By ALEX DRAGONE
Senior Staff Writer
City and state officials opened the newly renovated Waverly Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system, located at the intersection of University Parkway, East 33rd Street and Barclay Street.
The Waverly Branch of the public library system opened in 1971 but was closed for extensive renovations in August 2013.
After $6 million and 18 months of work, the renovated building now has more natural light, an additional 4,000 square feet of landscaping, multipurpose rooms, separate teen and child sections, free Wi-Fi, an electronic self-checkout machine and a free photocopier for the community.
Dr. Carla D. Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system, hosted the event.
“The renovations we did are a reflection of what the community needs,” Hayden said. “The more investment we put here, the more investment will be generated around here.”
The renovations did who served from 1977 to 2007 and is a resident of the Waverly neighborhood, spoke about his relationship to the library.
“I think the phrase to use to encapsulate what’s happened here at the Waverly Library is ‘Let the sun shine in, let the light shine in,’” Sarbanes said. “Because I used to come here, as many of you did, and you couldn’t see. You had no idea what the weather was like in town. Whether it was raining or the sun was shining. Now look at this place. It’s just fantastic.”
Hayden said that one of the goals of the renovations was changing the public’s perception of the building.
“There are other library branches, I have to tell you, built during the same time that have the same structure [as] a fortress… protected against the community,” Hayden said. “So you will be seeing throughout the city more sunshine coming in to library branches over the next few years.”
Friends of the Waverly Library, a group dedicated to supporting the Waverly branch, was consulted by the city throughout the renovation process. Group member Pamela Criste said that the old Waverly branch needed improvement.
“It was very dark and dingy [with] very little light,” Criste said. “The librarians had their backs to the door.”
Despite its unattractiveness, Criste said the old library still functioned as a gathering place for the community, but she appreciated the renovations.
Both Criste and Hayden said that some other patrons pushed to make the library more like community center with a laundromat and a post office.
“A lot of the negotiation process had to do with what was possible with a limited space,” Hayden said. “Some people wanted things not totally library-related. But in the end, things turned out well.”
Ann Giroux, another member of the Friends of the Waverly Library, also spoke about the renovation process.
“I think the library did the best that they felt they could,” Giroux said. “The Department of General Services really is in charge of the project. I think a lot of people don’t understand that the construction and all of the costs are under the Baltimore City Department of General Services.”
Giroux dismissed the idea that many supported building a laundromat or post office in the library.
“Almost nobody wanted that. There was a small group of people outside of Waverly who came in really at the very end of the project and suggested that, but the library staff did not feel that the two level [plan] would even be remotely manageable for them,” Giroux said. “We thought it was safest for everyone to be on the same level and within visibility of the staff.”
“The Friends and the volunteers are just glad to be back,” Giroux said. “We’re just so excited that people can have their books again in the Waverly community. And also that we once again have a safe, clean, beautiful space for our school-age children who desperately need a place to do their homework.”
Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also spoke at the ceremony.
“This was a project that everyone wanted. This was a project that was important to this community for so many reasons,” Rawlings-Blake said. “[Waverly] is known historically for its diversity and for its strength and that diversity and strength was reflected in the strength of this library. So when the community had to grapple with the fact that this library was no longer suitable for what we thought of as the future of the library and of the community, it was bittersweet… So it was out of that bittersweet tension that we strove to make this happen.”
Maryland State Delegate Mary Washington, one of three delegates from District 43 which includes Waverly, Charles Village and other neighborhoods in Northeast Baltimore, said she was pleased with what the library was able to do with the money it had.
“Six million is a very reasonable amount for a project like this,” Washington, a Hopkins alumna, said. “This wasn’t just about renovating a library, this was about transforming a major intersection. And it’s a good start.”