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New Leader Brings Innovative Ideas To Southport's Pequot Library

Stephanie J. Coakley is the new executive director of the Pequot Library in Fairfield.
Stephanie J. Coakley is the new executive director of the Pequot Library in Fairfield. Photo Credit: Pequot Library

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Stephanie J. Coakley loves challenging herself professionally. When the opportunity arose to become executive director of the Pequot Library, a community treasure for 127 years in Southport, she knew it was the chance of a lifetime.

“Everything attracted me to this position,’’ said Coakley, who started her duties last month after working for three years as the Director of Education at the Mattatuck Museum of Art and History in Waterbury. “From its staff, board members, rich history, the programs, the distinguished collections … there are exciting things on the horizon, on top of the things the library is already doing.”

Coakley joins a library steeped in tradition. It was founded in 1889 by Elbert and Virginia Marquand Monroe. The building was constructed in 1893 and its doors swung open in 1894. It is part of the Southport Historic District, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The library, however, has always been more than a place for avid readers to find books. Its lineup includes lectures, workshops, concerts, kids programs, art shows and much more. It is one of the cultural hubs of Fairfield, Westport and all of Fairfield County.

Coakley is anxious to expand cultural offerings. “Every day there is something happening here that makes it a unique library,’’ Coakley said. “It might be knitters taking advantage of the space in a reading room. We service the entire area, and people can visit from anywhere. We are, as our founder said, ‘free as air to all.’ We’re here for anyone who has an interest in using our library.”

Pequot’s board of directors found a perfect person to complement its mission. Coakley spent her early childhood growing up in Bridgeport and worked as the Director of Education and Community Partnerships for the Tucson Museum of Art for seven years before returning to Connecticut in 2013. “Connecticut is my home,’’ Coakley said. “My family called me back.”

She thrived in her position at Mattatuck, where she helped expand offerings for special needs children and started a program to provide meaningful experiences for those dealing with memory loss. She was noted as one of Connecticut Magazine’s “40 Under 40” for her work there earlier this year.

She will bring the same creativity to programming in her new position. “I’m interested in making the humanities accessible to a broad and diverse audience,’’ Coakley said. “I want to assess the community and see if there’s an underserved population and find ways to better serve everyone in our community. I’ve been successful in establishing partnerships with a lot of organizations, and I look forward to reaching out to them.”

“She brings her dedicated and innovative professional skills to every area of her work,’’ said Alison Barry, the Library’s President of the Board of Trustees.

Nicholas Morello, Jr., Executive Vice President of Pequot Library’s Board of Trustees added, “Throughout Stephanie's career she has been dedicated to education, the arts and developing innovative community programs. Her background is highly complementary to Pequot's mission of bringing literature, music, art, science and the humanities to our community.”

While Pequot is renowned for its diverse programs, the Special Collections at Pequot Library make the institution truly unique. These Collections include a vast array of more than 30,000 items and, together, they form a rich and vibrant portrait of the literary, religious, political, military, musical, and cultural life of America at the time of the Library’s founding. The collection is one of the most important, concentrated, and impeccably selected set of collections of its kind in the country.

For now, Coakley finds herself immersed in getting to better know the staff and library users. With her energy, vision and innovative approach, the Pequot Library’s future is in great hands.

“I’m excited to take my skills and knowledge and apply them in a greater leadership position,’’ Coakley said. “I enjoy opportunities that are constantly challenging me and pushing me.”

Click here for more information about the Pequot Library.

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