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The library is "the civic ballroom of our community, where citizens can practice that awkward dance of mutuality that is the very signature of a democratic culture."
That description is by writer Chip Ward, a former library director who wrote an influential essay called "What They Didn't Teach Us in Library School." It chronicles the tightrope that libraries must walk to serve patrons of all kinds, from the homeless and mentally disabled, to voracious readers, to schoolchildren, to researchers.
This delicate balance has been upset at the main branch of the Hartford Public Library, the recent recipient of a 42 million dollar makeover. The new, more welcoming spaces have attracted more visitors, but according to a recent report by the Hartford Courant, many of those visitors were causing big problems.
Drinking, drug use, sex and violence have been reported, along with the theft of materials. The library has proposed changes in response to the articlesl, but will they work? And, will they change the basic nature of the library as an open place for all in the community.
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