With a little help from their friends and neighbors, including university staff, the residents of Charles Village will receive the gift of a new library this winter.
Staff members from Volunteer Services, the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and the Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth have played an active role in the development of the Village Learning Place Inc., a library and educational program center that will replace the St. Paul Street branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library that closed in September 1997.
The new nonprofit facility, now undergoing extensive renovations, will open in the 2521 St. Paul St. location sometime in February and will feature a library, a learning center, a coffee bar and a community garden.
Plans are for the learning center to contain a computer laboratory and offer educational services for residents of all ages, such as an after-school reading program for elementary school children and a parent education resource center. The library itself will focus on maintaining a significant children's book collection, in addition to containing books for adults.
Bill Tiefenwerth, director of Volunteer Services and Homewood Student Affairs Community Relations, has served on the library's program committee and has been involved from its initial planning stages.
Tiefenwerth said the new library, the result of a grass-roots effort by Charles Village residents, is an important piece of the community fabric that had been missing.
"At [Volunteer Services] we just thought that a library is a key point to having a healthy community, and we sought out an involvement in this project as any good neighbor should," Tiefenwerth said, adding that Volunteer Services also will be providing students to work in the library. The after-school program is modeled after the university's own successful Tutorial Project and will offer local elementary school students additional reading and homework support. The program, called The Johns Hopkins University-Village Learning Place Tutorial Project, was created by Weslie Wornom, director of Hopkins' Tutorial Project and assistant director of Volunteer Services and Community Relations, who currently sits on the library's board of directors. The Margaret Brent Elementary School, located one block north of the Village Learning Place, has already agreed to participate.
Tiefenwerth has assisted in preparing grant applications for funding of the facility and spearheaded the library's revival of a former university program, which was called the Baltimore Free University. The new variation would consist of local residents teaching other Charles Villagers free courses on such diverse topics as woodworking or a particular computer program.
Another university staff member on the library's board of directors is Thomas Izbicki, a librarian at MSEL and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of History. Izbicki has been involved in developing the library's collection, its policies and procedures and its interior design and also has provided technical support. Kimberly Nolan, media coordinator at the Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth, has been involved in investigating funding opportunities for a technology center and has designed the library's Web site.
Jennifer Feit, executive director of the Village Learning Place, said the participation of individuals at Hopkins has been crucial to establishing this new community resource.
"Hopkins' involvement is also important to sustaining the library for many years to come," Feit said. "Hopkins can bring a wealth of resources into this community."
Feit said the Village Learning Place is still looking for book donations, tutors and volunteers to help in pre-opening setup. Volunteers and donors can contact Feit at 410-235-8400.