Community room upgrades part of changes to come
DARIEN — Darien residents may have noticed a shift in their weekly routine on Friday, when library movie screenings were temporarily moved to the Darien Playhouse. But movie lovers and library users should have no fear. The town’s “living room” was only temporarily out of commission. The community room at the Darien Library, where residents go for weekly story time, chair yoga and of course, movie screenings, was temporarily closed the last two weeks as the library got some technology upgrades to its projector, part of what the library staff hopes is an overall gradual update to its technology system.
“What we’re doing is replacing all the guts of the system,” said John Blyberg, assistant director for innovation. “It’s not stuff that you’ll see right on the surface, but those spaces are in heavy use and that equipment ages.”
Blyberg said much of the equipment in the community room has not been replaced since the building opened in 2009. He said changes in technology, as well as the continual use of the equipment, made a replacement very necessary.
“A lot of that equipment that we purchased when we opened the building was on the cusp of the analog/digital switchover and a lot of that equipment was analog,” he said. “We’ve moved to a fully digital system that will allow us to grow into those spaces in other ways, so as projector technology improves, we’ll be able to upgrade our projector to do higher resolution. We’ve got sort of a long-term view of the space that we’re slowly moving toward, and this is the first step in that process.”
According to Mallory Arents, the head of adult programming, the community room upgrade was crucial due to its significance to not only the library, but the residents of Darien. The library hosts over 1,500 events a year that Arents said appeal to everyone “from birth to wherever you are in your life.
“We’re a very active library,” she said. “Our community room, it’s called the community room purposefully. We really view that as the community’s living room, in a sense. That room does a lot and a lot of very different kind of weird things.”
One of the most significant events at the community room is Friday night double screenings, a tradition carried over when the library moved to its current building in 2009. Community members view the screenings as a weekly social event, where they catch up with friends over popcorn. While the projector was a major upgrade, it put movie nights out of commission for two weeks.
“One thing we were worried about in undertaking this process is we knew we would have to rethink our Friday night film for two weeks,” Arents said. We have 300 people come to that every week, and we want to support that community, even when we’re not able to do it here in the library.”
Luckily, the Darien Playhouse partnered with the library and gave out tickets for people to see the Friday night film at the theater on Aug. 26 and Sept. 2. But library patrons should be prepared for more renovations. The library’s upstairs conference room, used for board meetings, as well as meetings for community private organizations, also recently got an upgrade, including a new wireless microphone system that can record meetings.
According to Blyberg, the library hopes to keep making these technological upgrades each year, to stay on top of new advancements. The goal is to replace the equipment piece by piece, rather than focusing on upgrading everything all at once, which would be a much more difficult and expensive project. Blyberg said the current changes are not just about budgeting money, but time.
“When equipment starts to break down, it requires staff time to get it working,” he said. “Things here move so quickly that if Mallory is setting up for a new program and she can’t get the laptop up, that’s a problem. This is an investment in the people, as well as the technology, because we want it to work when it needs to work.”
“When the technology fails, it gives you this feeling of being out of control for a second, which isn’t good for anyone,” Arents said. “We always want the experience of our attendees and patrons to be seamless.”
Patrons will notice that not only is the viewing experience more seamless, but quiet. Blyberg said the new projector is much quieter than the old one. But one thing library users can hope to hear in the future is better sound quality. Blyberg said the library would eventually like to offer surround sound to improve the movie-going experience. And while there are technology upgrades for this fiscal year, both he and Arents said the community room may be in for more changes in years to come.
“We’ve been here since 2009 and in technology years, that technology was becoming past middle age. It was time to update that,” Arents said. “But we want to be here for a while, and the next step is kind of looking at how those spaces are changed and how they’re being used. We had no idea that we were going to be doing hundreds of events of different sizes that required different types of space. We want to make sure that those spaces remain flexible.”