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Charles W. Robinson

The Baltimore Sun

Although he has been retired since 1996, Charles W. Robinson, who during his 33-year tenure as director of the Baltimore County Library turned the system into one of the busiest in the nation, and also earned a reputation for being outspoken on library issues, has not in the least bit mellowed.

Robinson, who sparked a dispute more than a decade ago among his fellow librarians when he suggested that "public libraries have no future" because many of their traditional functions would be taken over by electronic information systems, hasn't backed off that opinion.

"In the last 10 to 15 years, libraries have changed services more than in the previous 100," Robinson said the other day. "People do a lot more stuff on electronic media, and that trend will continue. Libraries will be much changed in future years, but I'll never see it. I'll be dead and gone."

Robinson, who recently celebrated his 79th birthday - "but I'm living in my 80th year," he quickly explains with characteristic frankness - is hale and hearty.

He still enjoys contemplatively puffing his pipe and going daily to the office he maintains at the library's administrative headquarters in Towson.

"I go in every day for an hour and a half in the morning, and then I return at 5 p.m. and stay until 6:30 p.m.; that's when Martha is turning up her toes," he said.

The Martha he is speaking of is Martha Robinson, his wife of 50 years.

Robinson spends his time as volunteer editor, writer and publisher of Library Administrator's Digest, a national trade publication.

For years, Robinson has spent summers at a second home in Ocean Park, Maine, where waters from a recent spring nor'easter rose within a few feet of his home, flooding a storage box where he stows beach chairs.

"This house has been here a hundred years but I don't think it has another hundred because of global warming. It is a real problem, so there are changes everywhere, just not in our libraries," he said.

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