Thank you, city big wheels and Enoch Pratt Free Library
officials said to the people of Govans yesterday: Thanks for demanding that we do our jobs.
"You brow beat all of us for a great purpose," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "You've educated us about what's important in our community."
The great purpose was the re-opening of the renovated Govans branch of the Pratt at 5714 Bellona Ave., a 72-year-old neighborhood library that had been closed since March 1990 because of needed repairs, lack of money and bureaucratic bungling.
After two years without any sign that library service was coming back soon, a group of Govans residents banded together to badger City Hall and Pratt headquarters on Cathedral Street for action.
And Joan Childress -- who saw her efforts rewarded with a mayoral citation and brilliantly refinished wooden shelves packed with books for the borrowing -- badgered the loudest. With all the work done and the doors open, Mrs. Childress was almost timid yesterday.
Upon receiving the mayor's citation, she said: "Mostly, I thank my community."
The community, represented at the ribbon-cutting by the Friends of the Govans Library, presented a check for $7,000 to Branch No. 22 to supplement the library's budget.
Combined with $500,000 in repairs to the old brick building -- including a new roof, new paint and plaster, and a new heating and air-conditioning unit -- the money will help branch manager Virginia Fore do what she does best.
"I can be a librarian!" she gushed, standing amid huge photos of Govans' past mounted on the cream and pale aqua walls, including a shot of a nun from St. Mary's School turning a jump rope in full habit.
The chief of Branch No. 22 from 1984 to 1990, Ms. Fore spent much of her duty there scrambling for reference and office materials and praying that the ceiling wouldn't come down on her head.
"The building was falling apart," she said. "If we had bad rains over the weekend, you dreaded what you would find when you came in on Monday."
After Govans closed, Ms. Fore found herself in the recent Pratt nightmare of having too few librarians for each of its libraries and was shuffled among branches in Gardenville, Light Street, Pennsylvania Avenue and Highlandtown.
Now she is back home in Govans, where children depended on her for help with summer reading projects and adults looked to her for clues to the best new mystery novels by writers like M. C. Beaton.
Recently elected president of the Public Library Association's division of Adult Lifelong Learning, Ms. Fore said one of her first moves at Govans will be replacing two sets of 1990 World Book Encyclopedias with current editions.
Yesterday was also the first local public appearance of Carla Hayden, the new Pratt director who left a job as deputy chief of the Chicago Public Library to take over Baltimore's central library and 28 neighborhood branches on July 1.
Dr. Hayden, picked by Pratt trustees to lead Baltimore's library -- into the 21st century, said she will soon be visiting each of the neighborhood branches, taking particular care to follow renovations at the Patterson Park branch at Linwood Avenue and Fayette Street.
In introducing Dr. Hayden, trustee President James A. Ulmer said once again that the Pratt's key challenge will be deciding whether new computer technology or traditional neighborhood libraries will most benefit the public.
"Over the next few years we will hear a great deal about whether libraries are in the information business or the neighborhoods business," he said. "Should we focus on making information available or on making neighborhoods work? As we struggle for the right balance, the success of Govans should give us a strong vision of the way things can work."
The Enoch Pratt Free Library branch No. 22 at 5714 Bellona Ave. in Govans is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from noon until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Information: 396-6098.