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For 17 years, Emily Ferren has made her living among stacks of books. Now, for Ferren, it’s time for the next chapter.

In December, Ferren told the board of trustees for the Charles County Public Library that she would be leaving her post as director of the library to pursue a statewide initiative called the Deaf Culture Digital Library.

Before coming to the library, Ferren worked as a sign language interpreter for three years. She came to Charles County from a post as the library director in Garrett County, which she held for five years.

“My degree is in special education and library science, too. You get hired [as a sign language interpreter] by the job, and when you’re not working you’re not paid, so I needed a job that was a little more regular,” Ferren said Thursday at the Waldorf West branch of the library.

When asked what her proudest accomplishment was during her tenure as director, Ferren’s response was simple: “You’re sitting in it,” she said. “It took 17 years to raise the budget so we could get the building. The board assigned me that task the first day, and it literally took the whole time. Fundraising is tough ... but I knew it was worth believing in, and I knew people needed it and it was worth pursuing. The longer it took, the happier I became. It was like ‘Wow! It finally happened!’”

For her next project, Ferren is working on the Deaf Culture Digital Library, a state initiative geared to giving deaf people increased access to library resources.

“It’s kind of a grass-roots effort where people with hearing loss felt there should be more services for them, just like there is for other disabilities,” Ferren said. “One of the things I get to do is visit other libraries in Maryland and talk about ways to make them more accessible. I know all the other directors because they’re colleagues, and I think it would be easier than if I didn’t know them at all.”

Ferren said she is very hopeful about the potential for her new work.

“I guess it’s because it’s an initiative where I can see it really helping people who need it,” Ferren said. “I think it will help a group of people feel not as isolated.”

“My personality is such that I really just want to know everything that’s going on. I’m naturally curious. ... I like knowing the whole gamut,” Ferren said of what she most enjoyed about being director. “I hired everybody here systemwide. Enough people had retired that I’ve now hired everyone, so I think I’m going to really miss that.”

While in session Thursday, the library’s board began discussing possible avenues to take for choosing Ferren’s replacement. Board President Samuel Worsley said the trustees agreed to sign a contract with the Singer Group, a Baltimore-based company that will aid in the search process.

“She’s done a remarkable job,” Worsley said of Ferren. “Her greatest accomplishment has got to be getting the concept of the Waldorf West library ... getting it up and getting it running. Things are really working. Everyone will miss her. She’s a very likable person.”

Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) credited Ferren for her service and also cited the Waldorf West branch, which is the county’s first LEED-certified building — with energy-saving design features — as her crowning achievement.

“Emily’s legacy will be the opening of the Waldorf West library, which we can be proud of on so many levels,” Robinson said. “It will be enjoyed for generations to come by citizens of Charles County.”

lrenner@somdnews.com