WE MAY BE(COME) "THE CITY THAT READS" AFTER ALL:

New Libraries Planned, One for Pratt, One for School

       A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT to the Pratt Library is on the way to happening.

       The City of Baltimore has acquired land at the southeast corner of Eastern Avenue and Conkling Streets for a new Southeast Regional Library. Construction is set to begin in the 2001 fiscal year.

       The $11 million, 35,000 square foot project will represent the first new library construction in the City in over 30 years.o It will be funded by $8.5 million in City-issued bonds. An additional $2.5 million will be raised from the private sector to pay for furnishings and books.

       The library will be different from any other Pratt Library branch. It will include a computer lab, classroom space, spaces for homework support and student and parenting services, quiet study areas, and a public meeting space for up to 200 people.

       Because this section of the City represents a broad cross section of people it will be decorated with ethnic themes, and it will offer book collections in several foreign languages.

       According to officials in the Mayor's press office, the library, planned with input from residents in Southeast Baltimore in conjunction with a community advisory panel, is supported by all local and state officials in the area.

Public-Private Partnership Brings Library Back To School

It's no secret that many of Baltimore City's public schools lack libraries. But it's not widely understood why that's the case. It's not just for lack of books—for that could be readily remedied with book donations from a concerned public. Rather, it also has to do with Baltimore City Public Schools' teachers' union requirement that school libraries be staffed by certified librarians.

       Librarians—equipped these days with master's degrees in information science that make them much in demand in the private sector—are expensive to hire, even if they can be convinced to work in a public school situation.

       Some of the city's schools are relying on parent volunteers to operate makeshift libraries. For example, 15 volunteers are keeping one operating at Barclay Elementary in Waverly.

       In a unique public-private cooperative venture, however, one city elementary school is about to have a "real" library. On Thursday, November 30 at 9 a.m., a dedication ceremony will be held to mark the grand opening of a school library at George C. Kelson Elementary, at 701 Gold Street in Sandtown/Winchester.

       Private sector funding from the Enterprise Foundation and the Wieler Foundation, along with construction services provided by Struever Brothers Eccles and Rouse and equipment from Verizon, has made the library a reality. Key to the project is the hiring of a librarian for two years, at a cost of about $55,000 annually for salary and benefits. All told, it will cost about $250,000 to set up and staff the library for two years, according to Mary Wieler of Roland Park, who, with her husband Scott and two sons, comprise the Wieler Foundation.



Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on November 1, 2000.