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Hartford: Merging Libraries benefits City, College, Students and Residents

Hartford: Merging Libraries benefits City, College, Students and Residents

November 7, 2019

By Chris Gilson, CCM Communications Writer

Always looking to improve its facilities, UConn moved its West Hartford campus back to downtown Hartford in 2017, which left it with a conundrum of expanding into the limited space that is downtown. That’s why an ingenious plan saw the school collaborating with the Hartford Public Library in a project that aimed to benefit everyone affected by the move.

Geoffrey Fay, a Pullman & Comley attorney who helped structure the partnership, says one of the most important aspects of UConn’s move back downtown was bringing along the valuable resources contained in the West Hartford academic library. It was clear to everyone involved that a robust library--with access to journals, scholarly materials, and obscure resources that make the groundbreaking research and work done by UConn students possible--was essential to the success of the new campus.

The problem was that Hartford only has limited areas in which to expand in ways that will benefit both the students, the school, the city and the public. Fortunately, there was an elegant solution: merge the resources of the academic library with the main branch of the Hartford Public Library, which was already doing a great job of serving the City.

“Bringing the UConn community and the general public together in one combined library was intended to better serve the literary, cultural and educational aspirations of the residents of the City and the University’s staff and students,” Fay said.

They did so by bringing funds to the Hartford Public Library which went to repairs and improvements to the building, as well as upgrades intended for university use. Alone, UConn would have spent more money retrofitting or constructing a building to serve library purposes and the City might have put off much needed repairs. Together, they were able to serve the needs of both the University and City in one shining example of town-gown relations.

Nearly 12,000 square feet back to top

In total, the University will hold approximately 11,700 square feet for their own special use, per Fay’s figures. The library will share more than 4,000 square feet for use of classrooms, study rooms, and a computer lab, and they will also share circulation space as well as other more obvious facilities like lobbies, lavatories, entrances, etc.

Partnerships like these are becoming more common, Fay said, with examples including the City of San Jose and San Jose State University in California, The Lone Star College and Harris County in Texas, The University of Houston-Sugar Land and Fort Bend County also in Texas, and the Tidewater Community College and the City of Virginia Beach in Virginia.

Fay asks, “In this age of budgetary constraints, should not other cash-strapped public libraries close to four-year and community colleges consider similar synergistic and cost-saving arrangements?”

When a project like this benefits the University, the City, and most importantly the students and residents of Hartford, it doesn’t take a degree from UConn to figure out that this is a no-brainer.