Wednesday, January 07, 2015
By James Lomuscio
UPDATE Maxine Bleiweis, credited with bringing the Westport Library into the 21st century after taking the helm as executive director in 1998, announced today in a formal letter to the library’s Board of Trustees that she will retire effective July 1.
“I’ve been doing this for 41 years and have been here for 17, and I feel this institution has never been at a stronger point and with a fantastic staff,” said Bleiweis, a Black Rock, Bridgeport resident who directed libraries in Newington and Suffield before coming to Westport.
“It’s sort of like being a marathoner in a relay,” she added. “You want to hand off that baton in a time of strength.”
Bleiweis, working on her final library budget for next year, plans to assist the board “in terms of consulting and advising” after retirement.
“By every measure, Maxine was instrumental in ushering our library into the new millennium and guiding us through a dynamic period of change,” said Michael Guthman, board president.
“Through the gift of her imagination, visionary thinking and ability to motivate others, our library is now recognized as one of the most innovative libraries in the world.”
During her tenure, Bleiweis is credited with expanding the library’s programs from 700 when she arrived to a current 1,600.
Programs that stand out are: Booked for the Evening; an annual crossword puzzle contest hosted by Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times; WestportREADS; and MakerSpace.
Library officials say MakerSpace is was an example of Bleiweis embracing new technologies via 3D printing and teaching programming with robotics. She also instituted automated circulation systems and wireless access.
Guthman noted that under Bleiweis’ leadership, the Westport Library achieved national recognition as a best-in-class library, including a five-star rating from The Library Journal in 2013.
As she continued to expand the library via new programs, Bleiweis was always quick to point out that her vision was for the library to evolve into “a center of community learning.”
“It is a university for everyone, with no tuition, no entrance exams, and where you can’t fail,” she said.
Guthman reported that the Board of Trustees is establishing a search committee and will hire search firm to find a new executive director.
“With Maxine’s help, we are confident we will find a successor with the experience, talent and leadership skills to propel the Westport Library into its next phase of development,” he said.
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe issued a statement praising Bleiweis’s stewardship of the library.
“Maxine may be leaving her position as director of the Westport Library, but her spirit, enthusiasm and dedication will remain in our grateful community for years to come,” he said.
“Under Maxine’s professional guidance, the Library has evolved into a community-driven, citizen-centric resource for all.”
Posted 01/07/15 at 11:44 AM
My understanding from Maxine is that she plans to change roles at the Library this summer, transitioning from Executive Director to acting as an ongoing consultant, to provide herself with more flexible time to spend with family.
She said she feels the Westport Library is in excellent shape, the transition project and its capital campaign are moving forward strongly, and she looks forward to continuing her significant participation in the project.
There seems to be a flurry of much esteemed leaders leaving their posts, Dodig, Reeves, now Blewies. Anybody else?
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