Library building to reopen in '99, residents say Charles Village group celebrates state aid


Charles Village residents are organizing to continue a tradition of reading and learning at the century-old brick building that once housed a library branch.

Lee Jaslow, president of Village Learning Place Inc., said the historic structure at 2521 St. Paul St. will reopen early next year, -- according to the group's timetable, with help from $156,000 in state funds for renovations.

"I have new-found faith in the political system," Jaslow said at a Friday night celebration held by residents who protested last summer when the Enoch Pratt Free Library closed the branch. "It was refreshing to see what was promised was delivered."

As a three-piece band played "You're Nobody's Sweetheart Now," neighbors who had protested last summer clinked glasses and looked to the building's future. Jaslow and other volunteers said they plan to set up an adult reading room and a children's lending library.

Several state delegates and City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young attended the event. Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat, said that an annual sum of $60,000 was also appropriated for the center's operating expenses.

"This is an object lesson in grass-roots politics and democracy," said David Yaffe, an activist who protested the closing of two of 28 branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library last year because of a budget shortfall. The other closed branch was in Morrell Park.

City Circuit Judge John Carroll Byrnes, who temporarily enjoined the Pratt from closing the branch, said, "The fact that it still exists means people can do what they want with their neighborhood."

Byrnes suggested a plaque might be put on the building to inform passers-by that Enoch Pratt, the 19th-century philanthropist who began Baltimore's public library system, supervised construction of the Charles Village building and its .. garden.

Jaslow said it is not clear what role the Pratt will play in the learning center, although the court decision ordered the Pratt to maintain a "presence."

The center is leasing the building from the city for $1 a year. To open next year, it needs to raise more than $100,000 from private sources and is seeking grants from local foundations.

The Charles Village drama had other consequences as well. Last week, City Councilman Martin O'Malley held a hearing on his bill requiring the Pratt to hold public hearings before closing a branch.

Frank Jannuzi, a resident and member of the closed library task force, said, "This will have a happy ending when children and the community experience educational enrichment that flows out of here. We're not there yet."

After the party was over, a 10-year-old boy lingering outside on the sidewalk, Davon Scriber, noticed balloons adorning the building. "Is it open?" he asked.

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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