librarian James Welbourne. Reassigning staff and creating several Task Force Committees, the library was able to focus on the detailed steps that have lead to this point while also keeping daily system-wide operations humming. Adds Welbourne, “the staff rose to the challenge.”
The Patrons Board of Directors of the New Haven Public Library, the tax exempt fundraising arm of the Library, was reconstituted in the spring 2004. Chaired by Michael Morand, the Patrons embarked on a $1 million dollar Campaign for New Haven’s Library of the 21st Century. The 21st Century Campaign raised funds to enhance the opening day book collection, technology and programs and services at the Wilson Library branch and spark the renewal of collections and a wide range of services in the other four library facilities.
Beyond the bookshelves and the preservation of buildings, public libraries are reaching deep into their communities, connecting patrons to one another. The Patrons Organization has connected the public-private sector to the Library and encourages the building and strengthening of these partnerships that will provide the necessary financial resources to enable library staff to offer creative and innovative approaches. At the same time, the 21st Century Campaign raised additional monies for city-wide enhancements in the library’s three branches: Ives – 133 Elm Street, Fair Haven – 182 Grand Avenue, Mitchell – 37 Harrison Street and Stetson – 200 Dixwell Avenue.
As the Courtland S. Wilson Branch, named for the civic leader Courtland Seymour Wilson,
gets ready to open, the Library Board, Chaired by Keith Bradoc Gallant, Library Administrators staff and Patrons Board eagerly await the neighborhood’s reaction. “The Hill neighborhood’s input and involvement have been paramount in our planning,” notes Welbourne. “Whether they have provided ideas or given
New Haven Library- 2-
feedback on the building or the delivery of services, the Hill public has helped us shape and reshape the branch. Now,” adds Welbourne, “ we need to turn our attention to the other most important element-hiring a new staff to serve the Hill neighborhood of the 21st century.”
The Wilson Library branch Opening Day celebration will provide further ways for the Hill neighborhood to be involved. The library is inviting people who live and work in the Hill to nominate a Hill Hero: all of whom will be recognized at the Opening Day activities. Three heroes
will be chosen by a drawing and will receive a brick to be engraved and later placed in the Wilson Welcome Walkway leading to the entrance of the library. The library will also be inviting Hill residents and organizations to purchase bricks at a special community price for engraving their message of support welcoming all who enter the Courtland S. Wilson Branch for generations to come.
Further information about the Wilson Library branch and the New Haven Public Library system call: Kathie Hurley at 946-8125.