Two North Baltimore library buildings to reopen soon with different purposes

Charles Village branch to be learning center

Roland Park renovated

July 01, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Two closed library buildings in North Baltimore, in Roland Park and Charles Village, will soon open in strikingly different guises.

One will continue to be a city branch library on the 5100 block of Roland Ave. The other will be a nonprofit learning center founded by community activists after the city closed their community branch library.

The 75-year-old gray stone Roland Park library, closed since May for asbestos and lead paint abatement work, will reopen Aug. 2, a month later than scheduled, library officials said.

Meanwhile, the red-brick gingerbread house-style library on the 2500 block of St. Paul St., closed by the city in 1997 despite a bitter protest and lawsuit, will be renovated this summer and will open as a learning center in the fall, said Lee Jaslow, president of the new nonprofit that will run the Village Learning Place Inc.

The contract to renovate the century-old building, signed this week with Warwick Supply & Equipment Co., is worth about $300,000, Jaslow said. That money that could have been spent to buy books and bookshelves and to redesign the abandoned garden in back, which he and other founders plan to call Enoch Pratt's Garden.

No help from city

They are receiving no help from the city, despite a judge's directive that there be an "Enoch Pratt presence" in the facility.

"They're not part of our system," said Judy Cooper, the Enoch Pratt Free Library spokeswoman.

"We have to do quite a bit more fund raising," Jaslow said, estimating that another $200,000 will be needed to finish the interior. This is on top of operating funds raised from the state, the Abell Foundation and the Morris Goldseker Foundation. The state contributed a one-year, $60,000 grant residents hope will be renewed; Abell is giving $228,000 over three years; and Goldseker is providing $195,000 over the same period.

Jaslow said the Goldseker money will be dedicated to helping build a small staff. An executive director, Jennifer Feit, was recently hired.

Roland Park repairs grow

In the Roland Park branch library, repairs to the downstairs children's book room have expanded beyond the project's original scope, said John Richardson, manager of building operations.

The walls were so water-damaged from flooding, he said, that the job went beyond "patch and repair" to tearing down and replacing paper-thin plaster walls with Sheetrock.

Richardson said that a new tile floor, new computer wiring, a coat of paint and water sealing will improve the downstairs and protect it from flooding damage.

Once it is reopened, Roland Park Civic League members are planning a major fund-raising drive for a library expansion and renovation that they have pledged to complete in partnership with the city.

Susan Newhouse, the library committee chairwoman, said no timetable is set for the project, but neighborhood volunteers are committed to raising the $200,000 for Roland Park's contribution to keeping their library open into the next century.

In Charles Village, they say there are no hard feelings about the city's treatment of Roland Park. "We're glad for them, benefiting from the ruckus we raised," said Jaslow. "We've gotten good will from the city, but no money."

Pub Date: 7/01/99

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