Enoch Pratt Free Library—A Power of Libraries Story

Caitlin Thomas
Associate Marketing Writer

Throughout history, the city of Baltimore has seen it's fair share of ups and downs. They have seen violence, struggles with gangs, economic hardship, and immense poverty.

In 2015, Baltimore went through an extremely tough time. But despite all of these challenges, the one thing Baltimore still has is heart. Enoch Pratt library branches are in the center of some of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods. Surrounded by empty homes and severe poverty, Enoch Pratt still stands as a beacon of hope to those in the community. They offer employment and resume services to all guests, provide free access to educational resources and the internet, and is a safe space that all guests in the city can enjoy.

In 2015, Freddie Grey died in police custody amidst a summer of similar events nationwide that were covered widely in the press.  This death stoked widespread tension and frustration in the City and protests that were initially peaceful turned violent as was seen on TV. Most businesses on the streets were closed due to the protests, however, Enoch Pratt Free Library opted to keep their doors open to anyone seeking shelter and refuge from the chaos.

These events shone a light on some intense social and racial disparities happening in the city. African American residents of Baltimore earn, on average, approximately half of what white residents earn. African American residents also suffer much higher rates of unemployment than their Caucasian counterparts in Baltimore. There are some neighborhoods in the city with 50% or higher unemployment rate.

Despite these difficult and daunting statistics, Enoch Pratt Free Library decided they wanted to do something. This led to the conceptualization of the Mobile Job Center.

In response to this idea, the library partnered with Baltimore Gas and Electric Exelon, to purchase a 44’ RV outfitted with computers, printers, and a scanner—a literal mobile job center. The library could now extend their employment services to communities throughout Baltimore regardless of the distance. The Mobile Job Center goes into various neighborhoods to help those in their community gain confidence in their ability to apply for a job and give them the tools necessary to create an outstanding resume.

Operating since May 2017, the Mobile Job Center has already reached out to thousands of people in Baltimore. On average, they help 11 people per hour and assist with 400 resumes per month. Because of the Mobile Job Center, the library extends into the community and helps people get jobs every day.

So to be able to come into a neighborhood where the people that pass you by are full of that kind of request is so meaningful in terms of what we do every day.

Marlyn Norton | Mobile Job Center Librarian | Enoch Pratt Library

Marlyn Norton, a Mobile Job Center Librarian, said, “Now that people are coming with such serious requests or at least those are the ones that I see every day, you know they say ‘I need a job, but I have a background and I haven’t been able to get a job in years. Can you help me?’ So to be able to come into a neighborhood where the people that pass you by are full of that kind of request is so meaningful in terms of what we do every day.”

The Mobile Job Center has been awarded the Power of Libraries award based off of their hard work, dedication to their community, and their passion for helping others in a positive and lasting way. This is just one of many examples of how libraries can literally change the communities in which they reside.

Calvin G. Butler Jr., a Board member of Enoch Pratt and CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric, said, “We recognize that we are contributing in a larger fashion to the fabric of the communities in which we’re part of, and that’s the power of libraries.”