"I grew up with libraries, with books, owning my own books and loving to read."
Those are the words of Gail Ross, branch manager of the Arbutus Library and Lansdowne Library.
After spending more than 40 years working for the Baltimore County Public Library, the Baltimore City native will retire this Friday, June 28.
Since her career began in 1971 in Catonsville, after earning a bachelor's degree in English from then-Towson State College and a master's degree in library sciences from the University of Maryland, Ross has worked in eight branches throughout the county, including Pikesville, Towson and Woodlawn.
She has spent the past 13 years at the Arbutus branch, including three in the library's new location on Sulphur Spring Road,
Now, she is ready to retire.
"I'll be 65 in the fall, and it seemed like a good time and that I was ready," the Pikesville resident said. "I'm really happy to be finishing my career out at the Arbutus branch.
"But it was a really hard decision because I really love this community, having worked in it for so long; and I love the building; and, most of all, the staff is an excellent staff."
Ross grew up in Baltimore, "down the street from the Pimlico branch of the Enoch Pratt Public Library," where she would often browse their extensive collection.
She said she can still remember the first time she ventured into the collection of books for older readers.
"In my mind, you were not allowed to go to the adult area until you were a certain age," Ross said. "I remember when I was finally old enough, and I went to the adult section and there were books over there that were so exciting.
"I can remember walking across and being able to pick out books from the older people's section and what a thrill that was," she said.
Ross began her career at the Catonsville Library as a part-time children's specialist. She's been hooked ever since.
"It was so wonderful to have colleagues that love the same things that I love," Ross said. "So I just asked to stay, and I was lucky that they were hiring at the time."
Bob Hughes, the library's spokesman, said he's known Ross since his first day on the job in 1975.
He said the library system, especially the Arbutus branch, will definitely feel her absence.
"Gail is one of the most personable people I've ever met in any walk of life, and her personality carries over into her profession," Hughes said.
"I think some people tend to leave their personality — no matter how splendid that personality might be — they tend to leave that at home and take on a different person at work," he said, "not so with Gail."
He said that, arguably, her biggest accomplishment throughout her years in the library system was the 2010 move of the Arbutus branch to its current location in its first county-owned home. Previously, it had been a tenant at several different area sites.
That move was not her first. She had experienced the reopening of the Lansdowne Library on Third Avenue in 2005, for example. She had also been involved with the move of the Arbutus branch from what is now the tanning salon at the corner of Sulphur Spring Road and Benson Avenue across the street to the industrial park adjacent to the post office.
But the move to the current building was a milestone, Hughes said.
"It represented a momentous change in library service for the people of Arbutus," he said.
The current facility is more than 9,000 square feet larger than the previous one, and the new facility's collection is 21,000 items larger than before.
"The transition from one to the other had to occur and a whole new modus operandi at the new branch for the larger size, the greater access to the public, the greater collection, everything in terms of library management had to be adjusted to fit all those things," Hughes said.
Ross said she thinks the library will be just fine without her, under the management of Robert Maranto, an Arbutus resident who will take over as branch manager, and that she is looking forward to the extra free time.
"The first goal would be better health, (and to) exercise," Ross said of her retirement. "And the other, to get together with people more because when you work full-time, you just don't have as much time."
She and her husband would like to plan more visits to see their sons on the West Coast. Jonathan Ross lives in Los Angeles. David Ross; his wife; and their two children, 5-year-old Joe and 21-month-old Ellie, live in Redmond, Wash.
"They're products of Baltimore County schools, but they ended up on the West Coast," Ross said of her sons. "We get together (now), but I hope that we can add another visit or two (each year) because my schedule has been cleared up.
"And then, who knows?" she said. "I'm looking forward to having the time to do the things that I haven't had time to do."
The most important of those things?
"Lots more reading," she said.