The curtain is temporarily closed on this summer's drama over the unfortunate decision to close two branches of the Hartford Public Library in neighborhoods that arguably need them the most. But the city had better start preparing now for Act II.
Residents of the Asylum Hill and Blue Hills neighborhoods that house the Mark Twain and Blue Hills branches have made their priorities clear. They value their library. Their fight to reopen the branches reflects a level of civic passion that should not be denied.
The library board, citing deep budget cuts, reluctantly shut the branches in July. The city council voted to restore enough funds to reopen them, raising the hopes of activists. But Mayor Eddie Perez nixed the idea on procedural grounds.
Try explaining that to disappointed children.
After an unbelievable roller-coaster ride of expectations, state Rep. Kenneth Green and state Sen. Eric Coleman were able to persuade legislative leaders to cough up $200,000 to reopen these important community institutions.
This is a one-time bailout. State taxpayers likely won't tolerate a second one. Library funding is the city's responsibility. City officials must make sure the money is there next year for this important basic service, no matter what it takes.
You can't put a high enough value on encouraging children to read. Children must be able to use the library as both a place to do homework and a haven from trouble, especially in areas where street violence has escalated to a frightening degree.
The city can't afford to close the curtain on hope.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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