Reif Recognized for Bringing County Libraries into 21st Century

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—After 40 years working in public libraries all over the state, Kathleen Reif says that the last 12 spent here in St. Mary’s were among the best, with the some of the best staff she has ever worked with.

“The staff here is unparalleled in St. Mary’s County,” Reif said of those she’s led these past years.

She said they are the reason that the library system has grown in leaps and bounds with regards to the number of programs offered to customers and in the technology it uses.

“We’ve been able to greatly expand technology services,” Reif said.

Back in 2003 libraries really didn’t have much in the way of on-line materials but changing that was one of her main projects, she said, and the effort was aimed at improving the experience for customers.

“A library is not about books or DVDs it’s about people,” Reif said. “It’s happened over the last 12 years and it will continue to happen.”

Reif has always been passionate about libraries and learning, so much so that she has received awards for her work in boosting early childhood literacy through libraries so children are ready to learn when they go to school.

Perhaps her most significant victory, and her most hard-fought, was helping get a new library built in Leonardtown.

The project had languished for years due to financial restraints but the latest county commissioner board voted to spend the money for a new facility; the effort was still marred by much rancor, however, based on controversy over whether to put the new building in the downtown area or in the Leonard’s Grant community.

The commissioners chose the latter.

“I keep saying this, it’s still in Leonardtown,” Reif said to a gathering of library staff and library board members who honored her at a retirement party for her service.

“It’s a very special legacy to be leaving,” Reif said of the new library this week.

Even better, she said, the new library will give the county a chance to build a facility that meets with modern standards and even surpasses the Lexington Park library’s technology services and space.

The new library, if it follows the technology requirements expected of modern libraries, will have more study space and more internet capacity, she said. “This gives us the chance to design a library that is appropriate for the 21st century,” Reif said.

Those who knew Reif, her staff and members of the county library board, said she was irreplaceable and that she had left her mark on a system she had come to love.

“You couldn’t find a fiercer advocate for public libraries than Kathleen Reif,” said library board member Alan Dillingham.

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