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Bill Harmer

3/31/16

Bill Harmer comes to Westport from the town of Port Huron, Michigan.  In his prior experience he managed to obtain the title of Best Small Library in the Country for the library where he was Executive Director.  The title was awarded by the Gates Foundation.  He had also initiated a program known as the Rock & Roll Library Tour, which was so successful that it played in 300 libraries  in 48 states plus Cuba.

In Westport, his vision includes the following projects: 

  • Highlighting books in their own space and making them easier to find
  • Expanding the Summer Reading program for children and establishing one for adults
  • Giving digital access to journals and magazines in a project known as Flipster
  • Expanding the Maker Space
  • Establishing a new version of the old high school shop area, which will be known as the Hacker Space completely furnished with all necessary tools together with equipment to transform VHS tapes and cassette tapes into a digital format
  • Equipment to publish and print your own books
  • Provide an audio/visual studio lab
  • Start a Geek the Library program to bring attention to all the library services
  • Initiate a Library of Things service that will allow patrons to check out items such as 3d printers and hot spot developers along with a myriad of other items
  • Continue documenting local history
  • Adding an Artist in Residence, which presently is Miggs Burroughs
  • Expanding the Maker Faire, which is already the largest such event in the state attracting thousands of viewers and participants from a wide ranging area.  The next one is currently scheduled for April 30 and he is expecting 10,000 attendees

Looming on the near horizon and already started is the new building project.  This is expected to leverage the river walk space and feature a great hall with 75% more workable space and a café area three times the present size together with more small intimate rooms and study areas.  Yet the concept is to keep the budget as small as possible and definitely within the achievable range.

Q&A

Q.  Will there be another brick walk campaign?

A.  There will be new transparency campaigns, which may include another brick walk.

Q.  What will be the projected size and cost for the new structure?

A.  We are still working on it.  Things will be much clearer in a couple of weeks.  So far our energy has been on the exterior, which will include a glass casing allowing for more interior space.  Now the energy is shifting to the interior to obtain what we want at a contained cost.

Q.  Can you keep your operating costs under control?

A.  A good part of the operating costs are the building and the staff.  We plan on having a much more efficient building with no increase in staff.  Volunteers will help a lot.

Q.  What are your interim plans while the new building is being constructed?

A.  So called swing space is very expensive in Westport so we hope to stay in place during the restoration.

Q.  If you are planning to stay in place will you still offer the same services?

A.  Some services will have to be scaled down, but they will still be there.

Q.  Will your fund raising suck up all the funds that would normally be available for other non-profits?

A.  We have already raised a lot of money and we think that the new library will benefit the entire community including other non-profits.

Q.  Will electrical availability expand in the new library?

A.  Yes.  There will be a lot more electricity available.

Q.  Is the library funded by the town?

A.  80% of the operating funding is done by the town, which also owns 23% of the building and the land.

Q.  How long will the building take?

A.  About 3 years.

Q.  Any thought about combining the Weston and Westport libraries?

A.  No discussions along those lines, but we have discussed sharing some resources.

Q.  How do you plan on raising the remaining 20% of the needed funds and how can we help?

A.  There are already many volunteers from your group.  Fund raising will include many different events including one featuring Ron Chernow  who developed the Hamilton play now on Broadway.  We also have a development team at the library.

Q.  How many more square feet will be in the new library and has the town committed the funds for the building?

A.  The new building will have the same footprint as the old one.  There will not be any additional square feet.  We are still talking to the town, but it has earmarked five million for the construction in its budget.