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Room for children to read Library: Two new pavilions at the Pratt will allow youngsters to enjoy readings and select books in a more commodious setting.


Young Baltimore readers will enter the world of books and reading in a new downtown setting planned to open in 2000 -- a graceful pair of circular pavilions set in the children's garden off Mulberry Street.

Local architects have devised a twin set of glass houses, one named for the sun and the other for the moon, for an expansion of the central Enoch Pratt Free Library's children's department. The estimated cost is $550,000, most of it provided as a gift by two Baltimore families.

"We really crave a room that will honor the programming we do," said Selma Levi, the children's librarian, who spends afternoons and weekends spinning tales of good bears, green toads and the occasional witch.

The concept behind this expansion is to provide an ideal space for youngsters to hear a good story well told by librarians -- and then select books for themselves from the shelves.

"Many times we are interrupted when we tell stories," Levi said of the present layout of her department, where the storytelling area is in the midst of the small tables and bookshelves.

This ground-floor chamber of childhood literature can be a very busy place. Young book borrowers and their parents do a lot of checking out there; the children's section of the downtown Pratt is second only to adult fiction in numbers of books borrowed.

About 65,000 children's books are housed on its open shelves, and many more in a rich collection of children's literature are stored in the library's stacks.

Librarians say the new rooms will increase the space for storytelling threefold. The library can accommodate 40 children on carpeted risers now; the Moon Room will feature new audiovisual equipment in an amphitheater seating 125 or more children.

The south-facing Sun Room is closest to Mulberry Street, a thoroughfare whose name coincidentally turns up in the first Dr. Seuss book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." The room will have potted trees, a pond, books and toys. It will be the designated preschool section.

For 20 years, this garden area -- which was once an entrance to the library -- has been closed.

The central Pratt's children's department is housed in the same room where generations have headed for books and storytelling hours -- a long space in the basement where youthful noise can be kept away from adult patrons upstairs. It will continue to be part of the children's department.

Many Baltimoreans remember the room for the fish pond inset with mossy green 1930s pottery tiles showing figures of crabs and aquatic life. A sculpture of a girl and a fish called "The Young Siren," by the late Bolton Hill artist Perna Krick, will also be retained.

"One of my greatest pleasures is to have fathers come in with the children on the weekend," Levi said. "They tell me a few lines of a book they read 30 years ago, and I can go right to it."

Donors who have provided $400,000 of the project's cost are the family of the late Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff, for whom the children's garden will be named, and Samuel G. and Margaret A. Gorn, for whom the Moon Room amphitheater will be named.

Work is to begin in the spring.

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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