Martha M. Makosky will retire this summer as director of Carroll County's public libraries after 23 years to pursue a doctorate in American government.
Ms. Makosky, 53, told the county commissioners of her decision Monday. She told the library staff and board of trustees last week.
The director has worked for the county library system for 27 years. She began her career as a bookmobile clerk.
"I've been fortunate enough to have been in this job long enough to reach retirement age and begin a new career," said Ms. Makosky. "I'm ready to start my [doctorate work] and wanted to do it while I'm young enough."
Martha Hankins, president of the library's board of trustees, said a search committee hopes to find a successor to Ms. Makosky by August or September. Ms. Makosky will remain in her $73,750-a-year position until then.
"We're going to miss her," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "She's brought the libraries from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. It won't be easy replacing her."
During Ms. Makosky's tenure, the library system has grown from 10 employees and three libraries in cramped spaces in churches and town halls in Westminster, Hampstead and Mount Airy to more than 200 full- and part-time employees, and five full-service branches.
"Basically, she's built the library system," Ms. Hankins said. "She's a very dynamic woman. I think she's respected by her staff, colleagues and county officials that she works with. We're going to have big shoes to fill."
Ms. Makosky leaves the system -- whose per capita circulation in Maryland is second only to libraries in much larger Baltimore County -- as the libraries set the stage to enter the "information age." Within a few months, the libraries will complete the transition to a new automated system that will allow patrons to gain access to Carroll's catalog from home and business computers.
"This will be among the most modern systems in the country and will allow the library to enter a new phase, the information age," Ms. Makosky said.
Within the next few years, automation will be enhanced to allow patrons to retrieve full texts of magazine and periodical articles from the library's data base collection, as well as from Carroll Community College and possibly Western Maryland College, Ms. Makosky said.
"It's the direction libraries have to go," Ms. Hankins said. "She [Ms. Makosky] has been very much on top of [new technology] and encourages the board and the staff to move with the times."
Dave Neikirk, director of the Hoover Library at Western Maryland College, said the Carroll library system is Ms. Makosky's legacy.
"I use the public library myself and I'm very impressed with it," said Mr. Neikirk. "She's done a lot for the county. I've been around the country and know some very active library systems. This one is really up at the top. It all reflects what Martha has done."
Ms. Makosky, a Johnstown, Pa., native, began her tenure as director in 1970 after serving briefly as assistant director. She had begun work in the system as a clerk in a bookmobile that had a propane heater and no air conditioning.
She has a bachelor's degree in music from Western Maryland College, and master's degrees in library science from the University of Maryland and in administration from the Johns Hopkins University. She also has studied at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Ms. Makosky said she has not decided which university she will attend, but has several in mind.
"I see no reason why one can't finish one career and start a new one," Ms. Makosky said. "It's not like I'm changing professions. I'm taking experiences of this particular career and re-forming them for another career."