500 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Mon - Thurs 10 am - 8 pm
Fri & Sat 10 am - 5 pm
Sun (Nov - Apr) 1 pm - 5pm
Hartford Public Library’s history spans more than 235 years. We can trace its very beginnings to the Library Company, formally organized in 1774 by a few subscribers to purchase a "collection of useful and religious books". In 1838, in harmony with the movement towards lyceums and literary culture that was spreading across the country, a new organization formed in Hartford called the Young Men’s Institute, later chartered as the Hartford Young Men’s Institute. It was a private association. The Hartford Young Men’s Institute invited Hartford Library Company subscribers to join with them, offering them lifetime memberships. Library Company members agreed and brought to the institute their collection, one that had blossomed from 700 books in 1774 to 3,000 volumes in 1838.
Hartford Young Men’s Institute opened to the public, with taxpayer dollars, in 1892 and, in 1893, its name was officially changed to the Hartford Public Library by a special act of the Connecticut General Assembly.
The Library was located in the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1844 to early 1957. On January 2, 1957, a new building opened at the present site. By 1996 it was very clear that a renovated and expanded Library was necessary, and that same year a $19 million city bond issue was approved by the voters of Hartford. Another $18 million was also approved by the Hartford citizens in 2000, and the Library is raising $5 million in a capital campaign to complete the project. The renovation and expansion of the Downtown Library will take the Library into the 21st century fully equipped to serve the citizens of Hartford, and indeed, the entire greater Hartford region.
For customers seeking to do research, and explore our holdings, we have an online, computerized catalogue, Caroline, named after our first Chief Librarian, Caroline M. Hewins who served from 1875 – 1926. It is easy to use and our staff is glad to help customers find materials from our collection of approximately 500,000 items. Special collections include the Hartford Collection, which comprises works by Hartford authors, works published in Hartford, and works about Hartford. We also have the Foundation Center Cooperating Collection. The Library is now accessible to the blind, visually impaired and hearing impaired.