Linda J. Mielke, director of the Carroll County Public Library for 11 years, has accepted a job leading a Midwestern library system that has four times as many branches and serves more than 800,000 residents.
Mielke, 57, announced her resignation, effective in mid-August, at a board meeting last night. In September, she will become chief executive officer of the Indianapolis-Marion County libraries in Indiana, a system with a central library, 22 branches and three bookmobiles.
"Without a doubt, I have regrets about leaving Carroll County," Mielke said. "It is a special place where the library system has attracted a high-quality staff and board. People use the library here in big numbers. I have enjoyed every moment of the last 11 years."
Jill Kartalia, chairwoman of the library board of trustees, called Mielke's departure a huge loss for the county.
"Linda has been a tremendous advocate for the whole county system," Kartalia said. "She became involved in the community the minute she got here. She was always fighting for funding for her causes, and she cared deeply about the community."
Mielke has successfully pushed for improvements to Carroll's library facilities, resources and technology. The county was in the forefront for providing Internet services, Mielke said. Residents also can check out books and other materials electronically, renew their loans by phone and use library computers for complex research.
"We have kept up with technology and truly changed the way people use the library," she said. "We have the information resources that you used to have to slog through in books."
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who frequently worked with Mielke during the past decade, credited the library director for the system's many successes. Among them are Mielke's push for more reading programs for children, cross-training of library employees and fierce support for the system's sixth library branch and headquarters in Finksburg.
"She won't see that to completion, but at least she knows she worked hard for it," said Gouge, referring to the Finksburg project. "She campaigned pretty hard for the last four or five years for that. It's that type of dedication to a system that's important."
Gouge also praised Mielke for her straightforward style in dealing with county officials and others. "You knew where she was coming from," said Gouge.
Mielke has served on several boards, including the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and the Rape Crisis Center.
"She has really lived in the community, worked in the community and has been an enormous asset to the community," Gouge said. "She will be missed in a lot of circles."
In Carroll, Mielke oversees five branches, two of which expanded during her tenure. She had recently begun the work of building the $4 million Finksburg branch and library headquarters. She considers the expansions and the new project her major accomplishments, she said.
"There were some difficult years for all of us in Carroll, but things have turned around now and are really upbeat," she said. "We will be able to attract a good library director. The job is already posted on the library hot line. A friend of mine called about it, and she graciously didn't assume that I had been fired."
Mielke will plunge right into another construction project - a $102 million expansion of the central branch in Indianapolis, a building about the size of the Enoch Pratt library in downtown Baltimore. The Indianapolis system has an annual budget of more than $30 million, compared with $5.5 million in Carroll.
"It has always been my dream to lead a large library, and I have been given that opportunity in Indianapolis," she told her staff and the library board in an e-mail Monday.
The Indianapolis library board hired Mielke after a national search and has announced the news on its Web site.
In the announcement, Mary Lou Rothe, president of the Indianapolis library board of trustees, said, "Ms. Mielke's professional demeanor and dynamic personality make her well suited for this position. She is creative and innovative, and is respected by both peers and the public. Her strengths in project planning and execution, public relations, staff development, and community involvement make her ideally suited to take the helm of our progressive library system."
The move to Indianapolis is "almost like going home," said Mielke, a native of Detroit who came to Carroll from an associate administrator post in Anne Arundel County. Before that, she had spent a decade as director of the Clearwater Public Library in Florida.
In Carroll, Mielke replaced Martha Makosky who had devoted nearly 30 years to the director's job.
"As far as personal accomplishment, I came here after Martha Makosky, who was a legend," said Mielke. "And her top staff stayed with me."
The Carroll library board will advertise the position nationally, said Kartalia.
"We have the weighty responsibility of finding a good director, and I am confident we will," said Kartalia. "It is a huge responsibility that can set the tone for years. Linda is leaving a strong, innovative system here, and I am sure we will have a great pool of candidates for the job."
Should the board not find a replacement before Mielke leaves in August, Gail Griffith, deputy director of the Carroll County Public Library, will become acting director, Mielke said.
Staff writer Hanah Cho contributed to this article.