Library destroyed by fire gets gift of 1,000 books


As Yvonne Mercer sat in a small room near Lake Clifton-Eastern High School's fire-ravaged library, the air was still filled with the stench of a January blaze that destroyed most of the books.

Yesterday, the librarian at the East Baltimore school received some hope for rebuilding, as 1,000 new and used books were given to the school's temporary library, thanks to Baltimore Reads Inc., a nonprofit group that aims to end illiteracy.

The Baltimore Reads Book Bank donated the books after learning of the Jan. 30 fire, which damaged the school's library, parts of the cafeteria and offices. Damage was estimated at $1 million.

Some of the library's books were salvaged, and several bags of books were donated by citizens soon after the fire.

"Their library was a great resource," said Bridgid Burke, the book bank coordinator. "When they no longer had it, we knew we had books in our warehouse that we could give to help rebuild it."

Investigators determined a faulty electrical socket caused the fire that damaged the two-story library and more than 24,000 items.

School officials have designated a lounge used by the school's 2,229 students as a temporary library. "The principal said this [location] would give me inspiration," Ms. Mercer said. "I can sit here and look through the window at the new one being built."

The temporary library is sparsely furnished: a couch, two tables with chairs, a small desk and 24 donated bookcases.

Yesterday, the key ingredient arrived.

"I feel really happy they're bringing a lot of books in to help us with our work," said George Wheeler, a 17-year-old junior, who has been a library aide for three years. "I had to go to Enoch Pratt [Library] on Cathedral Street to do my black history report."

All types of books were donated, from dictionaries and encyclopedias to paperback romance novels.

"We tried to get a little bit of everything," said Roland Roles, the distribution supervisor at the Baltimore Reads Book Bank. "Contrary to what people say about kids, they read and they read about everything. So we opened our selection for them."

Principal Stanley E. Holmes said a rebuilding committee has been established to monitor donations, reroute students who need help with library materials and plan a layout for the rebuilt library, which will open in October.

"We lost everything," Ms. Mercer said. "But we have a chance to do it again and make it better."

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad