One Big Summer Night

We debuted our new video at One Big Summer Night last night! Let us know what you think.

Hartford Public Library will be throwing a party, One Big Summer Night, on June 12 for 700 of its closest friends, patrons and sponsors. This year our special guest and featured author will be Arianna Huffington. She joins a diverse literary constellation of previous featured authors, at this event that is the Library’s largest annual fundraiser: Dominick Dunne, Jacques Pépin, Wally Lamb, Francine du Plessix Gray, Colin McEnroe, Nora Pollard, Paul Weidner, Malachy McCourt, Julie Powell, and last year’s guests Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, stars of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

In our discussions about who would be the best author for these challenging times, Arianna Huffington’s name kept surfacing. And why is that, you may ask? Because we believe that she represents what’s possible in America with the right set of personal tools — courage, chutzpah, knowledge, and a deep understanding of what it means to be American. With The Huffington Post, she has created a cyber meeting place for millions every day to get engaged in their world, their countries and in their communities. Clearly she understands democracy and the importance of civic engagement to forming a more perfect union — in a world that often embattles such a notion.

Hartford Public Library and all public libraries are on a similar quest to engage and enlighten the public. From traditional education services that provide valuable information and skills to broader political and civic roles, such as managing community services for growing immigrant populations, building databases that centralize vital community and government information for improved decision making, and helping to close the digital divide. You see, it’s all about understanding what’s possible and having the right tools to realize your dreams.

Our world needs to give a voice to those who seek to be heard. Arianna Huffington is giving the world a voice and public libraries give that voice opportunity to make things happen. The more we know the more optimistic we will be about the future. The more engaged we are the better decisions we will make to contribute to our community’s success and individual well-being.

We believe that Arianna Huffington shares a common vision to help people in our world achieve full and engaging lives for themselves and their families. That’s why we chose her to come to our party.

So if you plan to be in Hartford on June 12, we have a ticket for sale to the best party in town. Prepare to be inspired.

Arianna Huffington represents what’s possible in America with the right set of personal tools – courage, chutzpah, knowledge, and a deep understanding of what it means to be an American.  With Huffington Post, she has created a means for millions every day to get engage in their world, their countries and in their communities. She knows the importance of civic engagement to forming a more perfect union.

Hartford Public Library also clearly recognizes the important role it plays in civic engagement. The breadth of programs we already offer under the aegis of civic and community engagement is impressive and innovative. They range from traditional education services that provide valuable information and skills to broader political and civic roles, such as serving as a state community redistricting site, managing community services for growing immigrant populations, and building databases that centralize vital community and government information for improved decision making.

Over the past decade, the Library has become increasingly concerned about and committed to strengthening the foundations of community and civic engagement—volunteering, voting, participating in civic and social organizations, engaging in activities that strengthen community, participating in public dialogues and problem solving sessions, and working to make a difference in their communities. Working with local government leaders, in particular, we have broadened their approaches to engaging citizens by moving from traditional representative governance to democratic governance where citizens work directly with public officials in participatory, inclusive, deliberative, and collaborative ways.

The long-term benefits of increasing civic and community awareness, engagement, and activity are well documented. Research and experience have shown that engaged and empowered citizens generate optimism about the future, produce good decisions on tough community challenges, and contribute to economic success and individual well-being. Public libraries, with their sustained stature as the most trusted government entity, are ideal resources to shape and lead discussions, decisions, and strategies that encourage active and purposeful civic engagement.

While some may see the stock of social capital plummeting, public libraries generate and nurture social capital. While local officials worry that technology-driven public engagement will create new digital divides and increase disconnectedness, libraries have already built the infrastructure and capacity to ensure broad access to and skill in using technology resources. And, while lingering mistrust of government institutions among some populations contributes to civic apathy, libraries maintain their standing as a highly-trusted and valued public resource.

Moving from respected supporting player to consistent and valued leader requires a clear definition of the scope of library civic service and development of strategic agendas that broaden the impact of library action, measure and report on outcomes, and position the library as the go-to civic and community engagement resource.

Ms. Huffington believes in the power of public libraries: “With the public library’s stature as democracy’s best promise, the transition to civic engagement leader is both necessary and long overdue.

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