Published in The Day

By Karla Boeddinghaus Umland, Special to the Times

On the western side of the Stonington Free Library building you will find a brand new outdoor seating area. The space is open to the public to freely be enjoyed by visitors to Wadawanuck Square.

Truly a community project, the patio was brought to fruition with support from the Borough of Stonington, the American Rescue Plan and individual donors. The Borough of Stonington allocated American Rescue Plan funding to the library for the landscaping and gravel to create the patio.

Stonington residents Kevin Rogers and Jamie Lewis donated the bistro tables and chairs, which create a welcoming spot to work, read, nosh or chat. The crowning jewels of the area, two bronze lions flanking the gravel border, were donated by a resident of the village who wishes to remain anonymous.

The Borough granting the library permission to use this portion of the property for a community seating area.

As a result of the pandemic, people have been seeking more outdoor activities, including digital access for working, attending classes, and more. Digital options have created different opportunities for working and learning, and Stonington Free Library has been proactively responding to the changing needs of the community.

In 2021 we increased our outdoor WiFi signal strength thanks to the Everybody Learns initiative and we secured a grant from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut to lend out hotspots, which provide an internet connection anywhere.

The library also received Emergency Connectivity funding to purchase Chromebook laptops that can be checked out for remote use.

Community members now have the option to work, study and research at tables located right outside the library. They will be able to connect their devices to our free boosted WiFi signal, borrow one of our hotspots for an even stronger internet connection, and if they don’t have their own devices, they can borrow one of SFL’s Chromebooks to use outside.

We hope to see you soon, under the painted buckeye tree, reading between the lions.

Karla Boeddinghaus Umland is the assistant director of the Stonington Free Library.