Meet Your City: Books

Borrow

What’s the deal with these weird birdhouses?
Little Free Libraries allow anyone — no ID or face-to-face interaction required — to borrow books indefinitely. They are always open. You do not even need to sign out the book you take. When you return it, you can drop the book off at any of the little library locations. Book donations are welcome too.

These libraries are multiplying! Any organization or individual can install one of these on his/her own property, which also explains why — as awesome as this all is — there is a strange cluster of them in the West End, while other sections of Hartford don’t have the same access. Book deserts are an easy fix; no need to lean on the City of Hartford to solve this issue: either create your own library or find a person or organization who will do so. The kits ordered through official channels can be expensive, though there are more affordable alternatives if you have skills.

The official website is very informative, but do not rely on the location map. It does not post every existing one in Hartford, while indicating that there is one in the South End that either does not actually exist or was invisible when I visited that location within the last week. The list below is for ones that have been confirmed through actual observation.

  • Little Free Library – 60 Love Lane
  • Little Free Library – 347 Albany Avenue
  • Little Free Library – 1300 Broad Street
  • Little Free Library – 21 Charter Oak Avenue
  • Little Free Library – 150 Kenyon Street
  • Little Free Library – 228 Oxford Street
  • Little Free Library – 7 Regent Street

What’s the deal with Hartford Public Library?
The good stuff first: even if you are unable to provide photo ID or proof of address, you can still get access to online materials. Hartford, for being such a geographically small area, currently has ten public libraries, including the large Downtown branch.

Less good: Instead of simply ripping off the bandage when it comes to the impending closure of three library branches, we have months of weaning ahead. This means people will adjust to new schedules to then have those taken away at the end of the year. If the methodology for these closures is solid — and I have no reason to believe otherwise — then why drag this out until December?

Buy
Writing is an actual job. Writers need money, not exposure. If you have money and value writing, help support living authors when possible.

  • Barnes & Noble: It’s not quite as sprawling as what you will find in Farmington or West Hartford, but we have one now and they are open on weekdays and weekends. They do carry books by local authors.
  • The Jumping Frog: This used bookstore is open Thursday-Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm. They are located at 56 Arbor Street. I’m not sure why people insist on calling this a “hidden gem”; if you approach the building from Park Street (Orange –> Arbor) you can see a massive yellow and green sign announcing that there are books inside.
  • Mark Twain House & Museum: You can shop online or on site. Anything by or about Mark Twain can be found here, and you might not have any idea how much of that exists until you get into the store. They also carry humor books, The White House Cook Book, handbooks for Victorian entertaining, and a number of those Hartford nostalgia books. There are a number of blank journals for those who want to write their own. You do not need to pay museum admission here or elsewhere if you are just visiting the gift shop.
  • Stowe Center: Open 12-5 on Sunday, 9:30-5 on Monday-Saturday. You’ll find anything by Harriet Beecher Stowe along with books with social justice themes. Want something by Ta-Nehisi Coates? This is the place. Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism? They’ve got it. Sidenote: this is where you can buy Black Lives Matter bumper stickers.
  • Connecticut Science Center: Open 9:30-2 on Monday, 11-5:30 Tuesday-Sunday. As you’d expect, science-themed books.
  • Wadsworth Atheneum: The museum shop is open 11-5, Wednesday-Friday and 10-5 on Saturday and Sunday. Art books and blank journals.

Are there any other places to buy or borrow (non-textbook) books in Hartford that did not make this list? Leave a comment below.