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December 15, 2020


Nicholas Brown

(301) 699-3500, ext. 6241

PGCMLS Awarded National Recognition for Race and Social Equity Innovation and Community Engagement Grants from Maryland Humanities and Zoobean

Largo, Maryland – The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) has strengthened its role as a national leader among public libraries with its efforts to serve the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognized with a 2020 Innovation Award from Urban Libraries Council and two new community engagement grants from Maryland Humanities and Zoobean, respectively, the Library’s potential for having a positive impact in the community is expanding significantly.

The Library’s work since March 2020 has focused on essential services and advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism through programs, resources, and community engagement. Staff from all departments, the Board of Library Trustees, Friends groups, and the PGCMLS Foundation have each played a role in this effort, which aligns with the Library’s new vision: “We provide a collaborative foundation within the community for all Prince Georgians to create the world they want to see.”

Urban Libraries Council Innovation Award

The 2020 “Pride at PGCMLS” initiative, which featured virtual programs, a new LGBTQ+ heritage webpage, and the development of a staff toolkit for serving LGBTQ+ customers, was named as an Innovations Initiative Honorable Mention award winner during the 2020 ULC Innovations Celebration held virtually on December 11. The annual Innovations awards recognize and raise the visibility of cutting-edge programs, strategies, tools, techniques and ideas from ULC’s member library systems across the U.S. and Canada. “Pride at PGCMLS” programs featured nationally-renowned bestselling authors like R. Eric ThomasGeorge M. Johnson, and Dr. Eric Cervini, a crowdsourced virtual community quilt, and engaging educational programs for all ages. These programs are available for viewing on demand at

“I am so grateful to all members of the Library’s staff and LGBTQ+ team for their commitment to our local LGBTQ+ community. Prince Georgians can turn to the Library as a welcoming and supportive environment,” said Roberta Phillips, the Library’s CEO.

“Pride at PGCMLS” was selected for by a panel of expert judges from 260 submissions in ten categories that showcase creative thinking and imaginative applications of library resources. The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System won in the category of race and social equity, with award winners being recognized for their level of ingenuity, the outcomes achieved and the ability for other libraries to adapt and implement their work.

“This year’s winners have quickly taken bold moves to ensure that the Library continues to serve the needs of the people in their community – especially those most vulnerable including children, stressed families, isolated seniors, and struggling small businesses,” said Urban Libraries Council President and CEO Susan Benton. “In the 10th year of our Innovations Initiative, we received the most dynamic and cutting-edge submissions to date. We celebrate the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System for creating an initiative that will positively impact their community and serve as a model to public libraries throughout North America.”

All 2020 ULC Innovations entries can be viewed at

Maryland Humanities Electoral Engagement Grant

The Library and Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission were among 12 organizations to be awarded grant funding from Maryland Humanities to produce projects focusing on civic and electoral engagement: the grantees span six Maryland counties and Baltimore City. These grants make up one component of the organization’s Voices and Votes Electoral Engagement Project (VVEEP). PGCMLS and the Human Relations Commission are producing a three part extension of the “Voting: Democracy in Action” series, developed by the Human Relations Commission in advance of the 2020 election. Between January and March, three virtual programs will explore major systemic issues in our national elections: “Where Identity Politics Go Wrong: How Hispanics are not a Monolithic Voting Bloc,” “How to Stop Voter Suppression Against Black America,” and “Immigration and Voting.” Additional details will be announced in January 2021.

VVEEP is supported by a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation administered through the Federation for State Humanities Councils for its initiative entitled “Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation.” This initiative explores civic participation as it relates to electoral engagement in a multivocal democracy.

Lindsey Baker, Executive Director of Maryland Humanities, says: “This subject matter is critical any year, but especially this one. We appreciate being able to support this timely programming in such a unique moment for our state and country.” She continues, “We look forward to this exploration of civic engagement with Marylanders.”

Zoobean’s Beanstack Black Voices Microgrant

PGCMLS was awarded a Beanstack Black Voices microgrant from Zoobean, the Maryland-based company that powers Beanstack, the Library’s platform for reading challenges and “Summer @ Your Library.” The funds will be used to expand the Library’s collection of books focused on the needs of the local immigrant and refugee communities.

Michelle Hamiel, the Library’s COO for Public Services, shares: “This opportunity to expand our collections for immigrant and refugee customers is essential as our county attracts a global community seeking access to resources and educational resources. We are grateful to Zoobean for their support of our local community.”

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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 915,000+ 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 booklovers, immigrants and refugees, job seekers, children, young professionals, seniors, and families alike. The Books from Birth and Ready 2 Read programs make the Library the primary source of early literacy education and Kindergarten readiness programs in the County.

PGCMLS’ robust online offerings include curated content collections for kids, teens, educators, Spanish speakers, and more. Virtual events and outreach provide access to the Library from the comfort of home or on the go. Special programs include the D.R.E.A.M. Lab, STEM Pals, and 3D printing, which offer teens and lifelong learners with opportunities to learn cutting-edge technology and STEM skills for job readiness or personal enrichment. The Library also provides drive-up WiFi access at all branches and mobile hotspot devices. The Library’s Laurel Branch Library received the 2018 AIA/ALA Library Building Award and was designated the best new public building in Maryland. 

About Urban Libraries Council

The Urban Libraries Council is an innovation and impact tank of North America’s leading public library systems. ULC drives cutting-edge research and strategic partnerships to elevate the power of libraries as essential, transformative institutions for the 21st-century. More than 150 urban member libraries in the U.S. and Canada rely on ULC to identify significant challenges facing today’s communities and provide new tools and techniques to help libraries achieve stronger outcomes in education, digital equity, workforce and economic development, and race and social equity.