Darien Library = The Great Good Place

"Great good places" are defined as third places; in contrast to home (first places) and work (second places), third places are the heart of the community -- a neutral place where people gather and interact. In his book, The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg explores the essential roles served by the third place and its impact on the social vitality of the community.

Heart of the Community. Gather. Essential. Social vitality. These are all words that happen to describe Darien Library, don't you think? Manny Perez, documentary filmmaker must have thought so, too. After months and months of filming at Darien Library... and getting to know us... and our members... and all we strive to achieve, this documentary director/photographer/editor/producer aptly named his documentary film about us, "Darien Library: The Great Good Place."

During the months and months of filming, we also got to know Manny Perez -- a talented, tireless, devoted, and creative filmmaker and man of integrity. We are so proud to have had the opportunity to work with him. We are also proud to premiere the documentary to the public today and say "Greetings from The Great Good Place."

Darien Library: The Great Good Place from Darien Library on Vimeo.

Great Blue Heron Sculptor, Elliot Offner -- 1931-2010

Elliot Offner
Elliot Offner

Longtime Smith College professor Elliot Offner died Friday, October 15, 2012 at the age of 79. Mr. Offner, was a nationally known sculptor whose artwork is found in many private and public collections. His impressive work is locally known as well; the Great Blue Heron has resided in Darien for more than 20 years at Darien Library.

The Great Blue Heron sculpture was commissioned by Darien Library and was the first piece of public art in Darien. The dedication ceremony took place on May 31, 1987 and since then, the beloved sculpture has graced our courtyard. From its original perch in the courtyard at 35 Leroy Avenue, to its new home in the reflecting pool at the new Library, the heron has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to Darien Library.

Two years ago, when we were preparing to move to the new Library, among one of the biggest concerns voiced by our members was whether or not the heron would be moved, too. That is the language of community pride, of shared memories, of continuity, of roots. We are proud that Mr. Offner's Great Blue Heron has become a symbol of Darien Library and as always, we embrace its beauty, its strength, and its grace. We mourn the passing of Elliot Offner.

Smith College is home to our heron's twin, which resides on the campus in a small pond next to Victorian greenhouses. Smith's moving tribute to Mr. Offner includes a description of the Great Blue Heron: " ...with its exhilarating and unfolding of wings and elastic curve of neck --lithe and filled with potential." 

The New York Times' obituary of Mr. Offner. A website displaying Professor Offner's work has been established.

Gretchen Caserotti is a "Mover & Shaker"!

Gretchen Caserotti, Head of Children's Services at Darien Library
Gretchen Caserotti, Head of Children's Services at Darien Library

Library Journal has named Gretchen Caserotti, Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library, as one of 50 “Movers & Shakers” for 2010! " Congratulations, Gretchen!

Gretchen was cited for her leadership of the Children’s Library, including an innovative reorganization of the children’s book collections, particularly the picture books, making them easily available to young children. This has resulted in a significant increase in use and is a model now being adopted by other libraries. The article also noted her “innate connection with kids,” which has led to new programs and services. Here's what Library Journal had to say about Gretchen in their announcement.

Each year since 2002, Library Journal has identified outstanding professionals from around the world who are considered the emerging leaders in the library world and whom the editors believe will shape the future of libraries by innovating with technology, advocating for community-based research and programming, and improving the quality of life of the people they serve. The 2010 list of “Movers & Shakers” was announced in the March 15, 2010 issue of Library Journal. Click here to read more about it.

In June of 2008, Gretchen became Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library. She was instrumental in developing the new service model for the New Darien Library, especially within the Children’s Library. When designing the Children’s Library, spaces were organized to meet the needs of two distinct user groups: “First Five Years” and “Kids.” The “First Five Years” section supports and advances the Library’s Early Literacy Initiative, and the “Kids” section addresses the needs and growing independence of beginning readers. Since the Library’s opening of the new building in January 2009, the reorganization has proven to be an extremely successful innovation.

When she learned of the “Movers & Shakers” honor, Gretchen said that she was honored and excited: “I feel like an advocate in the profession for Youth Services,” she said, adding, “It’s nice to have a Youth Services person represented among the ‘Movers & Shakers.’”

Prior to coming to Darien Library, Gretchen worked as a Children’s Librarian at New York Public Library (Chelsea). She credits her choice of vocation to her enjoyment of working with young people and years of studying theater: “I loved storytelling. Children’s librarianship provided the perfect package of fun and play and experimentation. Kids are open to learn with you,” Gretchen said, and then smiled, adding “I’m just a big kid. But I do have a driver’s license.”

Gretchen grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota and said that Darien reminded her in many ways of her small hometown community. She knew Darien Library by its reputation, and said that when the opportunity arose to work there, she was aware that “no other library in this country gives you the freedom to say, ‘I have an idea. We can make it happen.’ Darien Library encourages that.’”  

Speaking enthusiastically about the Children’s Library staff members, she said, “This team is incredible. I know because parents tell me. They each have tremendous skill sets; they are kind, compassionate, and creative.” She added the surprising fact that five Children’s Library staff members travel to Darien from New York City daily. “It’s a testament to Darien Library that staff members are willing to commute.”

Gretchen stated that she is grateful and proud to be part of the Darien Library and the Darien community and pleased that other libraries throughout the country are paying attention to the achievements in Darien. “It’s such an honor that our efforts serve as a model, but first and foremost, it has to work at home. Darien Library took the risk to navigate the Children’s Library in a new and different way. Being selected as one of Library Journal’s ‘Movers & Shakers’ is a great honor. The reward is in the recognition of moms and kids and children’s librarians.” 

When learning of Gretchen’s inclusion in the select list, our Library Director Louise Berry said, “We could not be more pleased by this recognition of Gretchen’s leadership and innovative thinking. What she’s done, and is doing, has widespread repercussions for the library world, but most importantly, she has assured that Darien Library provides absolutely the best services to the children and families of Darien, and that is our mission.”

Library Journal publishes a “Movers & Shakers” edition annually in March. (John Blyberg, our Assistant Director for Innovation and UX, was named a 2006 “Mover & Shaker” while he was at Ann Arbor District Library.) Now in its 133rd year of publication, Library Journal is the oldest and most respected publication covering the library field. Library Journal is read by over 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries.

Again, congratulations, Gretchen!

Five Stars Again! Round Two! Number Two!

The results have been announced! Round Two of America's Star Libraries. Five (more) Stars!

Once again, Darien Library was named a Five Star library by Library Journal (LJ), which used four objective measures (visits, circulation, program attendance and internet computer use per capita) to compare the level of services libraries provide to their communities. Darien Library was ranked second in the nation(!) among public libraries with budgets between $1 million and $5 million.

The LJ 2/15/09 issue reported the first star library ratings based on the LJ Index. Less than a year later, they are back with the second round, thanks to a dramatic improvement in data timeliness achieved by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in its annual census of U.S. public libraries. Data for 2006 were released in November 2008, while data for 2007 were released in May 2009—a six-month turnaround. Planned as an annual event, the LJ Index will continue to be published as soon as possible after each year's data become available

For the complete story, click here to read the article in the brand new issue of Library Journal.


Darien Library is fortunate to have a loyal corps of dedicated volunteers. Some of our volunteer opportunities include:

Book Wrangler: Help keep our shelves neat, hunt for missing books, and help us assure that our books are easy to find!

Library Loudspeaker: Have interest or experience in marketing?  Are you an excellent writer?  Help draft press releases, brainstorm promotional ideas, and make sure that everyone in town knows what is going on at the library!

Book Agent: Sort and orgainse our discarded books to be prepped for sale!  You'll assist in setting up for our book sales, taking payment, and assuring everything runs smoothly.

Web Doctor: Help clean up our website by deleting spam, fixing broken links, and getting rid of outdated information.  Our Web Doctors are comfortable with computers and technology.

Digitization Wizard: Bring our paper materials into the 21st Century!  Digitization Wizards will scan materials and help us make them accessible digitally.

Community Readers' Adviser: Love to talk about books?  Have you seen a great movie recently?  Write reviews and rate materials on our website.  

Videographer Assistant: Aid our Videographer as he films documentaries right here at the library!

Neat and Tidy Committee: Are you organized?  Does everything have its exact place?  Do your friends think you're a little neurotic?  Help us sort through our stuff!  We need volunteers to organize and straighten our behind-the-scenes materials.

Library Farmer: Have a green thumb?  We're looking for a volunteer to help us tend to our vegetable garden and organize our Seed Library.

We are happy to work with you to create a volunteer position that will match your interests and talents with our volunteer opportunities.

Interested in applying?  Start here!


To learn more, contact:

Mallory Arents, Volunteer Coordinator



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