The Prince George's Memorial Library System was established in 1946. Since its inception, it has been the policy of the Library Board of Trustees that libraries be named after the location they are in and not after individuals. The Board at that time felt that since so much of the financial support comes from county funds that it would be appropriate in the naming of branches to indicate that it is the Prince George’s County Memorial Library system followed by the branch name based on the location.
The Laurel Branch was the first library to become part of the System but was not on the site of the current Laurel branch. From 1950 through 1962, the Library Board of Trustees looked for sites for a new Laurel library. The Board of Trustees and the County settled on a piece of land offered by Mr. William Stanley. At the time it was offered, Mr. Stanley did not require that the building be named after his family. Important to note here is the land was not deeded to the Library but to the County. The Board of Trustees was not informed of the terms of the deed until 1966 when the Laurel library building was already under construction.
In the 1960’s, Mr. William Stanley, Jr. and Mr. Robert Marshall deeded the land to the Board of County Commissioners under the condition that the Board build a library and name it The Stanley Memorial Library. Under the terms of the deed, the Board had to begin construction of the library within 2 years of the conveyance of the land or the title reverted back to Mr. Stanley, Jr. and Mr. Marshall. The library was completed in 1967 and named the Stanley Memorial Library thus honoring the legal requirements of the deed.
Over the years, the Prince George’s Library Board of Trustees has received requests to name libraries after individuals. Most recently on April 14, 2011, County Council Chair Ingrid Turner, reached out to the Board about a request from the Mitchellville-Bowie chapter of the National Council of Negro Women to rename the Oxon Hill Library, in honor of the late Dr. Dorothy Height, Chair and President Emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women. A civil rights leader, and women rights activist, Dr. Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
On October 17, 2011 the Board of Trustees denied the request to rename the Oxon Hill Library after Dr. Dorothy Height reiterating their policy of naming libraries after locations and not after individuals. On September 10, 2013, the Board approved naming a large meeting room in the new Laurel Branch Library after Dr. Dorothy Height to honor her public service and her legacy.
Prince George’s County Memorial Library System is a crucial part of our community’s economic and social fabric. Over the past four years, during a time of great economic hardship in our community, our library system registered nearly 17.5 percent increase in materials borrowed. In 2013 alone, Prince George’s County libraries were visited 4.5 million times.
We, the Library Board of Trustees take our fiduciary responsibility seriously and work to ensure that our libraries provide needed services to everyone in the community. In large part through the efforts of our library staff, we bridge the digital divide with public access computers and are the great educational equalizer in our society. We build literacy skills at story times and help jobseekers with their resumes and applications.
The Board of Trustees is a governance board and we set policy. We bring a commitment to the rights of citizens to information, and willingness to continually maintain and strengthen library services in Prince George’s County. As such, we work to ensure that all voices are heard and that everyone feels welcomed.