Merits of film argued at Pratt hearing


At a Baltimore City Council committee hearing last night on the Pratt Library, debate pitted the revolution of cheap videotape against the more elegant and expensive 16 mm film.

A state library task force has recommended that the Enoch Pratt Free Library stop collecting and circulating 16 mm film by 1995 and begin transferring films to videotape or replacing them with videos.

The issue, which must eventually be resolved by the Pratt Board of Trustees, brought many members of Baltimore's film community before the council's Committee on Education and Human Resources.

Nearly all of those who testified argued for the continued preservation of the Pratt's 3,900-title film collection, additions to the collection and continued support for the library overall.

So important is the Pratt's collection, said Dr. Jerome Christensen, head of the media and film department at the Johns Hopkins University, that the institution would be willing to help fund future acquisitions and begin paying rental fees not currently required.

"Without the Pratt, there can be no study of film at Hopkins," said Dr. Christensen. "Once the dismantling of the film collection occurs, it is irreversible."

The hearing on council Resolution 503 -- which seeks to preserve the Pratt film collection -- was held before council members John Cain, D-1st, chief sponsor of the resolution, and Carl Stokes, D-2nd, chairman of the education committee.

The lone voice supporting the recommendation was that of Mary Anne Denham, director of the state library resource center at the Pratt and a member of the task force.

"While the task force is sensitive to the concerns of the 16 mm film community, our customer base has indicated that continuing these collections is unwarranted," Ms. Denham said.

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