Classes, Concerts, Candidate Forums: Hartford's Public Library A Real Civic Center
Public Library As promised, the Hartford library is a civic and cultural center
Hartford Courant Editorial
November 08, 2012
Tuesday was Election Day in Hartford and Amnesty Day at the Hartford Public Library. Anyone with an "I Voted" sticker — later extended to anyone at all — could walk into the library and have their overdue library fines forgiven.
People with overdue books tend to stay away from libraries, said library CEO Matthew Poland. The point of the amnesty — the first in two decades — was to bring them back. It was a great idea. Bringing people in the door is more important than a few dollars in fines.
And bringing people to the library is something Mr. Poland and his staff have gotten very good at.
When library officials embarked on a $42 million renovation and expansion of the main library building in the 1990s, it was with the promise that it would become an intellectual and cultural center of the community. The building then was gloomy, compartmentalized and uninviting. When the work was completed in 2009, the renovated building was bright, open and inviting. Chief Librarian Louise Blalock said it went from a "ho-hummer to a landmark."
She, and Mr. Poland after she retired, met the challenge of filling the building by offering a remarkable array of classes, concerts, readings and lectures. In election season, the main library is the site of well-attended candidate debates and forums. It's the place people go to learn English, become citizens, gain computer literacy. In partnership with CTWorks, the library helps people get jobs. Many city youngsters take advantage of homework programs downtown and at the nine branches.
In a one-week period that began Thursday, the library's schedule has a program with poet and author Marilyn Nelson to wrap up its One Book One Hartford initiative; a program with author A.M. Holmes; a community forum on the pros and cons of the iQuilt plan; and a visit by two of the country's premier Paralympic athletes.
In short, promise kept. The library is a vital part of Hartford. And, yes, they still lend books. Just get them back on time.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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