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November 13, 2023


Andrea Castillo

(301) 699-3500 x6158

‘A way to save lives’: PGCMLS aiming to equip all library branches with life-saving defibrillators

Largo, Maryland – Each neighborhood branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) offers a variety of materials and services to its customers: copies of the latest bestsellers, programs for all ages including storytimes and conversation clubs, computers that connect to the internet, and more. Several locations in the system also have life-saving equipment that can help increase the chances of survival for those who experience cardiac arrest in library facilities, and the PGCMLS Foundation is on a mission to make sure that equipment is inside of every branch in the system. 

This #GivingTuesday, on November 28, the PGCMLS Foundation is aiming to raise $20,000 to equip all 19 library branches in the system with portable automated external defibrillators, or AEDs. Men and older adults are at increased risk of experiencing cardiac arrest, and Black people are more likely to die, although factors like family history, additional health issues, physical stress, alcohol and drug use, and other factors can trigger or increase the risk of suffering cardiac arrest, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 

Currently, AEDs are available at Baden, Hyattsville, Laurel, New Carrollton, and South Bowie branch libraries, and also at newly built locations, including Bladensburg and Surratts-Clinton branch libraries.

“When we refer to our libraries as 'safe spaces', we want to make sure that includes keeping them safe in the event of the unimaginable,” said John Pfeifer, the Library’s donor engagement and grants officer. 

When someone goes into cardiac arrest – which happens when the heart stops because it has fallen out of rhythm and oxygenated blood cannot be pumped through the body – it is important to act quickly, said Jermaine Gordon, safety and security supervisor for PGCMLS. 

In the first few minutes after cardiac arrest has occurred, it is critical both to administer CPR and use an AED if one is available. Through CPR, chest compressions are administered to keep blood physically flowing through the body.  Pairing that with an AED, which sends electric shocks through the chest when they detect an irregular rhythm in the heart in order to keep it beating steadily, according to the American Heart Association, increases the chance of survival following cardiac arrest. 

“[THE AED] is the most important part of the chain of survival,” Gordon said. 

The AEDs inside branches, which will also have accompanying signage, will provide audible instructions in English and Spanish, making using the devices in an emergency as simple as a round of “Simon Says,” Gordon said. 

In addition to getting AEDs in all PGCMLS branches, staff will have the option of volunteering to take CPR, AED, and first aid training courses as well, said Gordon, who is trained to teach the courses. 

The use and availability of the devices is an issue that has continued to gain national prominence, thanks to incidents like one in January 2023, when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest at a game in Cincinnati. He credited CPR and an AED with saving his life and has since gone on tour to promote CPR training and distribute AEDs, according to ESPN reports.

Now found in all sorts of public facilities, from airports and banks, to government buildings and more, it makes sense to put them in libraries too, according to Gordon. 

“Having a defibrillator is a way to save lives,” he said. 

The PGCMLS Foundation accepts donations online at, by phone at (202) 295-7007, or through email at Checks can also be mailed to PGCMLS Foundation, 9601 Capital Lane, Largo, MD 20774.

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About the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) helps customers discover and define opportunities that shape their lives. The Library serves the 967,000+ residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland through 19 branch libraries, a 24/7 online library, and pop-up services throughout the community. PGCMLS is a responsive and trusted community-driven organization. Programs, services, and outreach activities serve book lovers, immigrants and refugees, job seekers, children, young professionals, seniors, and families alike. PGCMLS is the recipient of the 2021 Urban Libraries Council Top Innovator Award for Workforce and Economic Development. Learn more at