1955 Joseph L. Wheeler, formerly the Director of the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, surveyed the Main Library at the request of the Board of Directors, and noted that the building was ill planned as to ‘convenience, efficiency and economy in operation,’ and designed and constructed in such a manner as to make alterations almost impossible.” He also recommended better budgets, more and better-paid staff and the closing of two underutilized branches.
1959 Meredith Bloss succeeded Lindsey Brown as the third City Librarian.
1964 A report by Dr. Emerson Greenway, Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, recommended a new and relocated Main Library.
1966 In April, a new building for the Mitchell Branch Library was dedicated. It was designed by Gilbert Switzer, and replaced the 100 year old dwelling that had housed the Library since 1910.
1968 The Stetson Branch Library was relocated to a new building designed by William deCossy at 200 Dixwell Avenue. It was partially funded by The Carnegie Corporation.
As the collection of books and services to the community expanded, the need for a new building became imperative. In May, in accordance with a recommendation of the City’s Community Renewal Program for a new Central Library building, the Main Library property was sold to the State of Connecticut for $800,000. A building program was written, and an architect selected. The new Library was to be included in the planned Government Center complex on Church Street.
1978 Sumner White became the fourth City Librarian succeeding Meredith Bloss.
1981 Plans for inclusion of a new Main Library in the Government Center were discarded because the City wanted to use the site for commercial purposes.
1984-1987 After years of delay and indecision, it was finally agreed that renovation and expansion of the existing Main Library building would be preferable to the construction of a new facility at a different site. The City of New Haven bought back the Main Library property from the State for the original sale price of $800,000, to be paid back over twenty years. In 1987, the centennial year of the Library’s founding, the New York architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates began the $14,500,000 renovation and expansion of the Main Library building.
1988 The Main Library operation moved to temporary quarters in the Seamco Building at One Long Wharf while construction and remodeling were in progress.
RENOVATION AND EXPANSION MAIN BRANCH IN 1988 The $14,500,000 renovation and expansion of the Main Library was designed by the architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates with Hugh Hardy as partner-in-charge. Cass Gilbert’s 1911 neo-Georgian building was carefully restored and expanded by sixty-five thousand square feet bringing the overall size of the building to one hundred and three thousand square feet. The new construction was designed to integrate with and complement the old, while, at the same time, proclaiming its own contemporary identity.
1990 The New Haven Free Public Library returned to the Elm Street site. The building was dedicated on Sunday, November 4, and opened to the public on November 5, 1990.
1993-1996 With the Main (Ives Branch) newly renovated, attention turned towards the branches. Fair Haven Branch closed in 1993 for renovations that were completed in 1996. Opening Day for Fair Haven was February 14 and included a new Opening Day Book Collection built on private dollars.
Sumner White retired in 1996.
1997 Howard F. McGinn became the fifth City Librarian, succeeding Sumner White.
Main Library’s Children’s Room is named for Anne S. Bittker, a generous benefactor and library enthusiast. Her family perpetually endows the purchase of children’s books for the system.
Stetson Branch closes for renovations.
1998-1999 With her generouse gift, Deborah Rose provides new public access computers: a year later, the computers are hooked to newly installed T-1 lines throughout they system which revolutionizes computer accessibility for the time.
Stetson Branch reopens in February 1999 with an Opening Day Collection provided by donor dollars and a highly prized Van Vechten photo collection of Harlem Renaissance figures gracing Stetson’s walls.