By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Anne Masters, the Executive Director of the Pioneer Library System since 2007, has announced her retirement, effective in January 2017. A reception open to the members of the PLS community will be held in her honor on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 15, at Norman Public Library West, 300 Norman Center Court.
Masters began working in school libraries and later moved to one of Oklahoma’s largest multi-county library systems. During her career, she has seen evolving technology make great changes to libraries, presenting ever changing challenges to adapt in order to provide service to readers in a changing world.
“The library-related skills are important, but working with people is the biggest thing,” Masters said. “You can be successful at the technical part of libraries but if you can’t also work well with people, it doesn’t work.”
The Norman Public Library West building is the first owned by the library system. Masters and her staff worked at the location prior to the purchasing approval by the PLS Board of Trustees.
The former Borders Bookstore is a central location for the PLS administrative offices and continues to serve as a hub of activity on the busy west side of Norman.
Masters’ tenure leading PLS has seen the organization open a new library in Blanchard in 2010 and add a 10th branch in Southwest Oklahoma City in 2011, before Norman West opened in late 2013.
A twelfth library is under development, with Norman East slated to open in 2018, a part of the Norman Forward plan passed by Norman voters in October 2015. A new Norman Central will open in 2019.
“We have worked to stay current,” Masters said. “Being Pioneers, I think we have been ahead of a lot of libraries in implementing a lot of things in service to our customers and in technology options; our new Brand Promise is perfect for us, ‘Pioneering tomorrow’s library.’
“With the millage in 2008, we were able to increase our hours and our collection size; all libraries are now open on Sunday afternoons year-round and our collection has grown substantially thanks to the voters in our three counties.”
During Masters’ time as Executive Director, the Pioneer Library System Foundation was formed in 2009. It serves as a nonprofit charitable organization supporting literacy and learning throughout PLS communities. As Executive Director, Masters has been an ex-officio member of the Foundation Board since its formation.
“It has been honor to serve with Ms. Masters over the past six and one half years,” said former PLS board chair Mary Blankenship Pointer. “I was the first Trustee appointed to serve the Pioneer Library System from Oklahoma City. Together we worked to build a state of the art library that serves southwest Oklahoma City. Ms. Masters will be missed by everyone and we wish her well as she opens this exciting new chapter of her life.”
In honor of her retirement, the Foundation is encouraging members of the community to consider donating to an endowment being established. Masters is making a sizable donation herself to begin the process.
The Communities Foundation of Oklahoma will match gifts by donating an additional $5,000 if the Foundation reaches its goal of $25,000 by Dec. 31, 2016.
Following Bill Lowry and Mary Sherman, Anne Masters became just the third Executive Director in the history of the system, which was founded in 1957.
Prior to coming to PLS, Masters was the Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology for the Norman Public Schools for 29 years. While with the school system, Masters oversaw the building or renovation of school library media centers in 21 schools in addition to selecting materials, staff, and technologies for each.
In 1989, the American Association of School Librarians and Encyclopedia Britannica selected Masters’ program as the national School Library Media Program of the Year.
Masters served as the school librarian at Moore Junior High School in August of 1969. Her career led her to the leadership of Oklahoma’s third largest library system.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” Masters stated about her role at PLS. “In the school system we had worked closely with Pioneer, but I had never expected to have the opportunity to go to work for Pioneer and certainly never expected the chance to be the Executive Director. It’s been a great second act in my career.
“I’ve appreciated the staff of the Pioneer Library System so much. It is a group that comes from diverse backgrounds and are interesting, dedicated, hard-working people.”
Masters’ library-related honors include the first Urban Libraries Council Joey Rodger Leadership Award, Oklahoma Library Association “Oklahoma Library Legend,” Oklahoma Technology Administrators Outstanding Director of Technology, Public Libraries Association Trainer Cadre, and the OU School of Library and Information Studies Outstanding Alumni.
In 2011 she was named a finalist for the Journal Record’s Most Beloved CEO for a non-profit with more than $10 million in annual revenue.
Masters is a member of the American Library Association, the Public Library Association, Urban Libraries Council, and the Oklahoma Library Association for which she has served as president and the chair of the legislative committee and the long range planning committee.
Masters holds a B.A. in English and Masters of Library Science degrees from the University of Oklahoma.
In retirement, she is keeping her options open. “During the first year, I said I wouldn’t make any long-term commitments,” Masters said. Her plans include visiting the small Italian hometown of her grandfather, and spending lots of time with a new grandchild due in May.