The Pratt's mystery donor

April 02, 2004

HOW OFTEN do people offer to donate money to Baltimore's beloved Enoch Pratt Free Library? More often than you'd think -- gifts and grants now account for 11 percent of the library's budget. But the donation received three weeks ago by Pratt Director Carla D. Hayden turned out to be a million-dollar jackpot, only the second such gift in the library's 122-year history.

Lucky Carla. Lucky Pratt. Lucky Baltimore.

Now, through the generosity of this mysterious donor, Ms. Hayden will be able to check off a few items on a too long to-do list of improvements to the Pratt's 21 branches. Ms. Hayden won't decide for another month where to spend the money, and while need will be a consideration, it won't be the only factor. Possibilities for improvements abound. Look around, supporters say. The Forest Park branch has a worn carpet and could use kid-size furniture. The door at the Canton library has a big crack in it, and a renovation of its back room would make a neat teen computer lab. Water stains bloom on the ceiling at the Patterson Park branch.

But Ms. Hayden wants to use the money for more than physical repairs, and she's right on the money. Equipping branches with teen-friendly CDs and cool DVDs or children's puppet stages will help draw and keep young patrons.

About the only disappointing aspect of the Pratt's good fortune is the donor's desire to remain anonymous.

How can Baltimoreans say thanks?

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