"Throughout my formal education I spent many, many hours in public and school libraries. Libraries became courts of last resort, as it were. The current definitive answer to almost any question can be found within the four walls of most libraries. "
— Arthur Ashe
— Arthur Ashe
The Prince George's County Memorial Library System is a public institution open to everyone no matter his or her financial status, land of origin, language of convenience or needs of the moment. The County library system fundamentally reflects and supports the ideas of government of the people, by the people and for the people. James Madison said, "Popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." This idea, this vital concept is in jeopardy if we the citizens of Prince George's County to not stand and compel our politicians to deliver the funds necessary to operate the system on behalf of everyone in the community, not just those wealthy enough to influence decisions of local self interest. " A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry," wrote Thomas Jefferson. The idea that we do not need to support a library system to its fullest, is an idea that says we do not need democracy for all.
The strength of a community is in its ability to provide opportunities to its members. Maxim Gorky notes that there are two forces that successfully influence the education of a cultivated man: art and science. Both of these are united in the book and by extension the information distribution services of a public library system accessible to everyone, not just a self chosen few. Indeed, paraphrasing Jefferson again, a library does not just contain "...articles of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, is their only capital ," Information distributed to everyone equally is the bedrock upon which an informed and educated citizenry depends, to continue with Jefferson's observations.
Good government in Prince George's County at a bare minimum must consist of Public Safety and Education. Thomas Carlyle wrote some 200 years ago that the " true University of these days is a Collection of Books. " Today we extend this idea to all the information platforms and services that the Prince George's County Memorial Library system provides as a public arm of great government. It is too easy in difficult financial times to forget the importance of libraries to the future well-being of our communities. None less than Andrew Carnegie the great man of business himself said " There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration. "
Any effort to reduce the services of the Prince George's County library system should be viewed a closing of the doors of opportunity and a limiting of doorways to advancement for those denied a portal to the 21st century. Just as surely as we must support public safety programs and people, so we must support the information distribution survives that are keystone to education and therefore opportunity. The Prince George's County library system is not a luxury but a minimal necessity. The County library system is a collection of books, but it is so much more today; the libraries in the county are the citadels of freedom, the fortresses of the future; and the keepers of the keys to quality of life for all.