After eight years with the Southern Oklahoma Library System, a familiar face took her place as its new director last month.
Gail Currier, formerly the SOLS marketing and public information coordinator, took over as director February 28, replacing longtime director Lynn McIntosh. Currier, the only internal candidate for the position, said her passion for public library service runs deep, and she’s excited for what comes next.   
“I love what I do,” Currier said. “I love libraries and what they stand for, and how we serve all those different communities.”

Currier earned her master’s in library information studies at the University of Oklahoma, which qualified her for the position, this year. She said she decided to go back to school when her youngest child started college, continuing to work full-time at the library.

“Fast forward to Lynn announcing her retirement,” Currier said. “She announced it in July. I was supposed to graduate in May, so I quickly added to my course load in the summer and fall so I could have the credentials for the position.”
Currier said in her time with SOLS, she’s watched the role of the system’s libraries change. The Champion Public Library’s Xbox 360, rows of DVD and BluRays, the 3D printed creations that cover every windowsill and the communal spaces intended for board games and projects all highlight that fact.
“It’s not the quiet research place it used to be,” Currier said. “Our profession has really changed. There are places in here people can go if they need quiet, but it’s very different.”
As director, she’ll work with staff to analyze usage data to figure out what people’s interests are in SOLS’ eight branches. Those findings impact everything from classes offered to the books available on the shelves.
“Programming has completely changed,” Currier said. “We offer way more than we ever did in 2011, crafts, 3D printing, and more book clubs for sure. I know it’s not just that we have more staff, it’s because we found those needs.”
Currier said change in libraries is always technology-driven, and libraries have to continue to evolve.
“If you don’t keep up, you’re going backwards,” Currier said. “Those are the kinds of things we’re learning about when we go to these conferences. What brings people in besides 3-D printing?”

She said the idea is to find different needs within the library system’s various branches and address them.

“All eight of our libraries, on any given day, are doing different things that meet the needs of that community’s situation,” she said.

Some libraries will host fun events, like Magic the Gathering tournaments, some emphasize children’s programming, and others focus on helping people put together resumes and search for jobs. Most do some combination of all three.

“I think as long as we’re serving the community, we’re doing the right thing,” Currier said. “Davis has a huge following for [Magic the Gathering], but that might not be the case in another branch.”

Currier said bringing people into the library is only the first step. Giving people a place to gather, read and learn together fills a much-needed role in a community and creates a safe place for teenagers to spend time after school.

“There’s not a lot of community centers anymore,” Currier said. “This becomes the gathering place, and they get to know each other.”   

Currier, like many directors before her, hit the ground running. She’ll soon head to an Oklahoma Library Association conference, then come back to continue planning for this year’s summer reading program, which will bring in storytellers, performers and insect experts to teach kids. Last year, the program served 11,000 children system-wide.

“I’m excited about the ability to engage our communities in learning opportunities, but also finding what they’re interested in,” Currier said. “It may be something about a new culture, art, music, a new exhibit. Whatever brings people together, that excites me.”