Friday hours to return to Pratt

State aid will allow extended library service in early Sept.

January 27, 2000|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

There will be a new day for the Enoch Pratt central library in Baltimore come September: Friday.

The central library on Cathedral Street, closed Fridays for most of the 1990s because of budget problems, will resume Friday hours Sept. 8, thanks to an increase in state aid to take effect in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The resumption of Friday hours for the first time in nearly nine years is being timed to coincide with International Literacy Day, and likely will include a public celebration that is in the planning stages, library officials said yesterday.

"We want to have a big thing called First Friday," said Carla D. Hayden, director of the Pratt.

Hayden said it was "wonderful" for citizens and for libraries throughout Maryland, for which the Pratt central serves as a resource library, that the library would again be open seven days a week for all but the summer months, when it is closed Sundays.

"It's been like the doors to information and knowledge are closed," Hayden said.

Members of a grass-roots advocacy group that supports the Enoch Pratt Free Library said the resumption of Friday hours at the central library was welcome -- and overdue.

"We're very, very happy," said Ronald Owens, president of Friends of the Pratt Library. "The intellectual well-being of our community is what it's about. The library should be open all the time."

"It's about time," added David L. Yaffe, a Friends board member. "It's a humiliation and a disgrace for a civilized society to have the major library of a major city closed on a school day and a business day for eight years and more. Where is our scale of values?"

Yaffe said the restoration of Friday hours is a positive first step, but a far cry from what is ultimately needed.

"The major library should be open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, period," Yaffe said. "What's needed is more money. [The Pratt has] been on a shoestring budget going on 30 years."

Hayden said the central library was considering extending its hours on Thursdays with part of the additional state aid, but said no decision had been made.

Central library hours

The central library is open Mondays through Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. from late September to the end of April.

As of Sept. 8, the library also will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.

Money for the resumption of the Friday hours comes from a $3 million increase in state aid.

The increase is based on a change in the funding formula approved by the state legislature last year, though the money was not put in the budget until the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The additional money, provided in recognition of the Pratt central's status as the State Library Resource Center, also will go to maintaining the state's online public information network and funding an annex to house the library's expanded African-American, Maryland and special collections.

Friday closings began in 1991

The central library was forced to close Fridays in December 1991 because of cuts in state aid to Baltimore brought on by a shortfall in the state's budget.

The Pratt's proposed budget for the next fiscal year is $27.7 million, most of it from the city.

Of the total, $7.1 million will come from the state based on the funding formula, and $5.1 million will come from a separate category of state aid that funnels money to all of Maryland's local library systems.

A small portion of the budget is from private sources.

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