Toni Harp wanted to go to the library. But she was scared.
She loved going to the library. “It was the one place my mother would let me go by myself,” she said.
But she owed a library book. And she couldn’t find it. She thought she’d get in trouble.
Finally, she had to head there: She needed to do research for a school assignment, and this was long before the Internet age. “It’ll be OK. It’ll be OK,” she kept telling herself. And it was: The librarians were kind as always. She paid a small fine. And she was back in the book business.
That happened six decades ago, when Harp was 9 years old and growing up in Utah. She still remembers how it felt.
She recalled that feeling as she urged New Haveners Monday to come back to the library with overdue books. Or worse, lost books. April, which is also national library month, marks a campaign called “All is Forgiven” at the New Haven Free Public Library. From now through April 21, all the public library branches are waiving fees on overdue books and CDs and cassette.
The libraries promise “we can work it out” as well if you’ve lost a book. During the campaign the libraries will waive the usual $3 fee for replacing lost library cards, as long as you bring in a photo ID and proof of address.
Harp also announced that all the city’s library branches now have free wifi service and 1 gigabyte Internet service.
Harp made the remarks during her latest appearance on “Mayor Monday” on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program.
Also on the program, she addressed the decision to hire a single Hillhouse High principal to oversee the whole school. Right now, three principals oversee four separate academies at the school.
Harp said the change grows out of a continued concern that inadequate communication has hampered the transition to the academy system at Hillhouse, She said that the principals who’ll lose their positions will be moved to positions elsewhere in the school system, either at other schools or as assistant principals at Hillhouse. She said the system may not need to create new assistant principal positions for each of the Hillhouse academies, because of retirements. So taxpayers may save some money.
Harp reiterated her support of the academy system itself, which has sparked some criticism from people who argue Hillhouse should be one school rather than several smaller schools within a school. Harp argued that the smaller schools enable students to receive more individualized attention and learn better. She said graduation rates have improved steadily at the school in recent years, as has the “persistence rate” of graduates remaining in college.
Critics who say the old Hillhouse system worked better are living int he past, Harp argued.
“The ‘70s, ‘80s, the ‘90s even, we weren’t educating all the kids” because in New Haven’s manufacturing-dominated old economy, students without high school degrees could earn good livings at factories.
In the new economy, students need to go to college or at least earn certifications and/or obtain some community college straining to obtain living-wage jobs, she said. As a result, the school model has to change.
“There are leaders who grew up when were just trying to educate the 25 percent. They thought that was a great system,” Harp said. “We can’t afford to do that anymore.” Even factory jobs require more advanced education and training than in the past, she said.
To listen to Harp’s full “Mayor Monday” episode on WNHH, which also covered the city’s new clean-up campaign as well as celebrations of Hillhouse’s track and basketball teams, click on or download the audio above, or check out WNHH’s “Dateline New Haven” podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes.
Monday’s episode of “Dateline New Haven” was made possible in partnership with Gateway Community College.