Gerri Sullivan and her family

Gerri Sullivan and her family

Lifelong city resident Gerri Sullivan was first approached to join the Hartford Public Library Board of Trustees in the late 1990s but decided to hold off. She had served on the City Council and her services were much in demand.

“My brother was the mayor at the time (Mayor Mike Peters). He said, ‘no way, you aren’t going on the board when I am serving as mayor,’” Sullivan said with a chuckle.

Peters, a great supporter of the library himself, knew that his sister would be fight for the library. Looking back on her two-decade career on the board, it turns out he was absolutely right.

Hartford Public Library takes a moment to thank and celebrate Sullivan, who retired from the board in early October. Sullivan joined the board in 2002. She served until 2013, including terms as president of the board and as the chair of the strategic planning committee. Sullivan returned to the board in 2015.

“Gerri has a quick smile and laugh, but can be serious and tough when there is a challenge or problem to solve. She is a  staunch advocate for the staff and HPL in general,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, HPL president and CEO.

Sullivan was an integral member of the Board during key times – renovating the Downtown Library, advocating for a new Park Street Library and for a branch in the North End neighborhood. She and her husband Tim have also left a legacy gift and support the Library not only financially, but with their presence – they regularly attend public programming events and staff celebrations. Sullivan has helped with the Corporators, Beyond Words events, Caroline Hewins Award and many other projects.

“She is always ready to offer assistance, advice or connect us with someone in her almost limitless network of friends and colleagues,” Quinn-Carey said.

Her first big assignment for the library came before she ever joined the board. Then-library director Louise Blalock asked Sullivan to lead the library’s get out the vote efforts for a renovation. The project passed the referendum by a large margin.

“What I could bring to it was my relationships in city government,” she said.

It wasn’t just her work in city government that drew Sullivan to the library. Sullivan comes by her library cred legitimately. She was a member of the Book Worm Club as a little girl going to the Camp Field Library. Her grandmother lived near the library, at the intersection of Maple and Campfield avenues. “I had easy access so I was there all the time,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan was present for quite a bit of change during her tenure – leadership changes, new building projects, branch closures, and shifts in mission. She said the organization moved towards increased outreach and engagement with the city’s neighborhoods. The programming became more diversified.

“The library is a trusted community resource and a life line for many, and after nearly two decades of outstanding service to HPL, Gerri should take pride in helping us reach this positive place in Hartford’s heart,” said board president Gregory C. Davis.

Sullivan credits the HPL staff and the board with being open to change and always mindful of inclusivity. She also spoke of library directors Louise Blalock and Bridget Quinn-Carey as visionary leaders.

“This particular board is one of the strongest, one of the best I’ve ever served with in my time. They are people who really understand the mission and are supportive of it,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes that one of the most important things the library does is take the jumble of different people from across the city and helps them interact with one another. “It’s full of people of different backgrounds and different cultures – a gathering place for all them with no judgement,” Sullivan said. “It continually brings our city together. (At the library) there aren’t boundaries. There are few things that people can agree about in this city, but one of them is the library.”

Sullivan doesn’t plan to walk away from the civic arena entirely (“You never quite get over it,” she said.) She is working very hard on national politics, phone banking on behalf of Democratic candidates.

“Gerri has been a key contributor to the success of HPL and, although she is leaving the board, there is no doubt that she will remain engaged and supportive of HPL,” Davis said.

by Steven Scarpa, Manager of Communications and Public Relations








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