County narrows search for library chief to 12 Board will seek public, employee input in process

March 08, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's library board has narrowed its search for a director to a dozen candidates, and -- unlike the school board -- plans to reveal the final three to five contenders in May before making a choice.

Board leaders say they want to include the library's employees and supporters in their selection process.

"We are looking for input," said Patricia Fisher, the library board president. By broadening the process, board members can see how candidates handle themselves before the public, she said.

The county school board triggered controversy by conducting its superintendent search in secret. The board named Anthony G. Marchione to the position this week, as community leaders were calling for a more open search. "We're a bunch of neophytes," said Nancy Brooks, library search committee chairwoman and board vice president. "We just wanted to be very thorough."

The library board has never been faced with the task before; retiring Director Charles W. Robinson has held his post since 1963. Jean Barry Molz, his deputy since 1964, is also retiring.

Mr. Robinson presided over the library's rise from obscurity to become one of the nation's best known and most popular systems. The system expanded from circulating 2 million items in 1963 to more than 12 million in 1992, before budget cuts forced the closing of eight minibranches and the Loch Raven branch.

The system is tied with Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in per-capita lending among localities serving a major metropolitan area, he said.

The retiring director called the search "very finely balanced between confidentiality and input from people." Public disclosure at the outset would scare away good applicants, he said, while scrutiny at the final stage will help the board make the right choice.

The selection process was developed during an August retreat with consultant June Garcia, director of the San Antonio library system, Ms. Brooks said.

Thirty-two people applied for the job, and initial screening reduced the number to 15. Three people withdrew, and most of the remaining applicants will be interviewed this month at a convention of the Public Library Association in Oregon.

The final choice will come in late May and the new director will start work in September.

In mid-May, the board plans a forum to give each of the remaining candidates one hour to speak to a group of up to 200 library employees, public school officials and affiliated public and professional groups, such as members of Friends of the Towson Library.

Retired Dr. Raymond Markley, president of that group, said he appreciates being invited to help screen the finalists. "It shows [the board is] interested in the public and in people who use the library," he said.

Ms. Fisher said the board is not looking to change the county library's direction.

"We have a system that works," she said. "We're not looking for a savior or fixer."

What the board does want, Ms. Fisher said, is a director who is respected in the field, a "risk-taker" with "high political skills."

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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