When Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III unveiled a $3.41 billion spending plan last week that would expand the number of library branches open on Sundays, he explained that the request came at the behest of his daughter.
“My daughter said she wanted Sunday hours expanded,” Baker said during a news conference Thursday at the county’s headquarters in Upper Marlboro.
His daughter, Aja Baker, 22, a senior in college, was commuting between St. Mary’s in southern Maryland and her family’s home in Cheverly, where she helps care for her mother, Christa Baker, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
While in Cheverly, Aja Baker needed a place to study on Sundays, an official said.
Baker’s proposed spending plan, which includes $1.8 billion for the county’s school board — an increase of $107 million over the 2014 budget — also includes $104 million for Prince George’s Community College and $27 million for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.
Three of the county’s 19 libraries are open Sunday: Those in Hyattsville, South Bowie and Oxon Hill.
By September, that number is tentatively scheduled to increase to seven.
The Fairmount Heights, Hillcrest Heights, Spauldings and New Carrollton libraries will be open 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
“It is fantastic that we are able to reach more people with more hours,” said Michelle Hamiel, associate director for public services for the county library system.
“The more we are open, that means we are engaging more with the community. The more we provide that access, the more we are able to enrich lives,” Hamiel added.
The number of people who have a Prince George’s library card is 462,055.
Sunday hours are important, Hamiel said, because that is the day when people often have more leisure time.
“Everything else is open on Sunday,” Hamiel said. “The library is a wonderful destination as a community center. Students have research to do on Sunday. Homework doesn’t stop.”
Hamiel cited a new Pew Research Center study that found that library users are often more engaged in their communities and are more likely to use technology.
Kathryn Zickuhr, research associate at the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, said the study found that library use strongly correlates with higher household income and education levels.
“Among people who graduated high school, 39 percent had visited a library in the past year,” Zickuhr said. “Among people who graduated college, almost six in 10 have visited a public library.”
Last year, a Pew report found that “African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to say that the local library is important to them and their families.”
The study found that 48 percent of African Americans and 43 percent of Hispanics say the library is very important to them compared with 35 percent of whites.
“When it comes to specific library services,” the study found, “African-Americans are more likely than whites 1) to use the local library to get access to historical documents or genealogical records; 2) to use the library to get access to databases such as legal or public records; and 3) to use the library to access or borrow newspapers or magazines or journals.”