Ten Minutes with: Executive Director of Pequot Library

Photo by Douglas Foulke

Stephanie Coakley celebrates two years at Pequot Library this July. A native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who grew up in Bridgeport and Seymour, she has lived and worked in Charleston, South Carolina, and Tucson, Arizona, and before coming to Southport was director of education with Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum. A graduate of University of Connecticut and Trinity College, she’s delighted to be back in Connecticut to support and create programming for Pequot Library.

What do you love about living here?
The amenities and cultural offerings are endless. I love live music concerts, theatrical productions, and dance so I take advantage of the Fairfield Theatre Company and the Quick Center for the Arts. We’re so fortunate to have many beautiful parks and hiking trails and of course, the beach. I really missed living near the ocean all those years in Arizona, that’s for sure.

What’s happening at Pequot this summer?
Between June 14 and August 25, we’re hosting an exhibition of drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures inspired by the garden and nature works found in the library’s special collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archives.

What is on your wish list for upcoming Pequot events?
Pequot Library visitors can look forward to an increase in adult programs related to the current times we are living with more civic dialogues and community-wide conversations. I also envision more use of our striking auditorium space and expansive front lawn for first-person storytelling, poetry slams, and more dance and theatrical productions.

What books are on your nightstand?
In addition to a stack of puppy training books, there’s How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom, biographies about Cleopatra and the American philosopher and psychologist William James, The Travels of Marco Polo, The Venetian, and The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told by Christopher Caswell.

Where would we find you relaxing?
These days my free time is spent taking leisurely walks in Southport village with Sadie, my English Springer Spaniel puppy.

What’s your favorite Pequot tradition and why?
Hands down my favorite Pequot Library tradition is the summer book sale, July 27 through 31. I love how many bibliophiles it attracts over a long weekend. We estimate 8,000 people descend on Pequot to browse over 140,000 generously donated books but more than appreciating the crowds of book lovers, I’m so deeply moved by the commitment of dedicated volunteers who make it all happen.

Tell me something that might surprise people to learn about you.
I’ve been an active yogini for over 17 years and even completed a hatha yoga teacher training certificate program in Charleston to deepen my own physical practice and learn more about ancient Indian philosophy, meditation, healthy eating, and the variety of benefits yoga has on the mind and body.