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Updated: April 6, 2020 / 2020 Women in Business Awards

Quinn-Carey brings innovation, revenue-generating ideas to Hartford Public Library

Photo | J. Fiereck Photogrphy
Bridget Quinn-Carey Q&A
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Bridget Quinn-Carey, CEO of the Hartford Public Library, graduated from college with an English degree, initially aspiring to have a career in publishing.

Because there weren’t many jobs available for English majors in the early 1990s, she went on to earn a master’s degree in library science from St. John’s University in Queens, New York.

She loved library work so much, she knew she found her calling.

“I started to realize working in libraries was what I really enjoyed,” Quinn-Carey said.

Quinn-Carey, whose first job was as a children’s librarian trainee in Long Island, worked at several other libraries before coming to Hartford four years ago.

She now oversees the city’s award-winning library, which has an operating budget of more than $11 million. She’s in charge of eight locations, including one shared with a public school. In all, she supervises 130 employees, which boils down to 100 full-time equivalents.

“Bridget has shown her remarkable capacity for visionary leadership not only through her current position as Hartford Public Library’s CEO, but across her extensive experience in the library field — including her executive roles at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and Queens Public Library, and her leadership within the Urban Libraries Council,” said Susan Benton, president and CEO of the Urban Libraries Council.

Given Hartford’s socioeconomic challenges, Quinn-Carey has to think beyond traditional modes of funding. She said while 70 to 75 percent of the money for the library comes from the city, she needs to find ways to make up the difference.

There are many ways she has done that, including through donations, grants, corporate support and the Library Beyond Words annual fundraiser. The library also offers passports, which bring in $35 per transaction.

She also plans to implement a revenue-generating Digital Library Lab, a one-stop imaging, digital archiving and photography service at the downtown library, which is expected to launch in winter.

“All those different revenue-generating initiatives are collectively impactful and help us to sustain our operations as efficiently as possible,” Quinn-Carey said.

One highlight of her tenure as CEO is construction on a new Park Street branch, which is something the community has been advocating for over the last 20-plus years, Quinn-Carey said. She expects it to open sometime in early 2021.

Quinn-Carey was responsible for last year’s launch of Boundless library at Rawson School, an innovative collaborative venture with Hartford Public Schools to provide a media specialist and public services at the school.

She is also responsible for transitioning the entire inventory control system at the library from a magnetic strip circulation and security system to an RFID-based system and introduced self-checkout capabilities at all library locations.

Quinn-Carey earned a “mid-career” MBA at St. John’s University in 2015, which she says has made her a more confident and knowledgeable leader.

Quinn-Carey said she leads by example.

“I love seeing others succeed and have them be recognized for their accomplishments,” she said, adding that her job is gratifying in many ways. “Nothing makes me happier than to see someone find help or improve their life/outlook because of a program, service, piece of information, connection or smile that I’m able to give them or help my colleagues provide.”

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