By Cherlane Harris, Guest Contributor
I thought I knew everything there was to know about Enoch Pratt, but the 204th birthday celebration held at the Reisterstown Road Branch Library proved me wrong. There is nothing like an hour spent with Mr. Jeff Korman, manager of the Maryland Department at Central Library to show the importance of Mr. Pratt and the significance of the library.
As a young girl growing up in Baltimore, one of the first things I remember learning about the Enoch Pratt Free Library was that it existed because of a philanthropist (a big word for my vocabulary at thirteen). This humanitarian act made a lasting and profound impression on how I viewed this man and libraries in general.
Did you know that Central’s first building was much smaller with its entrance located on Mulberry Street? Mr. Korman said it was not an unusual occurrence to see Mr. Pratt at the library every day. When Mr. Pratt gave his sizable donation, he had the idea that a portion would be used perpetually to sustain the library's operation. He was a man for all people, wanting to provide free service without distinction of color or class, a message that was ahead of its time.
I remember visiting the bookmobile as a child when it stopped in my neighborhood. That’s where my love for books turned into a passion, reading authors like Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Franklin Dixon’s Hardy Boys Mysteries. I enjoyed learning that the Bookmobile was not always mobilized by an engine but was once a horse-drawn carriage filled with books.
Pratt's book wagon, 1940, Photo courtesy of Maryland Department Photograph Collection, EPFL/SLRC
I’ve always enjoyed reading and since I've always had access to the Enoch Pratt Free Library system as a child and young adult, for me, it has become my standard for what libraries should be. Perhaps that’s why this library holds a special fondness for me. Happy Birthday, Mr. Enoch Pratt! You would be proud of your library; I know I am.
Cherlene has been a customer at the Enoch Pratt Free Library all her life, and attends many of the programs put on by the library.