Laurel resident Samuel Epps IV, a political organizer for a health care workers' union, has been appointed to the seven-member board of trustees for the Prince George's County Memorial Library System.
Epps was nominated for a vacant board seat by Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III, and the County Council approved the nomination Oct. 25.
"Our libraries need an advocate like Mr. Epps. Someone who mentors and understands young people and helps put them on a path to success and greatness," Baker said in a statement.
"Prince George's County is fortunate to have a wonderful library system and citizens like Mr. Epps, who serve as a voice and advocate for so many," he said in the statement.
Epps was chosen from a pool of 14 applicants and was one of three the library board recommended to Baker.
Epps said he has three ambitions for the county's libraries: to find ways to keep libraries open on Sundays, improve outdated facilities and reverse staffing cuts.
"The library has lost hours and staff to budget cuts," Epps said. "I think we need to do more to keep libraries open."
Epps has worked as an activist, labor organizer and a community leader, and ran for the District 1 County Council seat last year.
Epps has served on the boards of Hope Inc., an organization that provides transitional housing to people just returning from prison or who are working homeless; Ceasefire Maryland, a group that advocates for gun control; Maryland Citizens Against State Executions; and the Villages of Patuxent Greens Homeowners Association.
He represents 1,700 workers through 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in the call to revamp Prince George's Hospital system, organizing meetings of stakeholders to develop long-term solutions for the county's hospitals.
Epps has also served as a trustee of the First Baptist Church of North Brentwood.
"Sam has always believed that a community is only as good as the people of that community who choose to get involved to make their neighborhood better," a spokesperson with the Office of the County Executive said in a press release following Epps' approval.
Epps, who holds a bachelor's in political science from Penn State, is currently pursuing his master's degree in public administration from Capella University.
The board of trustees determines library policy for the county's 19 libraries, from controlling the budget to personnel policies. In fiscal year 2011, almost 2.9 million people used county libraries, with 420,000 registered cardholders, said Kathleen Teaze, Prince George's County Memorial Library System director.
As a member on the board of trustees, Epps will be working on the library system's new five-year, long-range plan.
"We have a new vision and a new mission," Teaze said.
The board's mission includes updating Prince George's County libraries to offer more services — from helping individuals apply for jobs to offering early literacy programs for children and new technologies such as downloadable electronic books.
The board is also in charge of rebuilding the Laurel Library, which it plans to restore in its current location on Seventh Street after acquiring the adjacent properties necessary for its expansion, Epps said.
"Our vision is one word: It's 'enrich,' " Teaze said. "I think someone like Sam Epps — who has a priority of education and also of community betterment — is very qualified to help us to do that."