A survey recently released by Library Journal ranks Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) 21st out of the 24 county library systems (including Baltimore City) in the state of Maryland. This is atrocious for a county that boasts high education levels, very high levels of affluence, and some of the greatest schools and cultural and arts organizations in the state.
The time has come to make a commitment to modernize our libraries and provide the valuable resources needed by our friends, families, and neighbors — all of us. This investment is of fundamental importance to the entire community — children, grandchildren, students of all ages and senior citizens. No other county-funded entity impacts so many of its residents, providing educational opportunities, enhancing the quality of the workforce, and contributing to the economic vitality of our community today. Libraries ensure that in generations to come, our minds, the quality of our lives, and our potential for personal growth will flourish.
A few key factors limit AACPL’s capacity to adequately serve our communities, especially when compared to our neighboring jurisdictions. Perhaps the most important of these are our limited operating hours. In addition, among our peers we’re scraping the bottom in per capita square footage. Our libraries have just half the minimum space recommended by the State Department of Education.
What’s needed? In the immediate future, the library will ask the County Executive and County Council to fund a full operating schedule in Fiscal 2014, as well as a reinstatement of Sunday hours at Crofton and Severna Park Libraries. And for the sixth year in a row, we will request funding for a new Annapolis Library.
Town Hall meetings are planned for February and March to provide further details about our need for additional hours and new facilities. More information about these gatherings will be forthcoming on our website, www.aacpl.net, on our Facebook page, and in the branches. Let your County Executive and County Councilman know that the time to modernize our library system is now!
Note: This article is a shortened version of a guest column we first wrote for the Capital. The full article, with tables and charts that illustrate our current weekly hours, our ranking against our peers in space and funding per capita, a list of 23 new libraries opened in surrounding counties in recent years, and the dates of community meetings, is at http://tinyurl.com/ModernizeAnneArundelLibraries.