This might sound ridiculous, but there’s something magical about a public library. I grew up with this magic.
See, I read quite quickly. At the peak of my book consumption, I could blow through 10 books, or some number equally ridiculous, in a week. Due to this rate of reading, there was no way my parents were letting me anywhere near a bookstore. But, they were more than happy to get me all signed up for a little library card, hand me one of our old duffle bags and push me out the door and on the 15 minute walk to our closest branch. I’d pop in at least once a week, say hello to the ladies behind the desk who found the young thing with a suitcase of books a bit odd, and then leave with a collection that would keep me busy for days.
Thus, when I bagged that same duffle bag with Fairfield University sweatshirts and left home to head to Connecticut, I was worried about losing my connection to the library. It’s probably not a shock to anyone, but one of the first things I did on campus was hop on the Stag Bus over to the bookstore, and walk to the Fairfield Public Library. Here, all you need to do is tell them you’re a Fairfield University student, show them your Stag Card as proof, along with a driver’s license, and bam… library card obtained!
Now, this library card can get you into… ready for it?… ANY LIBRARY IN CONNECTICUT.
Yeah, it’s not a really big deal. Except that it’s a ridiculously big deal because you now have access to thousands and thousands of books, for free. But, I’m going to give you a bit of a trick here, there are some libraries in our area that are better than others. Some with more of a selection or a nicer place sit and do work, so let me break it down.
- Fairfield Public Library:
This is quite simply a nice library…not phenomenal, but nice in its own way.
One positive is that it’s quite close. When I was a first-year student, I could take the bus and be there in 15 minutes. But, I wouldn’t do much else other than pick up some books and then walk back to the bookstore and grab a coffee. There’s just not a lot of private space to do work or hang out. All of the seats feel quite on top of each other. If I really need to get some work done, there’s always the option to reserve a room here. Which, if you snag one of the rooms with the big colonial wooden windows that overlook Post Road, is quite lovely. They are private, so you don’t feel as if you’re elbow to elbow with the rest of the public.
There’s an issue here with the book selection. This library has a very odd selection of specific series that some other libraries do not, but they never seem to have enough copies of the more modern collections. To get those… I usually head to the Pequot Library.
- The Pequot Library:
This was one of my first finds in Fairfield County. I’ve spent two summers here now, and there’s little else I’d rather do than grab an iced coffee and head over to the Pequot on a Sunday morning.
The building is just stunning. You’ll be driving up to it, following your GPS and all of a sudden you’ll pass some white flowers and the soft grey stone with a bright red roof will emerge from the landscape.
The inside is just as stunning. If you enter through the back door, through the children’s section, you won’t expect much. It’s a square, with a bit of brightly colored activities on the floor and a very handsome rabbit. The rabbit honestly makes the space here in the children’s section, everything else is like a normal library… nothing too special.
But, if you’re brave enough to walk in a bit more, you start to see the beauty within all the rooms. And I do mean the rooms. Side rooms around each corner are furnished with worn leather couches, exposed wood, big ornate stained glass windows and chandeliers with lamps that look like they once held oil. This is only the sitting area, where you’d curl up to do some work or pump out a paper.
Where the books are held is a whole different story. The books stand up in little straight lines on wooden shelves with elaborately designed black metal grates on each end. The shelves nearly overwhelm you, as they travel up two whole flights of stairs, being separated halfway with a sheet of thick frosted glass.
This sheet is the floor of the second story. A daunting first couple of steps, but once you get over the fear of falling through the glass onto the floor, it’s exhilarating. Pequot has all the books that the Fairfield Public library does not. They also have a much older collection, as they house many antique texts in the basement of the building, which are perfectly maintained by the collections staff.
The books are generally in much better condition than those at Fairfield’s library. Looking at the catalog card, it’s not a complete shock if I’m the only stamp listed in the last five years.
Pequot is also the proud holder of one of the biggest summer book sales in New England. 100,000 books, CDs and DVDs are on sale for some ridiculous prices. Then, since this is Pequot, they have a huge collection of rare, vintage finds that antique dealers pay a premium profit for…those are always nice to look at!
- The Westport Library:
I started working at the Westport Museum of Contemporary Art during my sophomore year, and thus was out and about in the downtown Westport area quite often on weekends or random weekdays. Westport isn’t within walking distance; it is about a 20 minute drive from Fairfield. I wanted someplace where I could sit and do some work or grab a book if I was in the area.
Starbucks was always a possibility, but then I stumbled upon the Westport Library, right on the water. It was just recently redone, so while it may lack some of that old charm that Pequot exudes, it’s still somewhere I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of hours.
If you’re there and looking for a space to sit, I always either head up to the top floor, where the young adult section is; it has some nice booths that overlook the water. Down by the basement there are also some ergonomic curvy chairs decorating the floor of the adult section. Both provide comfort and are areas out of the main fray of the activity. Westport seems to have a wider selection of books than the Fairfield Public Library, but less than Pequot. The library is also significantly bigger than the Fairfield Public Library, with more space to spread out and do homework if need be.
In general, having a reason to pop over to Westport is lovely. I’d run over to do some homework on a Saturday afternoon, then have a couple of hours to look around at things I don;t need from Anthropologie or Madewell. Completely lovely!
- DiMenna-Nyselius Library
If you’re a first-year or sophomore student who has read through the entirety of this piece so far, you may be thinking that you’re missing out on some of the great libraries in our little area… but, don’t feel bad. Honestly, other than Pequot, I think the Fairfield University library beats out both Fairfield Public and Westport.
It not only beats them out in terms of places to sit, as the basement in a little back corner or one of those tables on the top floor overlooking the hill are personal favorites of mine, but also in book selection. I know not many people utilize the library for its books, but I do! And anything they don’t have, out of the thousands of books they do have, can be easily ordered through the Interlibrary Loan portal and dropped off to the library shortly thereafter.
I really do hope that this little list gets you to head out to support your local public library during Banned Books Week. Though maybe you might not utilize the library, it’s one of the last places that allows you to walk in and sit without any expectation of spending money. It’s where many children were inspired to read, and where I probably spent more hours than I did in my actual house. It’s where millions of letters are all strung together in millions of perfected sentences. There’s a whole lifetime of knowledge stacked across the shelves of these libraries. If that’s not magic in this world we’re living in… I don’t know what is.