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Libraries Without Borders

The Connecticut State Library partnered with Libraries Without Borders US to build deeper and more authentic connections between libraries and community.

Project in Review: East Hartford Public Library

Photo of Wickham Memorial Library, a branch of the East Hartford Public Library.With the Wickham Memorial Library, a branch of the East Hartford Public Library, closed for renovations from May 2016 through September 2023, library staff wanted to revive its presence with the neighboring community members, businesses, schools, and organizations. Together with LWB, EHPL crafted an outreach and canvassing strategy to raise awareness and the profile of the library and all it has to offer.

Data Sources

  • 28 community stakeholder interviews, in-depth interviews with library staff, and community canvassing
  • CT State Library data, American Community Survey Census data, Advance CT reports, and CT Data Collaborative information used to gather community demographic information
  • Infrastructure mapping of identified stakeholders, organizations, meeting places, and pillars of the East Hartford community
  • Data collection to assess library awareness within two miles of the Wickham Branch, reaching approximately 2,000 residences

Key Findings

The Wickham Memorial Library, a branch of the East Hartford Public Library, was closed for renovations from May 2016 through September 2023. An initial neighborhood survey revealed that awareness and likelihood of having visited the Wickham branch lagged behind that of the city’s main branch. One resident noted, “We go to the Raymond branch often; I didn’t even know there was another library down the street. 

Just 55% of residents within a two-mile radius of Wickham heard of the library branch itself. Among respondents that were aware of the library, less than 38% reported having ever visited. Residents who spoke a language other than English were less likely to know about the library than those who did speak English.

  • 78% of all surveyed residents had never visited Wickham Memorial Library

A large number of businesses, schools, and community organizations exist in the area surrounding the Wickham branch. These establishments offer points of connection to community members who may otherwise be unaware of library offerings. While East Hartford Public Library has strong community connections across the city, only about 60% of businesses surveyed in the Burnside neighborhood knew about the Wickham branch, despite its proximity

Outreach Strategies

  • Community Canvassing Library Awareness Campaign
  • Library Promotion through Community Connections


Increased Awareness & Use of Wickham Branch

Community canvassing increased local awareness of library services. In the initial data collection phase, canvassers visited nearly 2,000 households and distributed over 700 promotional flyers within a two-mile radius of Wickham; 241 participants responded to the survey.

For the ensuing three phases of the library awareness campaign, canvassers visited 2,172 residences in the area, distributed 1,767 promotional library flyers, and had 303 conversations with residents. Canvassers reached about 98% of households within two miles of Wickham. Residents commonly shared the sentiment that they didn’t realize the library was open, and many expressed an interest in visiting.

Library staff affirm a noticeable increase in visitors since the beginning of the library awareness campaign. Some patrons identify that promotional flyers and in-person conversations led them to visit Wickham, but canvassing conversations also create a ripple effect; they generate word of mouth beyond the immediate conversation increasing awareness over time.

Leveraged Community Connections

In addition to residential promotion, canvassers spoke to 84 local businesses, gaining insight into opportunities for collaboration. Nearly 100% expressed a willingness to participate in cross-promotion efforts.

Additionally, canvassers promoted library offerings at school and church community events, connecting with over 150 local residents to provide increased library exposure and expanded community connections.

Next Steps for Sustainable Implementation

  • Identify ongoing role of local partners for library promotion and provide partners with relevant materials
  • Continue building asset map to identify locations for subsequent canvassing and/or general promotion
  • Identify future opportunities for awareness campaigns (new offerings, launch events, etc)


This project is funded by the State of Connecticut and the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library. 

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