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Familiar face at Savage Branch bids adieu [North Laurel/Savage]

Albert Schilf recently retired from the Howard County Library system and is embarking on a new stage in life. Many people who frequent the Savage Branch will miss him. Prior to his library work, he worked for 33 years for the federal government and commented to me about how different these two jobs were for him. Schilf spent the better part of the last 10 years working at the Savage branch. When that location was under renovation, he worked at the East Columbia branch and has also spent time at the central offices in Columbia and the Miller branch in Ellicott City. Schilf told me his “heart definitely belongs to the Savage branch.”

During his tenure, Schilf had a front row seat to the remarkable changes that happened at the library, particularly in the area of technology. Online offerings including electronic checkouts and music and video streaming have all greatly increased.

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Schilf also told me about the great strides made by the library system as they partnered with local schools and Howard Community College. The renovation of the Savage Branch a few years ago featured a Hi-Tech STEM center, including a digital-recording studio which has become the hi-tech flagship for Howard County.

The atmosphere at the library has also changed. It is no longer a “Shh!” kind of place where library patrons are expected to be quiet. It has blossomed into more of a community center, where students come after school to do homework, get a snack and have discussion groups. Despite all of these changes, the library is still a place to borrow books and other resources. Schilf worked at the customer service counter so he greeted customers and helped them check out materials. His goal was to make everyone leave with a smile on their face. He was able to see adults and children come in on a regular basis and over the years, many of them come back just to say hello and thank the staff for their help. Getting to know customers on a first name basis has helped contribute to the family atmosphere of the library.

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Schilf will have fond memories of the staff and patrons of the library and commented that saying good-bye to them was harder than he anticipated. Many customers stopped in to wish him well and one family presented him with a card thanking him for his kindness and thoughtfulness, saying his “genuine interest in children is rare and uplifting.” This family’s children loved coming to the library where it was “more than educational; it was fun,” Among his favorite library moments are when patrons thank him for a book recommendation and when he can talk about music and share musical suggestions with those who appreciate the large CD collection at the library.

Schilf is particularly proud of the work he did to help raise money for the library during its annual raffle sales. He remembers that the library system didn’t raise very much money when he started working. He said, “We really hadn’t capitalized on the wonderful rapport with the customers that we worked so hard to establish all year.” In his second year, he made sure customers were aware that the raffle was an opportunity for them to return the support from the library staff they were so grateful for, if they chose. Since then, the Savage branch has been number one in raffle ticket sales. On two occasions the Savage library staff outsold all the other branches combined and have inspired other branches to strive to raise more funds. Now the raffle is a significant fundraiser bringing in $12,000 to $14,000 annually.

Retirement plans for Schilf include more time with his wife, Rosemary, and with his grandchildren. He also plans to travel and participate in community volunteer work. In my opinion, his grandchildren are lucky to have a grandpa who can share his remarkable knowledge of books with them. Happy retirement, Mr. Schilf. You deserve it!

The January meeting of the Savage Historical Society is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m., at the Faith and Ministry Center at 9032 Baltimore Street in Savage. Members and attendees are invited to bring and share an item they cherish. The coordinator for this meeting called “Treasures – One and All” is Galen Menne, the SHS president. Everyone is invited to come and bring a treasure and a friend.

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