Enoch Pratt Free Library’s top leader Heidi Daniel is stepping down after seven years heading Baltimore’s 137-year-old library system.

Daniel, who has served as the Pratt’s president and CEO since 2017, will leave her position by the end of February to become CEO of the King County Library System in Washington state, one of the largest circulating library systems in the country.

“Leading the Pratt Library has been one of the most humbling, fulfilling, and joyful experiences of my life,” Daniel said in a letter to the Baltimore community. “Each one of you made me feel at home in Baltimore and I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished.”

Daniel said Tuesday the decision to leave was personally and professionally the right decision for herself and her family.

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“It was a hard decision, a bittersweet decision, but one that I’m excited about,” she said.

Daniel is handing over the reins to Darcell Graham, Enoch Pratt’s vice president of public services, with whom she has worked closely on projects over the years.

Graham will serve as interim CEO while officials conduct a national search for a new executive. Library spokeswoman Meghan McCorkell said the search will fall to the boards of trustees and directors, which will likely hire an outside firm to recruit candidates. The leadership plans to discuss the search process further in the new year.

Daniel came to Baltimore in July 2017 from Youngstown, Ohio, where she served as executive director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County for five years. Prior to Youngstown, Daniel worked in both the Houston Public Library and the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma City.

During her time in Baltimore, Daniel oversaw the completion of the Central Library renovation and plans for a new Park Heights library, the Pratt’s first new building in more than 15 years. Her tenure in Baltimore coincided with several major events for the library, including an employee unionization campaign and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Pratt officials credited Daniel with helping build up the library’s popularity in recent years. The Pratt in 2023 achieved a 12-year high for circulation as well as a record number of active cardholders and the highest number of new cardholders in seven years, according to the release.

Daniel referred to the Pratt as a “national jewel” that will attract an exciting new leader.

Meanwhile, Graham said it was an honor to be selected to serve as the library’s interim executive. The Baltimore native grew up in the Park Heights community, where she said the library helped raise her.

Graham joined the Pratt in 1998 and has worked across nearly all public service divisions of the system. As vice president of Public Services, Graham oversees nearly 300 public service employees. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Baltimore and a master’s degree in Library & Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh, according to the release.

“I worked my way up,” Graham said of her time with the Pratt. “Baltimore is kind of old school like that where we have a lot of institutions of higher learning but we still embrace the good ‘ole boots on the ground approach to the way we do our work.”

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When asked whether she would seek to retain the position long term, Graham said she was interested in “making sure the Pratt has the leader that best suits the needs of the library.”

“I think I have about a six-month interview process,” Graham said of her role as interim president. “After that ... then we’ll see.”

Graham said Daniel is leaving the historic library system in a strong and stable position.

“I am confident that our Executive Administrative team will be able to seamlessly continue the Pratt’s important work,” she said in a release.