Library director to retire in 1996 Deputy also to leave county system

January 13, 1995|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Charles W. Robinson always has been outspoken and unconventional as Baltimore County's library director for 32 years, so why should his retirement be any different?

For one thing, he made sure to give adequate notice when he notified the library board of trustees: 15 to 18 months.

For another, he's more than willing to joke about it.

Mr. Robinson, 66, who oversaw explosive growth and led the system into the computer age, said that when retirement finally comes the first thing he wants to do is to buy a pickup truck and spend a month driving back and forth between his house and the nearest home improvement store. "I heard that for the first 30 days all you do is repair things around your house," he said.

Otherwise, he said, he hopes to keep a desk at the library, and do some consulting and speaking. Any fees he earns, he said, will be donated to the county library foundation.

One change he's really looking forward to in retirement, he said, is "spending an entire bloody summer in Maine, instead of just four weeks."

He and Jean Barry Molz, 67, his deputy since 1964, told the library board trustees Monday night that both would retire sometime in 1996, after a new director is chosen.

Even Mr. Robinson's retirement history has been unconventional. That's because it will be the second retirement for him, as well as Ms. Molz. They are the two longest serving library workers in the system.

"They're going to be very difficult to replace," board president Nancy Brooks said yesterday. "They brought the library from a small system to one of the best known . . . in the world. We'll be conducting a nationwide search" for a director.

Ms. Brooks said she expects many applicants. "This is a job people have waited for," she said.

Mr. Robinson said the new director likely would be paid about $95,000, set by the library board.

The director began working for the library system in 1959, and built its distribution rates rapidly with his controversial policy of buying the most popular new fiction in quantity, keeping county branches filled with the books more people want to read.

That growth saw the system expand from distributing 2 million materials in 1963, the year Mr. Robinson became director, to more than 12 million items in 1992, before eight mini-branches and the full service Loch Raven branch closed due to budget cuts in 1993.

The county distributes more materials per capita than any other system in the nation serving a major metropolitan population, Mr. Robinson said.

Although the 1993 closings cut circulation, Mr. Robinson's plan was to sacrifice the mini-branches to direct the library toward the computer age with the limited available funds. Installation of a new computer system is under way in most libraries.

Mr. Robinson and Ms. Molz had retired the first time in 1992, as part of a scheme to save the county operating budget money during the recession.

Since they both belong to the state retirement system, they officially retired, began receiving pensions and let the county make up the difference in their yearly salaries. The saving was used to reduce the impact of other library budget cuts.

However, this time Mr. Robinson and Ms. Molz say they plan to stop working when they retire.

"She and I both feel that for both the library and us, the time has come," Mr. Robinson said. "With changes in the county's demographics, the library needs a new outlook. The county is not as growth oriented. It's getting to be much more stable. A director needs to get out into the county. I'm not in a work-hard mode any more."

Ms. Molz, as direct and almost as opinionated as her boss, said she was "delighted" at the prospect of retiring after more than 40 years with the county and Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. She said she has no idea nor plan for what she might do. Maybe that freedom is what she's looking forward to, she suggested.

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