Blackstone Library Renovation Expands Access
Bigger Space Helps Distancing During COVID
The James Blackstone Memorial Library’s recently completed $5 million renovation has brought the architectural landmark into the 21st
The project’s goal was to encourage more people to visit the library with an expanded computer lab, new areas for teens and children and a more accessible entrance. While the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately pushed down attendance numbers, the expanded space allowed the library to better accommodate social distancing requirements.
“The reception has been overwhelmingly positive in the community,” said Library Director Karen Jensen. “Having a redesigned space has been crucial in allowing us to provide services during COVID.”
The new computer lab, which increased the number of computer stations from three to 20, has been a lifeline for many. New conference rooms provided a safe space for patrons to attend zoom meetings, interviews and telemedicine appointments.
In addition, a new terrace space, which included furniture and wifi, became a popular gathering space for casual meetings, study and lunches. The library loaned laptop computers for use on the terrace.
The $5.2 million project was funded with a campaign that included contributions from more than 600 individual donors. The state provided a $1 million grant, and The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven contributed a grant of $75,000. The Branford Community Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant toward the project. Town of Branford funded the balance.
Because the building is a historic landmark, the addition and renovation required approval from the State Historic Preservation Office. The expansion, designed by Silver, Petrucelli & Associates, used Tennessee marble from the same quarry as the original building, built in 1896.
Jensen said that the community has embraced the change, which has allowed the library to function more efficiently to provide better service.
“People really support the library as a center of learning and knowledge. I think they recognize that the community is changing and the needs are changing so the space in the library needs to reflect that,” said Jensen.
Learn more about the James Blackstone Library on giveGreater.org.