Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nomination of Maureen Woods for the Francis Morrison Award

March 30,2013

To Whom It May Concern: 
 
 It is a great privilege for me to nominate Maureen Woods for the Francis Morrison Award . The criteria for this award recognizes the exceptional contributions to library services and the library community - I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of this honour than Maureen Woods. For more than 35 years, it has been Maureen's pleasure to serve libraries and library communities in Saskatchewan and across Western Canada. I am humbled by the opportunity to nominate Maureen for this award.

Maureen Woods was born in Saskatoon and grew up in Regina. After graduating the University of Regina with her Bachelor of Arts in 1974, she moved to Alberta to continue her education in Library Sciences. Two years later, she returned to Saskatchewan to embark on a career that would span more than three decades.

Maureen was hired by Regina Public Library (RPL) in 1976 to work in Community Relations from the Connaught Branch, at a time when community use of the branch was falling. Rising to the challenge, Maureen worked closely with staff and community representatives to transform the Connaught Branch into a viable branch that is still serving its community today . At the same time, and for the same reasons, the Albert Branch was in need of similar attention, and Maureen was ideally suited for the challenge.

A few years later, Maureen was named Head of the Albert Branch of RPL and became closely involved with the north central community to find a way forward for that community, similar to the success achieved at Connaught . She was instrumental in advising the Board and executive of RPL in the language of the formal agreement between the community and library. Maureen continued to sit on the Library Advisory Committee, determined to bring the cultural needs of the largely Aboriginal
community to the attention of the branch staff, and help define the services the library provided.

In the latter half of the 1980s, Maureen turned her attention to serving the library community at the provincial level and as a member of the Northern Library Services Section of the Saskatchewan Provincial Library, she moved to La Ronge to prepare for a new northern library system. To enable the formulation of the new system, Maureen contributed to re-working existing provincial legislation. In 1990 the first northern board meeting was held, and less than a year later, the name of the board was officially changed to Pahkisimon Nuye7ah Library System.

Maureen's determination for making educational resources available to every corner of the province had become her passion. One story about Maureen tells of her desire to bring all the library directors of the province together at the first northern Saskatchewan Library Association (SLA) conference in La Ronge and build relationships and the spirit of cooperation that would ensure the sustainability of a northern library system and extend the vision of Saskatchewan's public library founders . She not only designed the brilliantly colored banner that welcomed participants as they arrived at the conference but, in fact, she hand stitched it in her spare time! The flag still exists, as do the memories of that poignant celebration in La Ronge.

Around the same time, plans for the development of province-wide cooperation among all types of libraries were renewed at the Echo Valley Library Forum in 1988.

Representatives from each library sector, including Maureen, as well as stakeholder groups came together to discuss the future of all types of libraries in Saskatchewan. By now, Maureen was one of the most influential voices and leading authorities in the province's library system. She was named Chair of the Multitype Library Development Advisory Committee, and was instrumental in the creation of one of the most significant documents in the history of Saskatchewan libraries, Independent But Together: A Vision for a Province-wide Multitype Library System, published in 1992.

In 1993,Maureen was named Provincial librarian of Saskatchewan. As Provincial librarian, Maureen's list of accomplishments and successes for the province are impressive and they include new public library legislation as well as The Libraries Co-operation Act, building the multi-type philosophy into the province's vision for libraries. Before leaving her role in 1999, in concert with the Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan library Association, with Maureen at the helm of the Provincial Library, the province witnessed the launch of Every Library Connected, an ambitious initiative that enabled the distribution of 300 computers to rural and urban libraries throughout the province and the establishment of a connectivity agenda that later would connect all libraries in Saskatchewan through the Internet. 
 
The Alberta library was Maureen's next stop, and moving into the 21st Century, libraries across Alberta faced a number of challenges and opportunities, including the information explosion, the development of new technologies, the emergence of the Internet and a changing government philosophy . As Head of the Alberta Public library Electronic Network (APLEN), Maureen was part of the initiative linking the seven library systems, their resource libraries and the other large public libraries to form the 16 nodes of the provincial library network .  She oversaw the establishment of the provincial network and gathered the evidence on impacts of connectivity that leveraged a continuing federal investment. She was also responsible for bringing together the provincial Ministers who initiated the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT} agenda for public libraries in Canada.  

In 2003 Maureen accepted the position of Director of Public Library Services with the BC Government which was to prove a most fortuitous event for BC Public libraries. Immediately prior to Maureen's arrival, BC had witnessed a major budget retrenchment across the public sector and public libraries were clearly not "on the radar ." Undeterred, Maureen focused her boundless energy and optimism on crafting a strategic vision for public libraries in BC, traveling throughout the province listening, collecting success stories, and encouraging her colleagues. Her efforts blossomed in October 2004 with the unveiling of a new, comprehensive strategic plan for public libraries- Libraries Without Walls: The World Within Reach. This was the first system wide plan created in BC in over a decade and has since been referenced by other public library systems across North America. Maureen wasn't satisfied with just a new strategic plan: she leveraged the momentum generated to convince Treasury Board to almost double provincial funding to public libraries .

The BC strategic plan helped transform library service, establishing a new provincial context for public libraries. The plan specified that access to core library services should be free and equitable. It challenged library leaders to think regionally and provincially to ensure that small libraries could benefit from emerging technology, and stressed the need for collaboration for the benefit of all. 

It was Maureen's energy, vision and community building approach that led to the development and success of the plan for BC libraries. In 2008, she organized the Libraries in Dialogue with Government event that established roles and responsibilities, relationship building principles, and enabled public libraries to develop greater synergies between local libraries and government . In a keynote address, Maureen described the Dialogue as the culmination of a consultation to assess the key issues facing communities and the key areas of development for the government . The result was a $15 million fund for public libraries to support equitable access to information for all citizens of BC and make effective use of provincial dollars. One of Maureen's most interesting points from the Dialogue was that the library enjoyed a 96% approval rating from the Canadian public and how valuable that might be to government. 

Finally, in 2010 Maureen returned to Saskatchewan to help develop and launch the province-wide library system infrastructure as Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Information & Library Services (SILS} Consortium. Today, every public library in the province is connected, regardless of location, to offer the same access to information and services. Maureen has made a major contribution to SILS as a public service and as an organization.

While Executive Director is descriptive of the job, it is not descriptive of the essence of Maureen's role in the SILS Consortium. SILS brought together Saskatchewan's public library systems and Provincial Library into a partnership that would change the way public library technology is provided for the province's residents. Under Maureen's leadership, the Consortium has thrived, grown new partnerships, and attracted national and international attention. Executive Director of SILS has been the ideal synthesis of Maureen's vision, talents, and experience as a library leader in Canada the Consortium and the province's library users, are very lucky to have her! 

I am proud to nominate Maureen Woods for the Frances Morrison Award. I first met Maureen when I was a newly minted librarian entering my first professional position in Saskatchewan' s amazing public library system . She has been a role model and a mentor from whom I have learned much and to whom I owe a great deal. I do not know a more worthy awardee for the Frances Morrison Award. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jeff Barber

Library Director & CEO
Regina Public Library