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$115M Enoch Pratt Free Library renovation and restoration underway

Posted at 6:03 PM, Jun 29, 2016

The nearly four-year long process into bringing the 19th century Enoch Pratt Free Library into the 21st century is officially underway.

The library is getting more than a facelift, it's being transformed into a space that can benefit everyone in Baltimore and around the state as well as generations to come.

“This building's going to get a heart and lung transplant with a little Botox,” said Dr. Carla Hayden, the CEO for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and President Obama’s nominee for Librarian of Congress.

The $115 million project has been more than 20 years in the making. The renovations include building a new teen and young adult wing, creation stations, expanded conference and meeting spaces, and a restored children's department.

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“The job and career center [will be] right behind me and computers everywhere. Family restrooms, new heating, cooling, fire protection, lighting, security, it's going to be wonderful,” said Dr. Hayden.

They've also hired architects who specialize in preserving the 130-year old library's historic integrity.

“So, it will look just as historical and beautiful but it will have the latest and the greatest,” Dr. Hayden said.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford were also at the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday kicking off the renovation and restoration of our nation's first public library system.

"To be able to announce such a significant investment to renovate this library to bring it to state-of-the-art and once again lead in the nation is an exciting day,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

It's a big investment into the Central Library's infrastructure, but library staff said an investment into more library materials is still missing.

Officials had requested an additional $200,000 in the City's 2017 fiscal budget, which was initially supported but was later scaled back to $100,000 in order to restore funding for youth programs.

“They had fully supported our budget than the negotiations began over the $4 million for youth services at which point the Mayor had to go back and look at areas where she could make a reduction,” said Gordon Krabbe, the director of administrative services, for the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

“We couldn't give them the full $200,000 because it was very clear that people across the City wanted more resources for youth programming,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

Library staff don't believe it will have an impact on the public but said they could've really used the funding.

“We are deeply concerned and hopefully they will find some way to restore that money because that comes directly out of our budget for books, materials, and the things that make the library what it is,” said Ben Rosenberg, the vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

The renovation is expected to be completed in nearly four years. The Central Library/State Library Resource Center will also remain open throughout the entire period of the renovation.

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