Yes, there really is a house of gold in Cambridge, Md. The Dorchester County Public Library (DCPL), truly, a very valuable treasure chest loaded with great nuggets and precious gems. Shining gems are each member of the wonderful professional staff schooled in the art and science of library organization and information technology. Guardians of a grand treasure of data nuggets, relevant information, stored in a vast collection of books, computers and other data-holding devices loaded with golden pieces of valuable knowledge. All for you, the general public!
In today’s global economy, these data nuggets, golden bits of relevant information, in part, is the new form of gold and system of money. And the flow of it, the new currency! Nowadays to get ahead, you must know how to effectively handle this current, and forever-changing form of economic activity. Why? Because of its evolutionary, personal and world-wide commercial impact. Plus the fact that our modern world demands it! The librarian’s greatest desire is to help you achieve that end. To the public, the help is free. All you have to do is ask for it. And of course, have a strong desire to improve your own personal situation. No doubt, we live in a fast-paced, dynamic age of information technology, and the public library can help make sense of it all.
The first public library in America, The Library Company, was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 in Philadelphia, Pa. During this colonial period, there were no public libraries, only private ones. Books were rare and very expensive, only the wealthy had large collections and could afford them. Access to these collections were mostly limited to the rich and the clergy. Benjamin Franklin and a few friends, all members of a local philosophical group, recognized the high value of relevant information stored in certain books. Wanting to increase their knowledge on a wide range of subjects, as well as settling disputes, they decided to build a collection of books. So, they pooled their money together and started the process of buying. Once books were housed and well organized, public access was also allowed. The precious value of book collections for the public, or houses of gold was quickly recognized by many. As a result, the growth of public libraries across the USA today is well over 16,000.
“In January of this year (1922) a few public-spirited men and women of Cambridge, Dorchester County, Maryland, called a meeting of the citizens at the Chamber of Commerce rooms for the purpose of establishing a free public library for the town and county.” (Maryland Library Notes, Vol. 2, No, 1, Oct., 1922) That was over 90 years ago, and the meeting was well attended. A plan is laid, and later, a name is chosen - “The Dorchester County Public Library,” to be managed by a board of 15 trustees. May 1922, under the guidance of Nettie V. Mace, library secretary, the Woman’s Club of Cambridge donates well over 1,500 books, data nuggets of relevant information, for library use. On Oct. 1, Edna Smith, the first librarian, reports a registration of 350 people. The Dorchester County Public Library (DCPL), a house of gold, is up and running!
Today, under the direction of Frances Cresswell, that great treasure chest and house of gold including the Hurlock branch, has over 87,000 precious holdings of books and other valuable items. There are close to 14,000 library members with annual visits around 52,000. The shining gems of the professional staff has also grown to about 20 or so, with a group of dedicated volunteers, of which I’m one. As a volunteer working inside the DCPL, I saw firsthand its true value and was inspired to write this commentary. As a free community service, the library offers special educational programs for both adults and children. There are also meeting places available for discussions of community events. Benjamin Franklin once said, “a more educated public results in a more productive economy and responsible citizenship,” I agree! So, get your share of the wealth with the free help of the public library, A True House of Gold!
Editor’s note: Mr. Epps, writes from his home in Cambridge.