Avobe: Stephanie Coakley at Pequot Library
Just a week after landing into her new nest, Stephanie J. Coakley, newly appointed executive director of the 125-year-old Pequot Library, sat down with me for a welcoming conversation in the corner of a local bistro. Finding the foamy bottoms of our early-morning espresso macchiatos, I didn’t need a jolt of caffeine to realize that she’s raring to go. “I intend to lead, motivate and inspire,” she said. As only the fourteenth director in this cultural landmark’s storied history, she seems perched on the threshold of making indelible contributions. Balancing her contagious excitement with a reflective, softly vocalized sigh, she spoke with an understated sense of gravitas. “I’d like to think of the Pequot Library as a learning sanctuary,” she said. “I really want it to be especially a welcoming place for children to explore.”
As the Greatest Generation and aging Boomers lament the disappearance of pen and paper, Millennials don’t relate. Talking to some of my undergrad students it becomes apparent that the once-upon-a-time literary-based culture, with books at its very epicenter, is at risk. And so Coakley alights into this historic nest as a tough-minded, fully capable library director saddled with competing and contradictory tasks: aspiring to keep the flame of books ablaze and adapting swiftly to transformational cybersphere realities.
The Pequot Library is transitioning from a nineteenth-century brick-and-mortar lending-book institution into a state-of-the-art twenty-first-century resource center. The trick is delivering services while keeping pace with knowledge-based, digital technologies.
With her high honors graduate degree in American Studies from Trinity College, and fifteen years learning the ropes in several curatorial and educational posts across the nation, Coakley is unusually well prepared for the tasks at hand. Most recently she was the director of education at the Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum, implementing numerous cross-disciplinary community projects.
“We all want to wish Stephanie our support in continuing our legacy at the Pequot Library,” notes Jane Dean, former Board chair. “She will surely enrich our educational programs, especially those centered on the library’s invaluable Special Collections.”
“The library has an established history of serving a variety of constituents through its robust line up of interesting programming and unique special events,” Coakley said. “Books have taught generations to experience new places and ways of understanding the world.” On the threshold of a new era, she will ensure continuity of legacies balanced with innovative changes.
720 Pequot Ave., Southport; 203-259-0346; pequotlibrary.com
“I truly feel this is an honor to ensure that the next 125 years will be even greater.”
STEPHANIE J. COAKLEY, Executive Director