The Howard County Library director -- who oversaw a dramatic expansion of the system in the past four years -- is retiring this summer, he told county officials this week in a surprise announcement.
Marvin Thomas sent a letter to members of the library's board of trustees, the Howard County Council and County Executive Charles I. Ecker confirming that he would retire at the end of June.
Assistant Director Norma Hill will succeed Mr. Thomas.
Both Mr. Thomas and Ms. Hill were unavailable for comment yesterday. Colette Gingles, spokeswoman for the county libraries, declined to comment on Mr. Thomas' retirement.
As director, Mr. Thomas headed the library system as it doubled its number of branches and developed into an institution that serves an estimated 1.9 million visitors a year.
During the last four years, three new branches -- in East Columbia, Savage and Elkridge -- were opened. In addition to the Central Library in Columbia's Town Center and the Miller branch in Ellicott City, the system also includes a small facility in Lisbon.
About 195,000 people have registered county library cards, library officials said.
About 2.6 million materials circulate annually from the libraries, including 1.5 million from the Central Library. That branch has one of the highest circulation rates per capita of any central public library in the country, library officials say.
Frank Chase, a member of Friends of the Howard County Library, a nonprofit citizens' organization, described Mr. Thomas as a "good administrator" who understands that residents expect more than just books from their library.
The library system is in the midst of an effort to obtain 50 to 60 computers for its branches. Last month, the Friends group gave the library system $7,500 to help purchase four or five computers.
In February, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Howard library system an $80,850 federal grant to start an adult reading program it will operate throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
Recently, however, the library has been faced with safety concerns, prompted by the rape of a 15-year-old girl and the assault of her 7-year-old sister in woods near the Central Library last month. The girls were waiting for a ride home after the library closed.
Pub Date: 4/26/96