Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Little Falls Library manager to take early retirement

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Over the past few months, Keith Fleeman had thought of retiring. The 58-year-old wanted to spend more time at his house in Maine, with his wife, and with his 30,000-book comic collection.

So when Montgomery County offered an early retirement package for county employees, Fleeman, the library manager for Bethesda’s Little Falls Library, jumped at it.

‘‘It’s time for me to do other things,” he said. ‘‘I’ll miss my customers, and I’ll miss my staff, but this is a good thing.”

While Fleeman’s most recent tenure at Little Falls has been since 2001, he also worked at the library from 1982-1992. In addition, he has worked at the Kensington Park, Bethesda and Long Branch libraries in the county system.

The St. Louis native, and die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, said he’ll miss working with his customers, who he’s watched adapt to the technological changes of libraries over the past 26 years.

‘‘People come to libraries for different reasons now,” he said. ‘‘It used to be just books, but now people want the Internet, or to borrow DVDs. The change has been tremendous.”

He said a library customer recently came in looking for a picture on the Internet. Fleeman told her to go to Google.

‘‘She said she’d already been to Google,” he said, ‘‘but she had never been to Google Images. She found the picture.”

Fleeman also was the county library department’s coordinator for senior citizen activities, and would often help older library patrons with computer skills and finding classical music.

His coworkers say he will be sorely missed, evidenced by a going away party at the library that drew nearly 100 attendees, said Peter Jung, acting library manager.

‘‘He’s a very caring man and a sweet gentleman,” Jung said. ‘‘He was loved by everybody, and he loved his job.”

Fleeman was one of four library managers to take the early retirement incentive plan offered to county employees, and one of 152 county employees who took the $25,000 buyout, including 21 Montgomery County Public Library employees. Branch managers taking the incentive are Joan Deacon, of the library at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Lillian Snyder, of the Gaithersburg Library and Maria Pedak-Kari, of the Germantown Library.

The incentive plan was one of the ways the county is trying to bridge its budget deficit for the year.

The county will honor all the library retirees at a private ceremony July 18 at the Rockville Library.

For now, Fleeman, who counts J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘‘Lord of the Rings” trilogy among his favorite books, said it’s time to relax.

He’ll focus on converting old records into CDs on his computer, and also dedicate more time to cooking and baking. His wife, Grace, an IRS attorney, will still be bringing home a paycheck, he said.

As for his own reading habits, Fleeman said he’s currently reading ‘‘Wall of Brass” a police procedural by Robert Daley.

‘‘But I also enjoy the trashy novel as much as the next person,” he said.

Fleeman majored in English literature at Michigan State University, and received his master’s degree in library studies from the University of Michigan.