Pratt library to stress technology, fund-raising Vision of future contained in draft strategic plan to be focus of 3 hearings


The Enoch Pratt Free Library by 1999 should, among other things, provide Internet access for children in every branch, serve as a "facilitator" for community groups and develop a strong network of corporate sponsors, according to a draft of the library's three-year strategic plan.

Scheduled to take effect Jan. 2, the plan endorses a vision of the Pratt as an activist organization and information provider, not just a repository of books.

"The library can become an active facilitator, organizer, and conduit for information exchange particularly for small and medium-sized business and not-for-profit organizations," the draft reads.

The plan was disclosed among other items yesterday by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke at his weekly news briefing. Copies of the plan will be available to the public next week. Three public hearings on the proposals are scheduled for next month.

"We've been so busy at recovering from problems in the early part of this decade that we are only now coming up for air and looking at what must be done to give the public more," library spokeswoman Averil J. Kadis said.

When Anna Curry was fired as library director in 1992, city officials accused the Pratt of being unfocused at best and mismanaged at worst. Her successor, Carla D. Hayden, has been praised for her energetic approach to problems at the Pratt. But library officials said the strategic plan -- and the extent to which it is carried out -- will offer an important test of her ability to modernize the library.

Dr. Hayden could not be reached yesterday.

If there is a central theme to her plan, it is technology.

The document calls for upgrading the library's computer hardware and software, training staff members in technologies, and charging for some on-line services to offset the cost of

developing technology programs.

"We see technology as an important way of conveying information," Ms. Kadis said. "It makes access to information easier and more affordable, for the community and the library."

The document's executive summary calls the plan "an architectural framework" for making the Pratt "a leader among public libraries." But perhaps just as important, library officials believe the document can be invaluable as a tool for rallying fund-raisers and the public behind initiatives.

"Among the people we will be sending this document to will be a large number of donors," Ms. Kadis said.

State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who praised the plan, cautioned that its success at a time of government cuts will rest largely on its ability to attract new donors, particularly corporate donors.

Officials said the library has an endowment of about $12 million, but 94 percent of its funding still comes from city, state or federal government sources, according to the plan. Ms. Kadis said the library has begun a search for its first full-time development administrator.

"It can't all be done at once," said Ms. Kadis. "But we can begin to spend time going not only after donors but foundation grants and other things."

The strategic plan draws heavily on the input of staff members: five "task forces" of library employees focusing on different areas for improvement, focus groups and a conference of Pratt staff, as well as a survey of approximately 5,000 library users.

The three public meetings will take place at the Pennsylvania Avenue branch at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7, at the Patterson Park branch at 6:30 Nov. 9, and at the Central Enoch Pratt Free Library at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 14.

Comments and questions on the plan may be directed to Dr. Hayden's office at the central library, 400 Cathedral St., Baltimore 21201, or by calling 396-5395.

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