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Area library system earns state recognition during annual conference

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Two members of the Southern Oklahoma Library System recently received honors during the Oklahoma Library Association’s annual awards presentation. SOLS operates eight libraries across five counties, including branches in Ardmore, Healdton and Wilson.

SOLS Assistant Business Manager Jo Cross earned the association’s Support Staff Person of the Year Award for her longtime work within the system, while Branch Outreach Coordinator Alyson Hayes-Blankenship received a scholarship as she pursues a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma.

“I’m grateful to be one of the many librarians selected,” said Hayes-Blakenship in a statement. “Few extraordinary librarians have won this award in the past, and for me to be included in that group is an honor.” 

Alyson Hayes-Blankenship

“I was thrilled to hear that Alyson was the recipient of the Connie Van Fleet Award,” said SOLS Executive Director Gail Oehler. “Alyson continues to be an asset to the library system and has truly impacted the library profession through her active participation in the state’s Oklahoma Library Association and the national American Library Association.” 

Named for Dr. Connie Van Fleet and her work with the OLA until her 2013 death, the $900 award is presented to an eligible Oklahoma library employee furthering their education in librarianship, according to the OLA website.

Assistant Business Manager Jo Cross received the Support Staff Person of the Year Award for her longtime dedication to the former Chickasaw Library System. Hired in May 1984, Cross was promoted from processing to her current position as an administrative assistant tasked with keeping other staff members updated on personnel and library functions.

“My favorite part of working at SOLS has been the new opportunities and challenges with each change at the library,” said Cross. “It’s good to have an open mind and acceptance of new technology and better ways to accomplish goals.”

Jo Cross

“This well-deserved honor bestowed upon Jo is meaningful in a number of ways,” said Oehler. “As you consider the attitude, work ethic, dependability and achievements of a Support Staff Person in the library profession, Jo clearly exemplifies all of these characteristics as she works diligently behind the scene to help individuals reach their goals and looks for ways to benefit the library.”

Cross said although much has changed over 35 years, some things remain the same. “It’s almost always possible to find answers through internet resources, but our human resources (librarians) are still our most valuable asset.”

The awards were presented during the Oklahoma Library Association’s annual conference last week. The 113th conference was the first held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic but still featured three days of sessions for library staff.

The Southern Oklahoma Library System on Thursday announced the appointment of three new members to its board of trustees. Dr. Rebecca Jacobs-Pollez was appointed to represent Johnston County, Jan Cochran to represent Atoka, and Dottie Gwin to represent Marietta.

Members of the SOLS Board of Trustees are appointed by the county commissioners and the city council of cities that have a library, according to a Thursday statement.