Greenwich, and Connecticut in general, has a long relationship with literacy.
It was one of the most educated states in the country at its founding. And education remains important to this day.
And as befits a town on the small side with a strong philanthropic and academic side, Greenwich hosts a fantastic library.
Without question, the Greenwich Library is one of the best amenities that come with living in Greenwich. Even back when Greenwich was still a small town, the Greenwich Library was a jewel of a resource.
But visitors can find plenty to make a trip to our small town library worth it. With 1,800 programs and events each year, the Library serves as Greenwich’s social and intellectual hub.
Greenwich Library System
The Greenwich Library System provides free, easy access to information. And all while encouraging a love of reading, research, and the joy of lifelong learning in the humanities, sciences, and arts.
Branches of the Greenwich Library System
Our local school system has elementary schools for each neighborhood in town. The Greenwich library system follows a similar pattern, with branches in various neighborhoods.
You’ll find cute local libraries serving as local branches in each of the coastal neighborhoods of:
- Byram (the Shubert library)
- Cos Cob
- And the Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich
The Main Library
But the main building of the system is in downtown Greenwich. It is the most important source of information and knowledge in town.
History of the Greenwich Library
The Greenwich Town Library and Greenwich Reading Room and Library Association started in 1800. Back then, it was a collection of books that moved to various locations around town:
- The Ebenezer Mead House, once on the Greenwich High School grounds
- The second floor of 113 Greenwich Avenue
- Second Congregational Church
The original setup was a subscription system started in 1805. $6 shares permitted members to borrow the same number of books as the shares they owned.
Non-members could access the library’s collection until 1878. And even then, off-site borrowing was exclusive to shareholders.
After the turn of the century
Elizabeth Milbank Anderson donated a new library building to make the library a free, public institution. Until 1917, donations and a matched endowment from Milbank Anderson supported the library. After that, private donations and public funding from taxpayers supported Greenwich Library.
The library also received funding for a gallery area in the new structure. It allowed local members of the Greenwich Society of Artists to exhibit their work.
The Modern Home
After a $100,000 donation from the town, as well as intense fundraising, the Greenwich library moved again in 1960. This time, the library system purchased and renovated the former Franklin Simon & Co department store.
The library’s former home on Greenwich Avenue is now the Saks Fifth Avenue.
Among the expansions made over the following 50 years were:
- The Marie Cole auditorium
- A reading area and nine study rooms
- The Flinn Gallery for showcasing educational art exhibitions
- The expansions of the main reading room
- New office spaces and a café
My memories of the Greenwich Library back in the 1990s are not ideal: it had a weird, 1970s decor. And there’s no question it was pretty dark inside, as a former department store.
But everything changed when the library renovated in 1999. A 32,000 square foot wing designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates was added.
Now, the main entrance into the library leads into a gorgeous and expansive addition to the first building. This entire new wing is bright, spacious, airy, and full of computers on the first floor. All the computers are free to use, and in good condition.
What You’ll Find at the Greenwich Library
Some of the major draws for visitors to Greenwich, aside from spots for quiet study, group study, and nooks to sit, relax, and read include:
The Flinn Gallery, a non-profit Greenwich art gallery, offers a diverse range of contemporary art exhibitions. Friends of the Greenwich Library and over 50 volunteers support it. Each year, five to six exhibitions are carefully curated, with an opening reception and related events. Every year, close to 10,000 people visit this free Gallery from September through June.
The Library Café
Abilis operates The Café at Greenwich Library as a competitive employment program. It provides people with special needs with:
- Gainful and meaningful employment
- And the opportunity to develop critical job skills
Abilis is a non-profit organization that supports over 800 people with special needs and their families for the rest of their lives. They also operate Coffee for Good, the coffeeshop next door to Stanton House Inn on Maple Avenue.
Library Calendar of Events
The library hosts a range of lectures, activities, and more throughout the year.
Perusing the calendar, you’ll find everything from the mundane:
- Book clubs
- Knitting groups
To the more unique:
- Film screenings
- Art gallery openings
Admittedly, accessing the library catalogue is only accessible if you:
- Own property
- Go to school
In the town of Greenwich, Connecticut.
But if you meet that criteria, be sure to take advantage of it!
Find more things to do in downtown Greenwich
Most people come to downtown Greenwich for reasons other than the library.
But it’s a major draw for bibliophiles!
And fans of the arts in general.
Some more activities to check out while you’re here include:
- Art galleries throughout downtown Greenwich, aside from Flinn Gallery
Updated and republished: May 3, 2023