Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Longtime librarian starts a new chapter

After 13 years at helm in Germantown, Pedak-Kari takes early retirement deal

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Gazette file photo
Maria Pedak-Kari is one of four county library branch managers to take an early retirement package from the county. She was manager of the Germantown Library for 13 years.
 Maria Pedak-Kari, who guided the transformation of the Germantown Library from its small space in the Upcounty Regional Services Center to its current site in Town Center, retired from her library manager post June 30.

Pedak-Kari, 61, was one of four library managers in the county to take the early retirement incentive plan offered to county employees.

‘‘She has been a wonderful library professional. She has been kind of a landmark, a person who has made quite an impact,” said Joginder Singh of Gaithersburg, who has been an advocate for libraries in Montgomery County since the 1990s. ‘‘The way she has conducted the Germantown Library for the past 13 years, she has an excellent public relations with the community and an excellent relationship with the staff.”

She is one of 152 county workers who took the $25,000 buyout, including 21 Montgomery County Public Library employees. About 60 of the county positions will be abolished. In addition to Pedak-Kari, 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 Keith Fleeman, of the Little Falls Library in Bethesda. The county does not have a timeline for hiring new managers.

Most of Pedak-Kari’s 23-year tenure with the county was in Germantown, where she noticed almost immediately after taking the position in 1995 that the community needed a larger library. And after years of lobbying, planning and setbacks, the library opened in March 2007.

The new library has had the highest circulation in the county library system since its opening day.

‘‘I think that’s a real testament to the Germantown community. The community prizes education, it prizes culture,” Pedak-Kari said, noting study-room use is high and the public computers are in use 80 to 90 percent of the day.

Pedak-Kari, who said she is looking forward to spending more time with her son, 14, and mother, 84, said she is proud of the work she did to welcome immigrants and non-English speakers to the library.

‘‘There’s no group — new or old or immigrant — that feels the library isn’t theirs,” said Pedak-Kari, who was born just after World War II in the German refugee camp her parents fled to from Estonia. She came to the United States when she was a toddler.

She leaves the library with some unfinished business, including pushing for more staff and following up on outstanding building issues.

‘‘I think the challenge is really in the staffing,” she said. ‘‘Without good staffing and without good support, it’s a beautiful building, but it’s a shell. ... The collection will fall apart very quickly.”

With less funding in the county budget, groups like the Friends of the Library and the Library Advisory Committee will be more important, she said.

‘‘I can see a big shift in public library programming going to their shoulders, because there won’t be enough staff to do it,” she said of the Friends groups.

Though it’s only been about a week, Pedak-Kari, who lives in Damascus, said she is already wondering how the staff is doing and what she can do to help.

‘‘I miss the interaction with the community,” she said. ‘‘It really is the best community to be a librarian.”

Then, spoken like a librarian at heart, she added:

‘‘The kids are great, a little noisy, but great.”