Protest stalls proposal to cut library's hours Waverly branch 'read-in' leads Pratt director to seek community's input


Responding to a "read-in" protest, top Enoch Pratt Free Library officials agreed last night to delay plans to shorten hours at the Waverly branch in North Baltimore.

Library officials were planning to cut weekly hours at Waverly from 49 to 39 next week. But in a meeting with residents who fervently opposed the plan, Pratt Director Carla D. Hayden and her assistant, James Welbourne, said they will not make any changes until after additional meetings with community representatives.

They said those meetings will address ways to prevent the branch from losing hours.

Residents proposed closing parts of the library while keeping the doors open for basic services and offered to volunteer as librarian aides.

"I'll put my money where my mouth is," said Denise Minter, 31, a Waverly resident. "If you need money, how much do you need? I'll raise money."

Last night's meeting with library officials came after the Better Waverly Community Association organized about 50 people for a "read-in" to oppose the cuts.

The protesters gathered in front of the library branch on 33rd Street late yesterday afternoon and sat in folding chairs, beach chairs and even a rocking chair, reading such books as "Celestine Prophecy" and "The Rainmaker."

Some protesters carried signs saying, "We love our library" and "Fill the need, let us read." Others buried their faces in their books, seemingly oblivious to the fanfare.

Roger Brown, 48, who is blind, sat in a folding chair reading Braille.

"If we tolerate cutting these hours, that will lead to more cuts in the future," Mr. Brown said as his fingers scanned the pages of a brochure listing services for the blind.

Myles Hoenig, a Waverly resident who teaches at Dunbar Middle School, said he believes cuts would have the greatest impact on children, who would have fewer hours to do homework at the library, and on elderly people who use the library at their leisure.

A year ago, the Waverly branch went from 54 hours to 49 hours per week. Recent plans called for the library to open only 39 hours per week and to close Fridays. Even with the changes, library officials say, only five branches would have more hours than Waverly.

Officials say they are making the change as part of an effort to equalize the number of hours at branches throughout the city.

Seventeen of the system's 28 branches are open 37 hours a week.

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