Two years ago the Hartford Public Library was forced to close two library branches and lay off 40 employees. It has since bounced back, but the 2008 budget battle forced it to look at diversifying its fundraising efforts with “One Big Summer Night.”

The “One Big Summer Night” fundraiser features blogger and author Julie Powell best known for her 2005 book, turned 2009 movie, “Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment.”

“We hope to continue to provide services with an ever increasing need,” said Mary Crean, Hartford Public Library’s chief development officer. “This year, we will go to the city with a flat budget. We want to be self-sustaining that’s why we are trying to look for funding through private sources.”

The library serves the citizens of Hartford and the people in the surrounding suburbs. People from as far away as Glastonbury know the library as having the latest releases and being able to find almost anything, including some unusual items. Hartford Public Library excels at offering cut rate programming to its patrons too, Crean said. It’s youth services department provides outreach and programs which the surrounding community needs. Through a program partnered with Traveler’s Insurance, they employ teens from the city.
“It gives teens job skills,” said Crean.

They also offer The American Place, a center for immigrants to learn English, take a citizenship course, and become acquainted with life in this country. With the economy being at its worst, they provide adults with job search skills, classes in starting a new business, and courses in computer skills like Excel, Access, and Word. They serve the 70 percent of the Hartford community who have no access to computers or the internet with plenty of machines and a high speed connection for free. And, they also are a safe space for those with laptops to curl up and do research for school and work.

“When the economy is not good, the library sees an increase in people needing services,” said Crean.

In recent years, the library has sponsored workshops on how to run non-profits. They have state-of-the-art online search databases which allow people to search for grants, find information on businesses, and information on Hartford from
Last fiscal year, the library received 800,000 visits. They registered 81,000 patrons with library cards, circulated 499,000 items, and hosted 5,000 programs with an attendance of 81,000.

The fundraising event, now in its second year, will have a live and silent auction, a cocktail reception, dinner, the speaker, and a book signing. This year, it is expected to draw a larger crowd and is being held at the Connecticut Convention Center.

This year, the platinum sponsor of the fundraiser is:  Connecticut Light and Power and other big sponsors include are CIGNA, Travelers, The Hartford, Webster Bank, and Fiduciary. Other smaller business sponsors participating are: Bank of America, Anthem, Afflac, WellsFargo, are among the list.

“With a lot of corporate leaders and other local celebrities, it will be a great chance to network,” said Crean.

“We’ve reached out to the Greater Hartford artist community this year by having artists make decorative paper lanterns for display and also to be auctioned off,” she said.

“This event is not just for “important” people but for everyone,” said Crean. “That’s why the ticket price is lower than most events of its type.”

There is still time to support the library by either becoming a sponsor or buying tickets. The deadline for ticket sales is June 11. Tickets are $125 with $65 of the proceeds directly going to better serve the library’s patrons. People can also buy ads in the event program and the money will go towards the library funding.

The fundraiser will be held 6-9 p.m., June 24.

Tickets can be purchased online at or checks may be sent to: Hartford Public Library, Development Office, 500 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06103-3075.