Budget Woes Forcing 3 Hartford Libraries to Shut Down

Big changes are coming to Hartford Public Libraries this fall.

At a public meeting Monday night, the library leadership explained that flat or decreasing revenue that they've received over the years has forced them to continue to scale back.

Some branches used to be open late on weeknights and opened on Saturday. Now, none have late nights and none are opened on the weekends. According to a graph at the meeting - Hartford's public libraries currently receive 74 percent of its funding from Hartford, when back in 2010 it received 91 percent.

To remain sustainable for the long-term, HPL's board of directors decided to close three of its ten branches, which includes Goodwin and Blue Hills. The Mark Twain location will become a mobile library.

Along with that, the Ropkins branch will have its hours of operation cut nearly in half.

"It's going to be missed in the community," said Hartford resident Shonta Browdy.

Browdy came to the Ropkins location as a child and now she comes with her own children to enjoy the resources the library offers. She said the change in hours will certainly limit the amount of time they can come.

Hartford Public Library Board President Gregory Davis said they simply have no choice and that locations must close. To make the decision, they looked at several factors including a location's proximity to other branches and its usage.

As part of the larger plan, they're also increasing hours of operation to the six other locations. Davis said they are rated one of the top urban libraries in the country and that they plan to stay that way.

"We actually believe the community at large will benefit from our new service plan, but we're just not able to afford to run ten branches the way we have the last couple of years," said Davis.

The board said that they will not be losing any staff.

Some community activists suggested raising more money from regional donors to save the libraries slated to close. The board said they're already raising a lot of money to sustain service they do have but just can't match the loss of revenue from the city.

Davis said unless a miracle takes place and they're able to get $2 million, the changes begin Sept. 5. He said they're hoping to turn the closed libraries into community centers.

Down the road, the plan is to expand the Camp Field and Albany branches. They're also looking to build a larger library between the Ropkins and Barbour branches. Once it's complete, Davis said they would look to close the Ropkins and Barbour locations. The planning for that is expected to take a couple years.

There are three other public meetings taking place this week regarding the consolidation and changes:

649 Blue Hills Avenue
Tuesday, August 1, 6 p.m.

460 New Britain Avenue
Wednesday, August 2, 6 p.m.

927 Asylum Avenue
Thursday, August 3, 6 p.m.

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