Opinion / Karen Stevenson
New Canaan Library: fact versus fiction
Published 3:23 pm, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
You can count on library lovers to know fiction when they see it ... and sadly, there has been too much fiction and not enough fact circulating around town. It's time the good people of New Canaan heard the truth.
Since the library announced plans to improve our technology, collections, services and facilities -- our 21st C Library initiative -- we have been met with rancor and unfounded accusations by a small but vocal group of people who are misguided about many facts. We assumed the rumors and allegations would ebb, but the misconceptions and inaccuracies have continued to flow steadily in public forums and in the local press and we believe it is time to set the record straight. While there are many rumors floating around, several relate to the library's property and I would like to address those today:
Fiction: "The library sits on land that was provided by the Town of New Canaan and now they want to sell it and use to money for a new building."
More InformationFact box
Fact: First, the library does not sit on Town land. The parcels that make up the current library site include property donated by a private individual (1944) and parcels purchased by the library from private owners (1910, 1964, 1981 and 2007). These land transaction records are available to the public. Second, the Library Association owns its land and building and believes that, if a new building proves to be the best solution for our town, then the sale of these assets would do two positive things for our community: it would help fund the new facility and it would allow our current property to rejoin the tax rolls, raising the overall tax revenues for New Canaan.
Fiction: "The library is in secret talks with developers to sell their land."
Fact: This rumor is simply untrue. There are no agreements whatsoever between the library and any corporate entity, partnership or individual with respect to the potential purchase and sale of the library's property.
Fiction: "The library is in secret talks with the Town and wants to get land for free."
Fact: We meet regularly with Town leadership because we share a long-running and successful public-private partnership but there is nothing secret about these discussion -- no deals or agreements have been made by either party. When we first considered construction of a new building, we turned to our partner to discuss options. The library requested that the Town consider allowing a new building to be built on Town land and this option will be evaluated as part of the Long Range Planning Group's study. Regarding the use of town land, New Canaan has a long and honorable history of supporting non-profit facilities on Town land specifically because it realizes these important organizations serve the Town's people. Examples of non-profit buildings on Town land include the New Canaan Nature Center, Outback Teen Center, Waveny Care Center, New Canaan Community Nursery School and the new and wonderful EMS/Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
The library's staff and board of trustees have done our best, in good faith, to put forth the facts in full public view from the beginning of this initiative, including what we envision to improve our library, what research went into that initial effort, the many things still to be investigated, and how we plan to move forward with the Town and our patrons by our side to deliver the best ultimate solution for New Canaan. Within a week of our initial announcement, we held behind-the-scene tours of the facility to illustrate issues raised in our strategic paper. We then went on to hold public forums, speak to community groups, conduct an online survey of users and hold focus groups in an effort to share ideas, engage with and listen to the community. These efforts were made possible through the time, talent and financial support of many library lovers -- people trying to make a difference and move our wonderful library into the future.
We invite you to read our strategic communications document, review FAQs, and access other timely documents on our website's 21st C New Canaan Library page (newcanaan
library.org) and share your ideas and opinions with us at trustee@new
canaanlibrary.org. Get the facts, ask questions and get involved -- don't miss out on defining your library's next chapter.
Karen Stevenson is the president of New Canaan Library Board of Trustees.