New Pratt chief's City Hall trip pays off

Kurt L. Schmoke had a surprise for Carla D. Hayden when the new chief of the Enoch Pratt Free Library went to City Hall for the first time yesterday to meet the mayor: $230,000 to reopen libraries in Govans and Patterson Park and an extra $100,000 for the Pratt book budget.

The extra money, prompted by a huge turnout of library supporters at Baltimore Taxpayer's Night last month, will be added to the proposed $17.9 million Pratt budget for next year.


The cash will allow the Pratt to reopen its renovated Govans branch -- closed since 1990 -- and bring back the Patterson Park branch on North Linwood Avenue without cutting hours in half at libraries in Charles Village and Pimlico.

The new budget, which must be approved by the City Council, goes into effect July 1, the first day Dr. Hayden reports for work.


The deputy director of the Chicago Library System, Dr. Hayden arrived in Baltimore this week to meet Pratt staff and attend yesterday's library trustees meeting while newspapers in her hometown carried stories about last-minute efforts to keep her in Chicago.

On Monday night, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley all but begged Dr. Hayden to stay in the Windy City, guaranteeing her the now-vacant top library job in Chicago with a salary of $103,704. But she had already accepted the Pratt offer -- reportedly between $85,000 and $88,000 a year -- and turned Mr. Daley down.

Dr. Hayden told Mr. Schmoke: "He was really putting the screws to me."

Mr. Schmoke, overjoyed that Baltimore had landed her after a nationwide search that attracted nearly 100 applicants, offered to call Mr. Daley on her behalf to smooth things over.

"That would help," Dr. Hayden said.

In Baltimore, library patrons want to know whether the new director will close neighborhood branches to improve service to a declining population. The extra money for Govans and Patterson Park will bail the Pratt out next year, but the library's problem of money and staff shortages blooms anew with the annual budget process.

The proposed budget includes $120,000 to study how the Pratt can improve weak neighborhood service.

The study will address the question: Are 28 branches too much for a city that has lost 200,000 people in the past 30 years?


"That was something that definitely came up from the staff and the trustees -- it's something I want to examine," Dr. Hayden said.

She promised to be more like a "coach" for the Pratt staff instead of a bureaucrat.

"The study may bring some surprises," she said. "Some branches might need to concentrate on different things. It's so hard to be a librarian and not have things to offer the public."