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Manchester Public Library

What do the towns of Greenwich, Stamford, Fairfield, West Hartford and Manchester have in common?

Here is a hint.

Did you guess?

GREAT LIBRARIES is the correct answer!!!!  That’s right, in Manchester, the library circulation numbers are just below the numbers for Greenwich, Stamford and Fairfield and comparable to West Hartford.  However, Manchester has a much smaller library and only 25 parking spaces!  Must be a lot of motivated readers in town.

Did you know that the Manchester Public Library got its start in the Cheney Mills in 1840?  At that time the mills were smaller wooden structures, not the large brick buildings which dominate the west end of Manchester today. The women who skeined the silk worked in a large room together.  The work was monotonous and they decided that while working they wanted someone to read to them.  That was multitasking in the good old days!  So, they pooled their money and started buying books.  In all, they bought 150 books of which the library today still has 125 original copies.  We saw a couple of them at the Manchester Government Academy Meeting last Thursday.

In 1850, these women decided they would like to have a circulating library and petitioned the town.  All of the books previously purchased by the mill workers had been non-fiction.   Some people wanted to add fiction to the collection.  There were discussions and disagreements because another group thought non-fiction was all that should be allowed.  You could call it fiction friction.  But, eventually, it was agreed that both fiction and non-fiction books would be purchased.  The books were first housed in the office of the Cheney Brothers and later moved to the basement of Cheney Hall.  In 1880, the books were moved to a house on Wells St where they remained until the fire of 1913.  During the fire, many of the books were saved using a bucket brigade in reverse or book saving brigade.  The books were then moved to a house on Main St.  Circulation increased with this more central location.

In 1937, labor was cheap because of the depression.  Skilled craftsman worked for a dollar a day using WPA funds and matching town funds to construct what today is known as the Mary Cheney Library or the Main Branch of the Manchester Public Library.  The Whiton Branch is a smaller building located in the north end of town.  With a budget of $3 million and a full-time staff of 25, the library offers books, ebooks, audiobooks, downloadable movies, museum passes, kits for teachers and families, CDs, DVDs and lots of programs.

One interesting program is the Silk City Board Game Group which was mentioned in the Money Magazine write-up of Manchester’s #1 ranking.  There is also a Read in the Park Day, Author Talks, a Mystery Book Club and a Cookbook Club to name a few.  There are children’s programs that focus on literacy and a love of reading.  Stay tuned for a follow-up library post on the Toddling Tots Program which I attended with my granddaughter, Rose.


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Manchester Police Department



I have joined the Manchester Government Academy for the last few weeks of the class.  My husband and I  took it a few years ago and if you live or work in town I highly recommend it.  The way the class works is that on Thursday nights you travel to a town owned building to find out how the department is run.  You might be at the fire department one week and then the water plant or the senior center or the library the next week.

This past Thursday the meeting was at the Police Department. The Manchester Police Department, according to Sergeant Ryan Shea, is one of the top departments in the state of Connecticut.  To become a police officer in Manchester one must be 21 years old, have 60 college credits or 2 years of active military service, pass a polygraph test, a written test, an oral test, a physical fitness test and a mental health exam.  Once hired the candidate trains for 22 weeks at a police academy in Meriden, Hartford, Bridgeport or New Haven followed by 17 weeks of field training.

The top crime problem in Manchester is larceny especially by Buckland Hills Mall and includes shop lifting and motor vehicle thefts.  When there is a major incident the department has a chaplain for support and mutual aid agreements with police departments in surrounding towns.  Also, the chaplain is available for support after any stressful situation an officer encounters.

Officer Jason Moss spoke to the class about the specialized traffic unit.  Traffic violations are the #1 complaint received by all police departments.  The violations include DUI, speeding, distracted driving and accidents.  Some members of the MPD are part of a regional team for serious and fatal accidents.  Using drones, mathematical formulas, accident scene photos, interviews with witnesses, vehicle damage, sobriety tests and knowledge of the weather and road conditions the officers are able to reconstruct with good accuracy what happened.  The report can take up to 6 months to complete.  Another part of the traffic unit is a motor unit which provides escorts and security during special events using motorcycles and ATVs.

The class was led on a tour of the police department.  The dispatch room and the training room were quit impressive.  The most senior dispatcher showed us the equipment used and how officers are directed to calls and tracked during a shift.  Each car on patrol shows up on a screen at all times.  The training room allowed for comprehensive and adaptive training using interactive video to allow officers to practice de-escalation of stressful situations verbally or if needed with minimal and appropriate use of force..

I also learned that there is a Citizen’s Police Academy which is a ten week program that runs every fall.  It has already begun for this year.  Maybe next year?