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Library opens doors, old and new

Mary Rindfleisch, the library’s assistant director, displaying the donor mural.

Mary Rindfleisch, the library’s assistant director, displaying the donor mural.

Many events have taken place on Ridgefield’s historic Main Street over the centuries, but a hand-by-hand book brigade — like the one that the new library will host Friday afternoon to celebrate its grand opening — will be a new addition to that list.

“There’s a lot of things that happen on Main Street; it hosts the mountain dog parade and SummerFest and all the other festivals where they close the street, and then there’s obviously the Memorial Day parade,” said Mary Rindfleisch, the library’s assistant director. “I think this is certainly an unusual event. …

“I don’t know anybody who’s done something quite like this before,” she added.

The celebration kicks off three straight days of community events at the new building, which will include arts and crafts, live music, and comedy shows as well as the unveiling of the Wall of Donors Friday and the recording of Mother’s Day memories as part of a tribute project Sunday.

The building will be fully operational Saturday for people to take out books, Ms. Rindfleisch said.

Originally, the library wanted to try to have the book-passing chain be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records, but the process was too complicated.

“We know from Mitch Ancona’s Champagne sabering event in the fall that it’s extremely cumbersome to go through that process and we decided that it wasn’t the point of it,” Ms. Rindfleisch said. “We’re just going to do our own thing and it’ll be our moment to have.”

She expects around 200 people to participate in the book brigade and around 50 books — all written by Ridgefield authors — to make their way down Main Street into the new building.

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are will be the last book in the chain.

She’s asking volunteers who are taking part in the passing ceremony to assemble around 4:15 p.m. on the green adjacent to the library’s temporary Governor Street location.

“The lease for 21 Governor is up, so we’ll be starting out on that field and going up Bailey and down Main Street to get over to Prospect,” she said. “We want to get everyone lined up first and then we will start passing at 4:30.”

Someone from the library’s teen advisory group wearing a “Wild Things” costume will lead the operation.

“It’s going to be a fun event,” Ms. Rindfleisch said. “Everyone from infants to older adults who have been involved in the library for many years are going to be joining us and making this very special.

“Whoever is last in line can make their way over to the building for the ribbon cutting, which should take place around 5.”

The idea for the book brigade came from when the library moved its location from Prospect Street to Governor Street at the beginning of its renovation process more than 18 months ago.

Staff at the library received so many calls from people wanting to help move books that they wanted to create a meaningful way for them to get involved once the new doors were opened.

“We wanted to make that original move out as fast as possible, and we just knew we couldn’t rely on volunteers because this was a job for pros — 110,000 items split between storage and shelves, that’s not easy,” Ms. Rindfleisch said. “We didn’t want it to take six months to move back in either, so we hired the same moving company to help us move back in, but we thought there had to be a way to let those who wanted to help symbolically do that.”

William B. Meyer, a library relocation company based in Stratford, helped with the move out and the move back in, which started in late March as soon as the new building got approval from the fire marshal.

When the temporary location on Governor closed over Easter weekend, the books on the shelf there began to make their way over to the new, permanent location.

Opening doors

Once the final book makes its way down to Prospect Street on Friday, there will be a ribbon cutting followed by the unlocking of the historic doors to the E.W. Morris Building, which have been closed since at least the 1980s, according to Ms. Rindfleisch.

Dee Strilowich of Personal Touch Welcome will cut the ribbon and be the first resident through the refurbished historic doors.

The first selectman and members of the state’s library will make speeches and dedications followed by the library’s presentations of the Paccadolmi Awards, given in honor of Phyllis Paccadolmi, who worked at the library for over 50 years.

Phillip and Christine Lodewick will receive the leadership award for their work on the project’s capital campaign, while the Friends of the Library will be given the volunteer award.

The final part of Friday night’s ceremony will be the unveiling of the Wall of Donors, for the 150-plus people who donated $10,000 to the project, and the Community Mural, which boasts the names of more than 500 families who were also donors.

“It’s a work of art that looks like a series of bookshelves with donor names written on book spines,” said Ms. Rindfleisch of the painting that was done by Ridgefield artist Marcia Sima. “It’s our version of buy-a-brick and we thought it was appropriate for a library and a little bit different.”

She added that it will take up an entire corridor of space in the library’s bottom level.

Full swing

Residents won’t be able to tour the new building until Saturday though.

“We want to keep the speeches as short as possible so everyone can go off and have dinner downtown and celebrate Ridgefield and come back Saturday for the rest of our planned events,” said Ms. Rindfleisch, who expects Fridays events to last until around 6 p.m.

The following morning the library’s new doors open to public for the first time at 9 a.m. and that will be marked with a daylong list of events.

There will be a storytelling session at 10:30 as well as a pair of comedic performance from a juggling jester at 11 and 2.

Middle schoolers and high schoolers will host a computer programming demonstration for kids from 11:30 to 1:30 as well as an astrophotography workshop from 1:45 to 3.

Live music from Grayson Hugh and Polly Messer will take place outside at 3:30.

Throughout the day, guided tours will be given by Friends of the  Library, and the building’s new technology will be demonstrated, while sidewalk chalk art will be taking place outside.

“We want to show off everything that the building does,” Ms. Rindfleisch said. “There’s going to be classes for e-books and demos for our 3-D printer.”

There will be a scavenger hunt, balloons and an opportunity for kids to pose for a photo with the Wild Thing.

For adults, there will be an art exhibit titled Contemporary Landscapes from local artist Rachel Volpone.

The celebration weekend will conclude with a Mother’s Day-themed event called “the memory booth” from 1 to 5 on Sunday.

“It’s like StoryCorps on National Public Radio, which is a project done by the Library of Congress that sets up recording booths all over the country and records mini conversations to be part of a larger collection,” Ms. Rindfleisch said. “We’re trying to collect snippets about moms, books and libraries.

“We want to hear about things like what’s the favorite book someone read with their mom,” she said. “We hope to have little kids with moms and adults talking about their mothers who helped form their love for libraries and books. …

“This is something special that gives folks a reason to come to the library and not just feel like a burden because it’s Mothers Day.”

Sunday will also feature a family concert at 2 and a raffle prize drawing at 3, along with an afternoon of music and readings held by local authors and musicians.

“We host a lot of writers groups, and this is a chance for them to show off what they do as part of our programming,” Ms. Rindfleisch explained. “Once they wrap up, then we will be through the weekend and all moved in.

“There should be enough to keep everyone plenty interested.”

About author
Award-winning journalist for Hersam Acorn Newspapers. Covers beats such as education, police and fire, planning, real estate, and business in the town of Ridgefield. Also covers sports and hosts a radio show, Radio Arts and Leisure, that runs on the company's 18 individual news websites. University of Denver graduate, die-hard Bronco and Yankee fan. Sports lover and compulsive traveler.

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