It now appears that at least some branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library that were slated to close due to budget cuts may remain open either as non-circulating reading rooms or as community-operated libraries. Pratt officials announced on Tuesday that branch libraries in Cherry Hill, Clifton Park and Morrell Park will stay open as non-circulating reading rooms where students can study quietly and do their homework. The Pratt also wants to turn over five other branches threatened with closing to neighborhood groups that can run them.
While it's too early to tell whether these proposals could turn into permanent solutions, they certainly are preferable alternatives to simply closing libraries at a time Baltimore is still struggling to become "The City that Reads." Mayor Schmoke has emphasized that many services formerly provided by the city cannot be continued unless residents are willing to volunteer time and energy to make up for revenues lost in an era of declining resources. The neighborhood-run library experiments could be an early test of whether that vision is practical on a day-to-day basis.