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Hartford Library Branch Set To Open In West Middle School

After five years of planning and preparations, the Mark Twain Branch of the city's public library is set to open at a refurbished location inside the West Middle Community School.

The branch will open its doors March 1, the final piece of a nearly $54 million overhaul at West Middle, on Niles Street in Asylum Hill.

"This is wonderful, from the community standpoint," said Yvonne Matthews, head of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association. "I strongly believe that every community has to have a library — it's our learning center for everyone in the community, from our toddlers up to our seniors. Without a library, no one gets an opportunity to learn more on their own."

Since 2011, the branch had been housed in Hartford Public High School's Lewis Fox Media center. The move was made to accommodate the West Middle renovation, and to shuck its cramped former home in a leased storefront on Farmington Avenue.

Some materials from the branch's collection will remain at the high school, which will end library operations Feb. 24, according to Don Wilson, the library's director of marketing and communications. The Owl Learning Center, an after-school program started by the library, will also remain at the school after the branch's migration.

That migration was meant to coincide with West's grand re-opening in September, but discussions over logistics pushed the start date back a few months, Wilson said.

But he stressed that by the time the doors open, all equipment and programming will be in place and ready to go. And a majority of that programming will be geared toward adult patrons.

"West Middle's mission is about reaching out to adults and everyone in the community," he said. "The services are really geared toward adults, because they wanted to make it more of a community center, and the library is helping to serve that function of bringing the community in."

Inside the school, the Mark Twain Branch will offer Spanish language classes, citizenship-test prep courses and adult-literacy programs.

The branch will be open from 1-6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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