Neighborhood groups propose using closed library for learning center

October 09, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

What to do with a closed library was the question at a planning meeting attended by two dozen Charles Village community leaders and Enoch Pratt Free Library officials last night.

While no answers were reached regarding the closed library branch at 2521 St. Paul St., an "initial concept" of reusing the Victorian building as a community-run library and learning center was presented in a statement of intent from nine neighborhood groups.

"This is not the end, but a beginning," said Frank Jannuzi, vice president of the Charles Village Benefits District, who chaired the meeting in the organization's office.

The community plan estimates the cost of renovating the building and its garden at $135,000, which organizers hope to raise from foundation grants and corporate gifts.

Representing the Pratt were James C. Welbourne, assistant director, and Gordon Krabbe, administrative services director.

"We're here to hear the community vision," said Welbourne. Later, he told the group that he found the vision "quite laudable."

The 101-year-old library branch was closed Sept. 19 after a bitter court battle waged by some Charles Village residents against the library board to keep the branch open.

A Baltimore circuit judge allowed the closing to go forward, but he also ruled that the building should be reused in a way that retained a Pratt "presence" in the city-owned facility.

How to interpret the word "presence" was discussed last night. Speaking for Charles Village, Jannuzi said, "We would like as broad a presence as possible." Welbourne suggested it might mean a kiosk, electronic services or bookmobile visits.

As for the closed library's 18,000 volumes, Welbourne said that a large part of the collection is going to the nearby Waverly branch.

Nearly 3,000 books were donated by the library to the neighboring Margaret Brent Elementary School, according to Ann Smith, Pratt's northeast district supervisor.

The school principal, Shuronia Jacox, said the library's gift had greatly expanded the number of books at the school.

Jacox attended last night's meeting and suggested after-school tutoring programs as a way to reuse the building, which resembles a gingerbread-style mansion.

Bill Tiefenwerth, director of community relations for the Johns Hopkins University, said students would volunteer as tutors.

The idea of a commercial use, such as a bookstore cafe, was rejected by the community groups. "That's not what we want," Jannuzi said.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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