Monday, September 23, 2013
By James Lomuscio
UPDATE (clarifies library history, Pequot Library status) Without fanfare, The Westport Public Library has dropped “Public” from its name.
Since 1908, when Morris Jesup donated funds for a new library building, it was known as the Westport Public Library. The library’s beginnings go back to 1886 when the Westport Reading Room & Library Association was formed and was open to the public.
Over the years, it has been commonly called the Westport Public Library. In December 2010, the library proudly unveiled its new WPL logo with “Public” prominent in its name. (See WestportNow Dec. 24, 2010)
Now that logo is gone from the library home page with only traces left on other pages of the site.
Marcia Logan, the library’s communications coordinator, today sent an email to WestportNow asking, “Please use ‘The Westport Library’ instead of ‘Westport Public Library’ for calendar listings.”
Asked if the library was downplaying its public mission, Michael Guthman, chairman of the library’s Board of Trustees, insisted that was not the case.
“It’s just a branding thing because we’re streamlining the new logo,” Guthman said.
Asked if the new logo would leave the impression that it was a private, membership library, Guthman said no. (Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story erroneously characterized the Pequot Library in Southport as a private library. It is privately owned but open to the public.)
“It’s still a public library,” stressed Guthman, adding that legally it is considered such.
As such, under state law it remains open to anyone in the state with a library card.
“The state says what a library can be, and that it has to remain open to all and service anyone in the state,” he said.
The new name coincides with the library’s major redevelopment in the works. It has embarked on a capital campaign to renovate and upgrade the library.
With the change, The Westport Library is not the only one in the area to omit the word “public” from its name.
Opened in 1908, the Mark Twain Library in Redding does not use the word “public,” though under its title the website states it is, “The Public Library of Redding, Connecticut.”
Posted 09/23/13 at 02:11 AM
Not everyone knows what constitutes a public library which is why the word “public” is important. This has the appearance of being an attempt to discourage out-of-towners from using the library. Branding goes beyond what a logo looks like and right now the Westport Library is branding itself as exclusive. This is not true to the spirit of the Westport I grew up in.