Library director resigns

June 26, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

Philip A. Place, director of the Harford County Public Library for more than five years, has resigned to become director of the Warioto Regional Library Center in Clarksville, Tenn.

Mr. Place, whose resignation is effective July 29, said he's looking forward to "a less stressful job" in a "lovely area of the country."

"The kids are raised, and we're going to do things differently," he said.

Mr. Place said the location will put him much closer to Louisville, Ky., where his wife, Diana, plans to enroll at Southern Baptist Seminary.

"It's always hard to leave, but I can feel good about what's been accomplished here," he said.

During his tenure in Harford, the library's budget grew from $3.5 million to $6.2 million. In fiscal 1995, the book budget will exceed $1 million for the first time in the system's history.

Two years after Mr. Place's arrival in Harford, the library published a long-range plan on capital projects that outlined services and facilities for the county well into the next century. The blueprint has been borrowed by libraries all over the world, said Susan Burdette, the library's publicity manager.

As director, Mr. Place oversaw construction of the library's newest branch in Whiteford. The 7,300-square-foot, full-service branch, which opened in June 1992, serves the northern reaches of the county and southern Pennsylvania.

More recently, Mr. Place has overseen a feasibility study for renovating the 34-year-old Bel Air library. In May, that study outlined two options for building a 54,000-square-foot library at the current site on Hickory and Pennsylvania avenues in the center of town.

But Mr. Place says his biggest accomplishment probably was bringing "stability" to a library that was left in turmoil by a previous administration. Others agree.

"It was almost anarchy," County Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott said of the strained relationships within the library administration and the low morale of personnel in the late 1980s. James Gosier, the former director, was fired in 1988 by the Board of Library Trustees after complaints about his management.

"Mr. Place came in at a very difficult time and was very sensitive to what had happened in the past," said Mrs. Parrott, who was on the board as the County Council's first ex-officio member when Mr. Place was hired in February 1989.

Woodrow Grant, a member of the board of trustees since 1990 and an avid library user before that, said, "Phil Place was to the Harford County Library what Jimmy Carter was to the nation. He walked in after our own Watergate and had a calming effect.

"He reinstituted credibility in the administration of the system in the eyes of the staff and the public at large."

Pat Massarelli, president of the board, which together with the library director sets policy for Harford's nine branches, described Mr. Place as "a gentleman and a gentle man" and said, "I think he leaves the library in good shape."

The library system, like other county government agencies, had a couple of lean years in early 1990s, but the tide has seemed to turn lately.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's fiscal 1995 budget, approved by the council last month, gave the library a 19 percent increase in its operating budget.

Last summer, the library installed an automated circulation system and computerized public catalog for the county libraries and that of Harford Community College.

This summer, the system will install a telecommunications infrastructure that links major Maryland libraries with one another and with Internet, the national network of informational data bases.

The Warioto center is one of 12 regional library centers in Tennessee. It includes eight counties and serves a population of about 340,000.

As director, Mr. Place will be a consultant to the county library directors and will administer state policies and federally financed programs to the local libraries.

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