This story was submitted as a nomination to the Reader’s Digest “Top 10 Nicest Places in America” contest: a crowd-sourced effort to uncover corners of the country where people are still kind and respectful in an era of cultural and political divides. If you know of a community, business, or nonprofit where kindness prevails, then be sure to submit a testimony or anecdote here before the June 5th deadline. (GNN will be one of the judges!)
The Enoch Pratt Free Library is a haven in the city of Baltimore, Maryland.
With 22 locations across the city, the library provides vital services, information, and opportunities to all. Where else can a homeless person, a mother with a child, a business executive, or the mayor walk in and all be treated equally?
The Pratt is a place where civil discourse happens. Librarians are trusted by the community and turned to for help. The Pratt helps people be their best selves.
Stories About Enoch Pratt Free Library
If you go around Baltimore, nearly everyone has a Pratt story. This year, “Social Worker in the Library” was launched to help connect people to the social services they need without ever having to leave the library.
One of the social workers was able to help a gentlemen begin to learn how to read. He stood up during a group session and told everyone for the first time that he was able to pay a bill on time because he could read what the bill said. He then proceeded to read aloud from a children’s story book. There was not a dry eye in the house.
Another program that’s expanding at the Pratt is “Lawyer in the Library.” Attorneys provide free legal aid to community members for things like expungements. One woman came in with her young daughter and was shocked to realize in a short time she could have her record expunged, which would open up employment opportunities she’d never had before. She looked at her daughter and said: “Today you have a new mommy.”
These stories happen every day inside the Pratt Library.
“Enoch Pratt Library is an anchor institution that is a community treasure in a profound way. This community treasure and its 22 branches circle and embrace the city as a mother embraces her young. The library provides the opportunity to learn about interest and a safe space to explore and exhale. It is also a hub for community members and service providers who want to assist their village in moving forward. The collaboration between Enoch Pratt Library and the University of Maryland School of Social Work is innovative and impactful. It is what a good neighbor does when the community members are in need.
“As the Faculty Clinical Instructor for this collaboration, I oversee 8 graduate students who provide direct services to patrons in 4 branches across the city. The patrons do not need an appointment and receive the services on site at the library. Completion of forms, assistance with workforce development or homeless services are a few of the services rendered. Over 500 individuals have reached out in some form to access these services. While there are many libraries that are starting to bring on social workers, Pratt is the only library providing direct services in multiple branches. This community gem is interested in being a ‘good neighbor’ and has extended these services free of charge. Immediate plans for expansion are in progress. Enoch Pratt is a true Baltimore treasure and an awesome neighbor indeed.” — Kimberly Street, Clinical Field Instructor, University of Maryland, School of Social Work
“Enoch Pratt Free Library has been my refuge and escape ever since I came to the U.S. at age 17. I had no friends and had not established ties to a new neighborhood. However, after school, I would go there and just find a sense of peace, purpose and quietness… Developing a love for books inspired me to write and so when I authored my first book, you selected me to come to the Central Library for a Writers Live lecture and book signing… The opportunity [that was granted to] me will be forever cherished… There’s nothing quite like Enoch Pratt.” —Devon Blackwood, Author
“There were two churches in my youth — Dickey Memorial Presbyterian and the Enoch Pratt’s Central Library. The difference is that I still go to the Central Library. I don’t know who I would be without the Pratt, and I don’t want to know.” —Laura Lippman, Author
(WATCH the video below)
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