Arbutus resident at home as leader of Lansdowne, Arbutus libraries

When Bob Maranto goes to work every day, he is surrounded by hundreds of neatly shelved books.

But he doesn't get as much reading done as he would like while he's there.

Maranto, 46, is manager of the Arbutus and Lansdowne branches of the Baltimore County Public Library and will celebrate his one-year anniversary in the position July 1.

The Arbutus resident assumed the role of branch manager when longtime manager Gail Ross, who had overseen the opening of the Lansdowne Branch on Third Avenue and the move of the Arbutus Branch to its present site on Sulphur Spring Road, retired from the position in June 2013.

The self-described "book junkie" began his library career working part-time at the Catonsville Branch on Frederick Road in 1989 after graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

A part-time position soon led to a full-fledged 24-year career in library science.

"The bug just bit me. I really enjoy working with people and helping them find things," Maranto said. "I just absolutely loved doing it, and it took me a few years to find out that I just loved doing it that much, to do it as a career."

Maranto, who was manager of the Essex Branch prior to taking over the local branches, is no stranger to the area or the position. He has held management positions at the Catonsville, Essex and Arbutus branches over the course of 24 years working for BCPL.

"He hasn't been in Arbutus for a long time, but I hear a lot of nice things about him from customers and members of the community," said Ann McElroy, the assistant circulation manager of the Arbutus Branch.

McElroy said she worked with Maranto years ago at the Catonsville Branch.

"To watch him evolve from a part-timer to branch manager has been quite a transformation," said McElroy, who has worked for BCPL for 28 years.

"His door is always open, whether it's for the staff here or the public," she said. "He spends time with people and puts a lot of thought and effort into the library."

Maranto said he is focused on establishing a strong relationship between the library and its surrounding community.

"We're doing a lot more outreach and visiting schools and attending community fairs," Maranto said. "We're really thinking of other ways to be a presence in the community, outside of the building."

For example, Maranto, who earned a bachelor's degree in history and German from UMBC in 1989, recently met with the school to discuss having a photo exhibition at the Arbutus library in July and August.

As manager of two separate branches a few miles apart, Maranto said he seldom spends time at the Lansdowne library, which is much smaller with eight employees, compared to the 32 in Arbutus.

Having served in the Air Force Reserves as an aircraft loadmaster from 1990 to 1999, where he was responsible for cargo and passengers, and in the Gulf War, he is used to coordinating needs and priorities.

"I have to be much more conscious to keep tabs on what is going on there (Lansdowne)," Maranto said. "It's a challenge, but not a major challenge.

"I would like to spend more time down there (Lansdowne) with them," Maranto said, adding, "It's nice to have more of a one-on-one personal relationship."

Maranto said he likes to collaborate with staff of both branches, encouraging their input rather than "telling them what to do."

"He's very open to listening to our ideas," said Erin Oh, assistant branch manager. "If you pitch an idea, he's willing to listen and give it a try."

Maranto said he believes stronger ideas come from collaboration.

"We come up with much better ideas together than I could on my own," he said. "And about 80 percent of the good ideas don't come from me; they come from the staff. It encourages them to be invested and involved in the library."

Being part of the Baltimore County Public Library for over two decades, Maranto has witnessed a shift in technology.

"The Internet has definitely revolutionized the way we work — you can access a lot of sources without having to buy book," Maranto said.

Maranto said the library is also "loosening up" and moving away from the traditional library model.

Books, music and movies are still the core of what libraries provide, said Maranto, who has a master's degree in library science from the University of Maryland.

However, they are beginning to explore hosting Maker Faires —gatherings of tech enthusiasts, crafters, scientists, hobbyists and other "makers" who gather to share what they have made with others — as well as partnering with outside organizations, Maranto said.

Maranto lives in Arbutus with his wife, Susan, and grew up in Baltimore City.

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