Chattahoochee Valley Libraries Director Claudya Muller confirmed Monday to the Ledger-Enquirer that she plans to retire by March.
She expects her last work day to be Feb. 28.
Muller, 65, laughed when she said "age" and "clumsiness" are reasons for leaving the position she has filled for more than 11 years. Then her tone turned serious when she noted her mother and several close friends had died in the past 18 months, "and that made me realize it's time to spend more time with my family and friends."
Muller said she also would like more time to visit her daughter's family in South Africa.
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"I don't want my granddaughter to be a teenager the next time I see her," she said.
Meridith Jarrell, who begins her new term as chairwoman of the Muscogee County Library Board today, has seen the local library system trans
form from poorly regarded to richly commended under Muller's leadership, starting with the $50.4 million project that built a new main building, the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road.
"She helped us build a library that we can be proud of," Jarrell said. "She got in on the planning right away, and we owe her a debt of gratitude."
Jarrell praised Muller for bringing best practices to the library system and forging partnerships with other organizations.
"We are very fortunate to have had her continuity and contributions for 11 years," Jarrell said. "I truly believe she helped change the perception of the library in the community. We are head and shoulders above where we were."
Indeed, the library system's statistics show a dramatic difference during Muller's tenure:
The number of patrons with library cards increased from about 30,000 to about 140,000.
Annual circulation increased from fewer than 500,000 items to about 1 million.
The number of computers available to the public went from none to more than 300. Free wireless was also added to the buildings.
The budget for library materials increased from fewer than $150,000 to about $800,000.
Aflac Summer Vacation Reading Program participation increased from about 2,500 children to more than 25,000.
"I wish I could say I fully understood what I was getting into when I came here," Muller said with another laugh, "but it has been a wonderful opportunity and privilege to work here."
Her biggest disappointment, Muller said, is being about $9 million short of the Muscogee County Library Foundation's endowment goal of $30 million.
Beyond the numbers, however, Muller said she is most proud of how the system's employees have developed.
"The staff makes the library," she said. "The buildings are nice, but Mildred Terry (Library) was giving quality service before getting a quality building."
It is too soon for a timeline to find Muller's successor, Jarrell said, but she estimated it would take around six months. The library board's recommendation must be approved by the Muscogee County School Board, which owns and operates the county's public libraries.
Muller said she is confident the library system will attract successful candidates.
"It's a community that, because of the whole public-private way of working together, has a good reputation," she said. "New blood is always good. Maybe the next director can think of new ways to streamline, so those hours we cut could be added back."