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Libraries Unveiling Renovations To Kick Off Year

Hartford, West Hartford To Show Off Multimillion-Dollar Makeovers

By JEFFREY B. COHEN And DANIEL P. JONES, The Hartford Courant

December 31, 2007

Two of the region's most heavily used libraries will celebrate the New Year with activities and events showcasing multimillion-dollar makeovers.

The Hartford Public Library on Main Street will celebrate its $42 million new look with five days of events, beginning with a noontime ribbon-cutting today; West Hartford's Noah Webster Library has its reopening festivities planned for Sunday.

The capital city's downtown library has added more space for children and families, an adult learning center, a technology lab, a media center, a new book area, 100 additional computers, a seminar room, public meeting space, eight study rooms, a bigger Hartford history center, a reading place and a writing room, said chief librarian Louise Blalock.

It's not just the library's new glittering glass front that has Blalock excited.

"We've completely transformed this library," Blalock said. "The library was really a very interior building, and that's not who we are anymore. We're really out in the community, we're everywhere in the city. íK We need a building that expresses that.

"This is not the same library in terms of the building, and it's not the same library in terms of the services that it was a decade ago," she said. "It is truly a new Hartford Public Library."

Planning for the library's redesign began in 1995. The first phase, a 45,000-square-foot addition with a parking deck, was completed in 2002. The second phase was the renovation of the existing building. The price tag was $42 million, Blalock said.

She is particularly proud of the glass front.

"You can see the vitality, you can see the dynamism of the library that it's alive, it's working, it's active íK that people are in here and they're doing things," she said.

The library's completion is two years overdue. Final touch-ups probably won't be completed for another few months but won't interfere with library operations, Blalock said.

Visitors to the Hartford library have been able to use the new spaces since the summer. Details can be found at www.hplct.org.

The Jan. 6 reopening festivities for West Hartford's Noah Webster Library on South Main Street will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., with a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Strolling balloon artists and magicians, and the Conard and Hall high school jazz combos will entertain.

The project adds 17,000 square feet to the library, bringing its space to about 60,000 square feet, nearly 1 square foot for each of West Hartford's approximately 64,000 residents, a commonly endorsed standard for libraries.

The $9 million library project, begun in September 2006, is being paid for - mostly with town money, about $6.8 million. A nonprofit library foundation, established years ago to support the library financially, is raising $1 million. The rest of the money is coming from a combination of state and federal grants, and private donations, according to library director Pat Holloway.

The renovated library provides increased space for teens, adults and library programs. It includes a redesigned main floor exclusively for public use, enlarged circulation and browsing areas, a climate-controlled local history room, a computer lab, a new room specifically for teens, and a gallery for art and cultural exhibits, according to library officials.

"What I would like to have happen on the day we reopen is that everyone walks in with mouth agape and a big smile on their face, and says, 'Yes, this is the library we deserve,''' Holloway said Friday.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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