Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, Prince George’s County, Maryland

While many public libraries had been opening  across the country throughout the mid- to late-1800’s, the establishment of a public library system in Maryland lagged far behind.  In 1902, the Maryland State Library Commission (MSLC) formed to explore the establishment of public libraries within the State of Maryland.  In 1910, with the passing of new Maryland state library laws, The Maryland Public Library Commission (MPLC), which succeeded the MSLC, was established to “stimulate” the opening of permanent county and election district public libraries and to provide funds for the purchase of books for new libraries.  

Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (front)
Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (back)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

The roots of public libraries in Prince George’s County can be traced back to the late 1800s.  In 1898, The Forestville Library Association held an “entertainment benefit” to collect funds for a public library, and in June 1899, they received a parcel of discarded books from Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library.  In 1890 a room at an engine house in Upper Marlboro was set up as a library and reading room by the Marlboro Fire Association.  In May 1910, Laurel’s “new public library” was readied for opening with 700 volumes. On June 5, 1915, local talent performed for the benefit of The Prince George[‘s] Library and Reading Room Association.  On November 26, 1916, an oyster dinner and bazaar was held in Mitchellville to benefit The Prince George’s Library Association, and as reported in The Prince George’s Enquirer and Southern Maryland Advertiser on February 4, 1921, a space in the J. C. Hawkin’s Electric Shop had been secured for a public library in Hyattsville.  Greenbelt and Beltsville each opened public libraries in 1939 and 1942, respectively. 

“The Reading Club Started, ”The Prince George’s Enquirer and Southern Maryland Advertiser, January 18, 1889, Page 3
“Laurel’s Library to Be Used,” The Baltimore Sun, May 9, 1910, Page 11

While legislation was regularly presented to Maryland’s General Assembly, the most earnest attempts to establish and maintain free libraries in Prince George’s County were made  by county citizen groups.  The MPLC continued to rely upon the traveling library system to provide free library services to Maryland county communities.

Free traveling library in Hagerstown, Maryland
Courtesy The National Archives Catalog.  Photographer: American Library Association.

No copyright restrictions.
Free traveling library in Hagerstown, Maryland
Courtesy The National Archives Catalog.  Photographer: American Library Association.

No copyright restrictions.

In 1946, The Prince George’s Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) was established “as a living memorial to those who have made the supreme sacrifice and a testimonial to all those who served in wars.”  The Laurel Public Library, which served both Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel, was the first branch library of the system. 

Today, there are 19 branch libraries in the PGCMLS, including Accokeek, Baden, Beltsville, Bladensburg, Bowie, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden, Greenbelt, Hillcrest Heights, Hyattsville, Largo-Kettering, Laurel, Mount Rainer, New Carrolton, Oxon Hill, South Bowie, Spauldings, Surratts-Clinton and Upper Marlboro.

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