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The Enoch Pratt Free Library Receives a $50,000 Grant from the PNC Foundation to Help Bridge the Digital Divide

Community Organizations to Provide Free Internet Service in Southeast Baltimore

January 29, 2021

Baltimore, MD – The Enoch Pratt Free Library today announced its partnership with the Digital Harbor Foundation and Project Waves to provide free internet service to 50 households in southeast Baltimore. The launch of this Enoch Pratt Free Library initiative is made possible through a $50,000 PNC Foundation grant.

The funding supports the installation of an antenna on the roof of the Southeast Anchor Library, with receivers now being placed in the homes of 50 families in the Highlandtown, Greektown, and Patterson Park communities. Those receivers will provide free internet service from the Pratt Library directly to those households.

“I am excited about this partnership that furthers our work to bridge the digital divide and connect all Baltimoreans, especially those who have been historically disconnected and left out. I want to congratulate the Enoch Pratt Free Library on this huge accomplishment,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “Ensuring access to resources like internet, especially in the midst of this pandemic is crucial as we continue to work to build equity within our communities and provide our residents with the tools that they need to not just survive, but thrive.”

“Now, more than ever, internet access is vital in every home. This presents a particular challenge for the community we serve as we know so many of our neighbors can’t afford the high cost,” says Pratt Library President and Chief Executive Officer, Heidi Daniel. “This project is just one way the Pratt Library is stepping up to help bridge the digital divide in Baltimore.”

“The Internet is an extension of our Libraries; the conduit through which families across socioeconomic lines access information at scale,” says Adam Bouhmad, Founder & Director of Project Waves. “Information is power: it’s a voice, and it’s a way to connect and collaborate with others during critical and challenging times in society. As a grassroots organization, Waves is proud to be partnering with the Enoch Pratt Free Library to continue providing this fundamental, basic human right that should be accessible to all-across Baltimore City and beyond."

“As educational and in-person opportunities have been limited due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever before to ensure children and residents have access to the technology services they need to move forward with their daily routines,” said Laura Gamble, PNC regional president for Greater Maryland. “We are pleased to support the efforts of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and their partners to provide a much needed service to the Southeast Baltimore community.”

The Connectivity Project located at the Enoch Pratt Pennsylvania Avenue branch was also funded by the PNC Foundation. The funding allowed the library to purchase Chromebooks and hotspots, for long-term lending, to customers who are either searching for employment or looking to increase career opportunities. Cohorts of 25 customers are receiving one-on-one and community support and technology instruction as they set and meet their personal workforce and continuing education goals. They are working towards building skills for promotion and career development using library resources on topics such as medical billing codes, basic computer programming, technology, administrative assistant basics, and more.

For more details, check out this YouTube video on the project and visit www.prattlibrary.org/digital-divide.

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About PNC Foundation

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (www.pnc.com), actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life. For more information, visit www.pncgrowupgreat.com.

About Project Waves

Roughly one-third of Baltimore City does not have access to broadband Internet in their homes. As described in The Deutsch Foundation's Digital Access and Equity Report in Baltimore City 2017, the internet is arguably the most important communication tool of the 21st century and, therefore, lack of access is a critical opportunity gap that disproportionately affects low-income and minority households. Waves is our proposed approach to bridge this divide through a community-driven network committed to providing highly available, transparent, reliable internet to Baltimore. Waves was founded in 2018 as a response to the FCC's repeal of Net Neutrality.

About Enoch Pratt Free Library

The Enoch Pratt Free Library, the nation’s first free library system, opened its doors in 1886, the result of the generosity and imagination of businessman and philanthropist Enoch Pratt. Mr. Pratt envisioned a public library where “races, ages, and socio-economic classes mingled and people could educate themselves – without cost,” and his passionate belief continues to guide the organization. Today’s Pratt Library – Baltimore’s public library and the Maryland State Library Resource Center – consists of the Central Library, 21 branches, two bookmobiles, the Mobile Job Center, the Pratt Centers for Technology Training, and the Regional Information Center. The Library’s mission is to empower, enrich, and enhance the quality of life for all through equitable access to information, services, and opportunity.