On a recent lovely summer evening, I made my way to the 19th floor of a Hartford skyscraper for a very special reception honoring some of the city’s most hard-working volunteers. Generously hosted by the law firm Shipman & Goodwin, the locale offered a panoramic view of downtown Hartford, the majestic Connecticut River, and the state’s many rolling hills off in the distance. It was a view “one doesn’t get to see very often,” exclaimed one of the guests.
I had come to support and thank the newly-appointed members of the Hartford Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (CRIA). With backing from the Hartford Public Library, the Hartford City Council, and the Mayor, the 21-person Commission will help refugees and immigrants engage in civic life, provide a forum for their ideas and concerns, and facilitate entry to the city for all new arrivals.
Dining on delicious appetizers and sipping refreshing cocktails, members of the various boards and commissions chatted and shared stories. Dr. Rebecca Thomas of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and an immigrant from India, shared some of her reasons for joining the Commission, “I have benefited from an education, interaction and engagement with my adopted country, and I would like to share some practical insights to a policy body that can effect change and work with the members of the Commission to best meet the needs of immigrants and the host communities.”
Rio Comaduran, born and raised in the U.S., said she “hopes to continue to bring immigrant and refugee issues to the forefront, ultimately affecting policy shifts and changes at the city level, and at the same time encouraging civic engagement and social capital building amongst immigrants. And as a proud Hartford resident and grand-daughter of Mexican immigrants, there’s really nothing better! ”
Mayor Pedro Segarra thanked all of the volunteers and commissioners for their service, spending some time with the new CRIA members—American citizens Thomas, Comaduran, and Eva Jacobson, as well as Georges Kingsley Anan, a recent immigrant from Cote d’Ivoire, Dean Rhoden of Jamaica, and Balam Soto of Guatemala. Mayor Segarra commented, “Hartford has always been a city of immigrants – from its founding to the present day. I am so excited about the new Commission. We can help our new arrivals with their dreams and aspirations and they will contribute to the health and vibrancy of our city.”
Judy Wyman Kelly is a consultant for the Hartford Public Library’s The American Place, a center for immigration and citizenship, and a lecturer at the University of Hartford.
Calling All Artists!
ArtWalk at HPL offers one of the largest and most stunning exhibition spaces in Hartford, and we’re looking for artists to showcase in the 2015 ArtWalk series! Located on the 3rd floor of the Downtown Library in a space that looks down onto historic Main Street, the gallery offers unique visibility and exposure, adding to the increasing vibrancy of Downtown Hartford. The ArtWalk hanging system’s movable panels allow maximum flexibility for each show.
The stunning state-of-the-art gallery was made possible through the generosity of donors, especially the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation at Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
The ArtWalk puts on four exhibitions each year. Artists are invited to submit a body of work to be considered for the following year’s exhibitions between August 1st and October 1st. From these submissions, the four shows for the following year are chosen.
Artists living and/or working in the Greater Hartford area will be given priority. Students, emerging, or established artists are all eligible. Artists must have a body of work sufficient for exhibition on the ArtWalk by the date of the exhibition. Artists working in all media are encouraged to apply.
A jury will select up to four artists with final approval from the Library. Criteria for selection include but are not limited to: 1) an artist’s resume or vitae and demonstrated ability, 2) an appropriate body of work that is compatible with the ArtWalk space, and 3) the ability to provide sufficient work ready for installation by an agreed-upon date.
Installations designed specifically for ArtWalk are encouraged. The jury will also consider the economic and physical feasibility of the proposed exhibitions. The jury may also recommend group exhibitions.
The selected artist(s) will generally receive a solo exhibition (although the Library reserves the right to create exhibitions for multiple artists simultaneously), supporting marketing, an opening night reception, and an opportunity to present an artist talk to the public during the exhibition.
1) Documentation of Work – Up to six images of recent, current work or the work specifically being proposed for the exhibition on the ArtWalk on a clearly labeled CD-ROM/USB drive – jpegs only. (Physical work – slides, photographs, will not be considered. All work must be submitted digitally)
2) Include title, dimensions and medium for each image submitted
3) Up to three minutes of new media work will be viewed by jurors (clearly mark and cue the segment to be viewed)
4) A current resume with contact information including address, phone number and e-mail
5) A brief artist’s statement
6) Description and scope of proposed exhibition
If you would like your submission returned to you, please include with your application a self-addressed stamped envelope sufficient to return material. Otherwise materials will not be returned.
Materials must be postmarked no later than October 1st.
Hartford Public Library
500 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Artist(s) selected by the jury will be notified by phone and email no later than October 31st.
By Jyotsna Khattri-Chettri | Photography credit: Tikeyah Whittle, CPBN Media Lab
I adjusted the microphone and looked up at more than 80 sets of eyes looking at me very patiently. For a moment, I lost my voice and all my poise and cool. Just for a moment. It was a night of storytelling and friendship and with that thought calming my mind, I went ahead to introduce the first speaker Berhanu from Ethiopia. All the speakers told their stories in their native languages and they had narrators, from AHNA’s receiving community, who read translations of their stories in English.
Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Berhanu’s story is one of those that lends Twain’s words a whole lot of credibility. Berhanu spoke in Amharic and told a story of a journey so long and complex all the way from Ethiopia to South Africa before finally making it to the United States almost 20 years later. As the tales continued, the audience would find the truth of Twain’s words proven again and again.
Nayomi filled the room with warm laughter when she talked about her amazement at the fact that Americans had such huge refrigerators. Nayomi, who comes from the small island country of Sri Lanka was used to compact, economical fridges. She found the typical American fridge to be more shocking than the six lane highways or huge New York city skyscrapers.
As the speakers wove their stories in beautiful foreign tongues, I looked around the room and felt people loosening up, getting more and more comfortable with these exotic foreigners telling their tales. People in the audience began to realize that while the stories were being told in a foreign tongue that was really the only thing that made them foreign. People could relate to the stories, empathize with them, and perhaps even shake their heads in absolute agreement.
The power of storytelling was beginning to get a hold of the room as strangers settled in to listen to these interesting, tough, resilient, phenomenal people who the audience felt they knew a little more intimately as they shared their most personal thoughts and experiences.
There were a total of seven speakers with two youths from the Journalism and Media Academy. In addition to Berhanu and Nayomi, there was Marcos from Peru who told a very loving and admiring story of the struggles his wife, Lar Pwe Paw, a Karen refugee went through before coming to the United States.
Roselin also told her story of being a Karen refugee in Thailand. She shared her innermost fears and her struggles. The audience went on an emotional roller coaster ride as stories switched from unimaginably painful to absolute hilarity. Seventeen year old Deborah told of her difficulty in what should be a most simple matter – sharing an informal greeting. She learned the hard way that Americans don’t greet each others as Haitians do, with one or two kisses on the cheeks when she spent a few good minutes with her lips puckered up attempting to warmly greet her new American neighbor and schoolmate.
We held the storytelling event on June 20th to commemorate World Refugee Day, and I cannot think of a better way to have observed the day than to hear from the refugees and immigrants themselves who make our neighborhoods such vibrant, lively places in which to live and work. There were stories from Ethiopia, Burma, Nepal, Haiti, Sri-Lanka, Cote D’Ivoire and Peru.
The diversity of Asylum Hill was well reflected in the diversity of the speakers. The event came to a close, with an action packed tale of trials and triumphs by Georges Annan Kingsley of Cote D’Ivoire, who, while suffering from kidney failure, had to be smuggled into Ghana to receive urgent medical treatment. His story had a very happy ending as his wife and son joined him in the United States just a few day prior to the event. As he introduced them on stage, the whole room stood up and burst into applause. I did catch more than a few people wiping away tears that betrayed their very best efforts to keep them from falling.
Jyotsna Khattri-Chettri is from Nepal and moved to Connecticut in 2003. She has completed a Bachelors in Political Science from the University of Connecticut and is currently pursuing a Masters in International Studies from CCSU. She also serves in the Connecticut Army National Guard as a Broadcast Journalist.
The start of summer may be a highly-anticipated break for all kids, but research shows that low-income students that do not continue educational programming during the summer suffer greater achievement losses, gain more weight, and become less likely to graduate high school than their more affluent peers. In order to fill this critical learning gap, Hartford Public Library’s Summer Learning Program encourages reading and enrichment throughout the hotter months with a citywide educational events, activities, and prizes. To celebrate the start of the 2014 Summer Learning @ HPL Program, the public is invited to attend an outdoor kickoff festival on Saturday, June 7 from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Library’s Downtown location!
The festival will incorporate the theme of this year’s Summer Learning Program, “Fizz Boom READ!” with science activities, crafts, games, and a special 3:00 p.m. Mad Science show. A bounce house, giant slide, face painting, airbrush tattoos, snacks, music and more will be free for all. Last year’s kick-off broke attendance records with 900 kids and families having a blast! The festival will stretch from the Downtown Library at 500 Main Street to the Burr Mall, and free transportation will be available throughout the city via buses that will run between Library branches and Downtown Hartford.
In addition to the festival fun, attendees will have the opportunity to learn about and register for the Summer Learning Program and how to win prizes for reaching summer reading goals. Designed to maintain yearlong learning in an attempt to reduce summer learning loss in students of all ages, students move directly from school-year activities into Summer Learning @ HPL so that the “learning ball” is never dropped, and parents with limited skills or access do not need to actively pursue educational opportunities in order for their children to achieve success. Program participants are challenged to read daily and log their participation in order to win prizes. Hartford Public Library’s Summer Learning Program has seen huge success in recent years – participation increased from 300 students in 2011 to over 6,500 students in 2013.
This year, in partnership with Mega Education, a series of 10 Summer Learning registration ice cream parties will be held throughout the summer, where two lucky registered participants at each Library branch will win brand new Android tablets!
Mega Registration parties are held from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the following locations:
Tuesday, June 24 – Mark Twain Branch, 55 Forest Street
Friday, June 26 – Barbour Branch, 259 Barbour Street
Thursday, July 3 – Blue Hills Branch, 649 Blue Hills Avenue
Tuesday, July 8 Ropkins Branch, 1750 Main Street
Tuesday, July 15 – Camp Field Branch, 30 Campfield Avenue
Friday, July 18 – Albany Branch, 1250 Albany Avenue
Tuesday, July 22 – Downtown Library, 500 Main Street
Wednesday, July 30 – Park Branch, 744 Park Street
Thursday, July 31 – Dwight Branch, 7 New Park Avenue
Friday, August 8 - Goodwin Branch, 460 New Britain Avenue
Registration for the Summer Learning program can also be completed at the June 7 kickoff, or online at www.hplct.org by clicking on the summer sun.
Library Offers Adult Summer Reading Events!
Hartford Public Library’s summer programs and prizes are not just for the school-aged! Adult readers are invited to participate in Library Book Club summer discussions:
Thursday, June 19, 12:30 p.m. – Book Talk with James Rouman, author of Uncertain Journey
Thursday, July 17 – Book Club Discussion – Delicious! A Novel by Ruth Reichl
Thursday, August 21 – Book Club Discussion – Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet
Registered participants are eligible to win prizes at each event! Adult readers may register for the Summer Reading Program online at www.hplct.org or at any Library branch.
Woah! On Thursday, April 24, we were blown away by receiving a surprise grant award of $25,000 from NewAlliance Foundation in support of the our dedication to providing access to literacy education to all Hartford residents. The “Hi-5” High Impact Literacy Award is granted annually to an organization in the NewAlliance Foundation service area that embodies the five attributes the Foundation wishes to honor in the field of literacy: vision, responsiveness, innovation, spirit and results.
“Literacy is critical to the success of Hartford’s youth, adults, and the community. Our commitment to literacy is at the core of our mission, and inspires what we do here each and every day,” said Matt Poland, CEO of Hartford Public Library. “We are thrilled to receive this unexpected award, which will allow us to continue to provide innovative educational programming and improve literacy skills for residents throughout the city.”
We offer an array of literacy programs for children and adults at our nine branches and Downtown location:
- The Library’s many early-literacy programs, resources and technologies provide access to the materials and skills that Hartford’s youngest students need to enter school prepared to learn and achieve educational success.
- Each summer, thousands of Hartford students participate in the Library’s Great Summer Read, the only provider of programming, encouragement and free access to literacy materials during the summer.
- Hartford Public Library’s literacy programming redefines traditional education by extending to student of all ages a variety of year-round programs, free and open to all. These include English-as-Second-Language (ESL) classes, computer, health, and financial literacy programs
- A recent partnership with Hartford Public Schools allows the Library to maximize access to its services for city students, parents, and educators.
“We’re very impressed with Hartford Public Library’s dedication to the community, and to addressing the critical gap in education and literacy services that exists for many Hartford residents,” said Kim Healey, Executive Director of Newalliance Foundation. “The programming provided by the Library makes a wide variety of learning and literacy skills available to all, and is a truly invaluable service. We’re pleased to be able to support its continued innovation, vision, and results.”
Thank you, NewAlliance Foundation, for your generous support! These are the kinds of surprises we could REALLY get used to!
The American Library Association (ALA) has selected Hartford Public Library as one of 10 public libraries that will undergo an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program as part of the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) Public Innovators Cohort.
The cohort, selected through a highly competitive peer-reviewed application process, is part of ALA’s LTC initiative, a national plan to help librarians strengthen their role as core community leaders and change-agents.
Through in-person training, webinars and coaching — valued at $50,000 — a team of five Hartford Public Library staff members, led by CEO Matthew K. Poland, will learn new community engagement techniques and apply them to challenges in the City of Hartford. The library will also receive an $8,000 cash grant to help cover the cost of new community-engagement work.
“Libraries are at the heart of the community, and civic engagement is at the heart of where the public library is going in the 21st century. We are this democratic place where opinions are heard, resources are universally available, everyone is welcome, and programs are offered about things that matter in the community,” says Poland. “Successful civic engagement requires a combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make a difference in the community so we look forward to developing our competencies through this wonderful opportunity.”
The selected libraries represent the range of American communities in terms of size, location, ethnic and racial diversity and socioeconomic status, and they all face challenges including illiteracy; unemployment; a “digital divide” in access to information technology; an influx of new and immigrant populations; and disparate access to services.
Other members of the LTC Public Innovators Cohort include:
- Red Hook (N.Y.) Public Library (pop: 1,900)
- Columbus (Wis.) Public Library (pop: 5,000)
- Knox County (Ind.) Public Library (pop: 33,900)
- Suffolk (Va.) Public Library (pop: 85,000)
- Springfield (Mass.) City Library (pop: 153,000)
- Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Public Library (pop: 195,000)
- Spokane County (Wash.) Library District (pop: 255,000)
- San Jose (Calif.) Public Library (pop: 980,000)
- Los Angeles (Calif.) Public Library (pop: 3.8 million)
“Public libraries have long served as trusted and treasured institutions, and librarians today can leverage that strong position for the betterment of their communities,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “As a longtime champion of library-led community engagement and innovation, ALA is primed to provide the tools and support that will enable librarians to more effectively fulfill this vital role.”
In partnership with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, Libraries Transforming Communities addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways. Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Libraries Transforming Communities is grounded in The Harwood Institute’s approach of “turning outward,” which emphasizes changing the orientation of institutions and individuals from internal (institutional) to external (community-facing).
For more information on Libraries Transforming Communities, visit http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/libraries-transforming-communities.