The search for a new executive director for the New Canaan Library is under way following the announcement that Alice Knapp accepted a position at Stamford's Ferguson Library.

Knapp will become director of user services in Stamford Jan. 14, where she will work on operations and strategic planning.

"I have to say it was a rough decision for me to make because this is a wonderful community and staff," Knapp said, "but this is a unique opportunity with different challenges. I'll be working to do some of the same things, but with a bigger scale, (including) the strategic planning process that's about to take place, and I'm very excited about that."

Knapp worked for eight years as director of public services at Ferguson before coming up to New Canaan. Ernest DiMattia, the president of Ferguson Library, said he was sad when Knapp left, but jumped at the chance to bring her back.

"She did an outstanding job. We were all sorry to see her leave when she went to New Canaan. When the opportunity came to have her come back to Stamford we wanted her to come back."

She started at New Canaan Library in 2008, overseeing the growth of the facility's online offerings and the expansion of the parking lot.

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"There's a lot that's happened over the last four years," Knapp said. "Probably the most noticeable was the parking lot. I don't mean to be glib when I say that, but the No. 1 complaint when we did a survey in 2010 was parking, and we now have 23 more spaces. We also redesigned the website with a new logo, introduced e-music, e-books and e-magazines."

A search committee, led by library board trustees Lydee Hummel and Martin McLaughlin, has started looking for the next executive director.

"We're putting together a committee to begin the search process," Hummel said. "We're able to draw upon people in the community who have experience in this type of thing, as well as board members of the library who worked on the committee that brought Alice Knapp here. New Canaan has high standards, as do we. Hopefully, we'll find a great candidate and someone who can take us into our new library."

The library is in the early planning stages for a major renovation.

During the search process, library operations management will be directed by Susan LaPerla, the director of programming, and Anne Romanello, the director of finance and administration.

LaPerla explained the day-to-day operations of the library.

"It's opening the doors and welcoming people and providing the services they're looking for ... about 1,000 people come through the door each day," she said. "It's also keeping up the website. We had over 600,000 hits to the website last year. That's a lot."

When asked if she would like to take on the role as executive director, LaPerla was non-committal.

"They're only just beginning the search committee. I haven't submitted an application at this time. I'm considering it," she said.; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews