The summer is almost half over and the Blue Hills and Mark Twain Branches of the Hartford Public Library remain closed. Opponents of the closings have vowed to intensify their pressure on the City and the Library to re-open the branches. And now City Councilman Larry Deutsch is demanding that the libraries be re-opened immediately, possibly as early as this Friday, August 1.
The branches were closed June 30 due to a large cut in the library’s funding in this year’s budget. But Deutsch says the city has the money needed to open the branches and should make that funding available. “Of course the money is there, through various accounts,” said Deutsch, “and if the political will is there, that money can be found.”
Even before that funding is available, Deutsch said the branches should be opened this Friday while there is still half of the summer left.
Deutsch is planning to introduce a resolution requesting this emergency funding at this Monday’s meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee, which he chairs. He will then introduce the resolution at the next meeting of City Council on Monday, August 11.
If the branches aren’t open by then, opponents of the branch closings, including the Blue Hills Civic Association, Hartford Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE), and the Laurel Corner Association, plan to stage a massive protest at Hartford City Hall.
But City Council Majority Leader rJo Winch maintains that the City does not have the funding necessary to re-open the branches, despite Deutsch’s claims. “I have no idea where he’s going to find the money...and he hasn’t been discussing the matter with the department heads who manage the money.”
Winch said the library board and staff should have found other ways of reducing their budget. “Closing libraries shouldn’t have been an option,” she said. Instead, she suggested that the library dip into its endowment fund to keep the two closed branches running through the end of this calendar year and, during that time, conduct fundraising efforts to make up the budget gap.