Hartford to close 3 library branches due to financial problems

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HARTFORD -- The board of the Hartford Public Library said three branches will close in September in a plan to restructure the system.

Greg Davis, Hartford Public Library Board President, announced Monday they had completed a nine-month strategic plan which will result in the restructuring the library system and the closing of three branches as of September: Blue Hills, Goodwin and Mark Twain. There are currently 10 locations in city.

"We did a lot of research into need, usage, delivery system, staffing and we found that those branches were the branches that unfortunately could not sustain any longer," Davis said.

Davis said the plan includes the remaining branches to be open more hours, including opening Saturdays, mornings and evenings, and better service at existing branches

There will be no layoffs, according to Davis. The board will also explore enhancing mobile services and introducing 24-hour self-service kiosks

Davis said there are a number of criteria involved in the decision but it came down to financial concerns, which they’ve had for years. "We received our funding through the city of Hartford most of it - 75% and our funding from the city has been flat funded for a number of years and our costs are increasing and we’re not able to raise enough money to maintain the budget that we need to operate 10 branches," said Davis.

While this was a very difficult decision, Davis said it was necessary for the long term sustainability and viability of the entire system.

FOX61 spoke to 16-year-old Jordan Jenkins who walks to the Blue Hills location, every other day, to check out books, DVD's and hang out with friends.

"It's a pretty nice place to hang out and chill especially during the summer time when you don’t have much to do," Jenkins said. " I come here a lot and it's gonna be a big difference about this not being here anymore."

Neighbor Meickayla Blake said she thinks this is a shocking move for the already struggling community.

"It would be much harder now for kids growing up, now they don’t have a library to go, nowhere to study really," she said. "It's very surprising, thats where I always used to go to get my homework done, any important things I needed to be done on a computer because I really don’t have a computer."

The restructuring will keep the Downtown Library, and Albany, Park, Dwight, Barbour, Camp Field and Ropkins branches open.

The board hopes the savings will allow the city to own the line, approx. 3 years from now, the goal is to open a new branch in the northeast section of the city, to replace the Barbour Street location.

Davis said  the library's budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 was $10,603,956. The City of Hartford Provided 74% of that amount with the remainder coming from grants, donations, endowment, and fines and fees.

The library currently has 124 full and part time employees.