Blackstone Plans Expansion for the 21st Century

Branford's Blackstone Library plans to expand.

Branford's James Blackstone Memorial Library

More than a century after its doors opened in 1896, Branford's stately marble-columned Blackstone Library remains a vital center for culture and learning. At least 500 people daily visit the library to check out books and movies or attend children's programs, classes, public meetings, and more. To accommodate its patrons and offer better access to technology, the library is planning an expansion.

"It will allow us to become a 21st-century library," says Director Karen Jensen.

The $4.9 million project adds 2,000 square feet to the ground floor and reconfigures the interior layout. The library will receive a $1 million grant from the state as long as it has the remaining funds in place by March 2018. To help seed the capital campaign, the Branford Community Foundation has pledged 100,000 to match individual gifts. The library is also seeking about $3.1 million from the town.

"The library use keeps growing," says Jensen. "Last year we circulated over 240,000 items, mostly books. So people are using us a lot. We're open to all, 7 days a week except in the summer.

While books remain the biggest reason visitors come to Blackstone, the library offers a broad menu of other resources and programs such as classes in computing, video-editing, 3-D printing, and sewing. The equipment is put away in storage between classes because of space constraints. The renovation, Jensen says, will make the technology more broadly accessible to the public.

Other improvements to the library include creating a teen area and moving the children's room from the top floor to the ground floor. The project will also add two public meeting room spaces to meet the demand from community groups

For more information about Blackstone Memorial Library, visit its profile on

Did you know?

When the Blackstone opened in 1896, the second floor held display cases with historical objects from Branford's past and specimens of natural history.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.