Mayor Scott Announces $11.7 Million in American Rescue Plan Act Funding Towards Expanding Library Services and Renovations

$4.4 Million to Advance Digital Equity; $4.25 Million for HVAC Repair in Enoch Pratt Free Library Facilities; and $3 Million Toward Building Park Heights Community Library

BALTIMORE, MD. (Tuesday, February 21, 2023) - Today, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced additional investments using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds: a combined $11.7 million to advance digital equity, update the HVAC systems of City libraries, and help build a new library in the Park Heights community.

"The Pratt Library System is a pillar in Baltimore and is a vital resource for our residents. During the pandemic, we saw how this institution promptly responded to the needs of our students and residents by supplying free Wi-Fi among other free services - and now we have the opportunity to expand those services and engage more residents with this historic investment," said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. "This investment will serve as another substantial step towards a future where no Baltimorean is left behind, digitally or otherwise."

$4.4 Million to Advance Digital Equity through Pratt Anywhere, Reimagining Public Computer Spaces, Expanding Outdoor Connectivity, and Growing Digital Navigators Program

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the digital divide and increased the need for safe spaces to connect to the internet to learn, work, or access resources. Digital inclusion means that everyone in Baltimore can access the technology tools and knowledge needed to realize their goals and fully participate in the community. With this in mind, Enoch Pratt Free Library will partner with the Office of Broadband and Digital Equity to: implement the Pratt Anywhere and city-wide digital navigator programs, reimagine public computer spaces, and expand outdoor connectivity. This investment is part of the $35 million ARPA investment in Broadband and Digital Equity announced in November 2021.

  • Pratt Anywhere - Pair access to equipment with programming focused on building and exercising skills necessary for the 21st-century digital economy. The library will offer this programming at branches and partner locations within underserved and disproportionately impacted communities.
  • Digital Navigators - Hire and certify digital navigators to offer visitors one-on-one technical support to respond to the increasing service demand. Enoch Pratt Free Library's city-wide digital navigator program will generate opportunities for economic advancement by creating IT career pathways while addressing an immediate and urgent need for direct one-on-one support for residents.
  • Reimagining Public Computer Spaces - Redesign traditional "computer banks" into innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial spaces for the community by creating public co-working places, enabling social distancing, and establishing privacy kiosks for telehealth visits or job interviews.
  • Outdoor Connectivity Expansion - Enhance the ability of residents to access free Wi-Fi by improving the outdoor spaces at disproportionately impacted library locations, including landscape improvements, new lighting, and new permanent fixtures that enable visitors to work and charge devices outside of library operating hours.

"This partnership and funding represent Baltimore City's commitment to enriching the lives of its residents by providing the technology and resources needed to eliminate barriers to civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning and access to essential services," said Broadband and Digital Equity Interim Director Kenya Asli.

$4.25 Million for HVAC Repair

Along with welcoming residents to use the library daily, library branches are designated as cooling centers, providing air-conditioned spaces for residents without air conditioning. Aging HVAC systems and the need for repairs impacted the ability of libraries to serve in this capacity.

In response, the Baltimore City Department of General Services will partner with Enoch Pratt Free Library to replace aging HVAC systems at locations prioritized by factors including: physical condition of the system; number of users; energy use of existing equipment; and equity based on percent of minority population and percent of population with a household income under the federal poverty line.

"Pratt Library branches serve a crucial community need as cooling centers during warmer months, and replacing these systems can be costly," said Department of General Services Director Berke Attila. "This funding enables DGS to support Pratt Library to begin replacing HVAC systems where they are most needed."

$3 Million for the Construction of the Park Heights Library

The construction of a new Enoch Pratt Free Library in Park Heights will be the system's first new branch in over 15 years. The new facility in Northwest Baltimore will replace the old Pimlico branch, which closed more than 22 years ago. Funding will go towards design and development, construction, furnishings, and site work for a 16,000-square-foot facility-with an anticipated total cost of about $17 million.

"We are thrilled that this $3 million investment from the City gets us one step closer to making a library in our Park Heights community a reality," said Pratt Library President and CEO Heidi Daniel. "I also want to thank our state and community partners who continue to advocate for this project. We can't wait to collaborate with the community to create a new state-of-the-art facility for all to enjoy."

"This funding announcement marks another investment in Baltimore City using ARPA. Regardless of your socioeconomic status, the public library provides information and educational opportunities free for all people," said the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs Chief Recovery Officer Shamiah Kerney. "We look forward to coordinating with our Enoch Pratt Free Library partners to ensure that Baltimore's libraries continue to be safe and accommodating places for learning and resources for all residents and communities."

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About the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided $641 million to the City of Baltimore in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts. Mayor Brandon M. Scott has established the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs to transparently and effectively administer this funding on behalf of the City. For additional information, visit the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs website at arp.baltimorecity.gov.

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