Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
I think it is the most important educational institution in Baltimore. It serves more people, for more varied purposes, than any other public or private educational institution in the city.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
Every library has a preschool program where parents can bring their kids, where they are read to by professionals and where in many cases it is their first introduction to books and learning. If we can get to those kids at a young enough age, and they not only develop the habit of reading but experience the joy of reading, they grow into adults who crave information and knowledge for the rest of their lives.
Each of the 21 branches of the Pratt Library—and there isn’t a neighborhood that isn’t within a mile or two of a branch—is not just a library in the traditional sense, but is also a community center; a place where people who don’t have access to the internet or computers can come, do whatever they have to do (such as look for and apply for jobs, research, etc.). It’s a safe place where parents can bring children after school for activities. Every branch has programs that are oriented to the demographics of the neighborhood—some may be strongly Latino or African American or Eastern European, depending on the location.
The Library should be a place where someone can find the answer to just about any question that they have… answers that are somewhat more comprehensive than those that are on Google. If you need to do research into an infinite number of topics, there is no better resource than the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
I had something to do with the Lawyer in the Library program, which hopefully will be implemented in more and more branches as resources become available. That program was created in response to the Freddie Gray uprising in April 2015. Within about 2 months, the Legal Aid Bureau in partnership with EPFL and through the enthusiastic support of Carla Hayden on behalf of the Library and Wilhelm Joseph on behalf of Legal Aid, had a staff lawyer (several days a week and for several hours each day) providing legal services to anyone who walked through the door at the Pennsylvania Avenue branch, which sits at the epicenter of the Freddie Gray uprising.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
The 2013 Gala where we celebrated Carla Hayden’s 20th anniversary as CEO of the library; it was just a great evening.
Recently, as part of an ongoing program of Community Services Committee, board members visited the South East Anchor Library on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. What struck me on that visit was the variety of uses that people of all ages were making of the library. All of the things I mentioned were all going on simultaneously at 11:00am on a Saturday morning. It was spectacular to witness.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
I’m hoping that one of the things that will occur during my time as Chair is that the number of people who use the library will increase. The Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of Baltimore’s greatest resources. We need to do everything we can to encourage Baltimorians to take advantage of it.