After three years of top-to-bottom renovations to the Enoch Pratt Central Library, CEO Heidi Daniel says she can’t wait to throw open the library’s doors and let visitors see the results of the first major facelift in its 86-year history.
The $115-million renovation sought to preserve the integrity of the Central Library—with restoration of its hand-painted ceilings and main entrance—while introducing technology upgrades and increased public spaces to serve the next generation of library-goers. “[Enoch Pratt] is the cultural heart of the city,” says Daniel. “We bring people together, we connect them with resources, and we view that as a major part of our role for not only Baltimore, but the whole state.”
Many of the additions, such as the job/career center, teen and young adult wing, and expanded multi- purpose rooms, reflect how the role of public libraries has shifted from just a place to check out books to a community resource hub—with services ranging from English-learning classes to “hip-hop architecture” summer camps. Now that there’s more room to host large groups for programs such as panel discussions and author talks, the library’s team hopes to have one million people visit the Central Library this year, doubling the number of walk-ins.
Among the additions made to the library are more computers and laptops, now 176 total. This exemplifies the library system’s commitment to not only providing free-to-use technology, but also helping visitors navigate the digital world with the aid of staff members and courses. “We look at it as part of our mission to make sure that people aren’t barred from participating in digital life,” says Daniel.
While Daniel is looking forward to welcoming visitors to the library during its reopening block party and open house on September 14, she says she’s equally excited to see how the community uses its new resources and services for the next 100 years.
“The thought of continual generational usage of this building really makes the time and effort that we put into this historical renovation worth it,” says Daniel.