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Robert Clark
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Photo of Robert ClarkBob Clark, a native of Krebs, Oklahoma, was hired as the Oklahoma Department of Libraries’ director in July, 1976. Clark’s near quarter of a century as ODL Director coincided with an “unprecedented time” in the development of library and information services for the State Library and the State of Oklahoma. During his tenure he headed two statewide Governor’s Conferences, championed preservation programs, government openness laws, and intellectual freedom issues; supervised the use of federal library funds in the state; and lead a strategic planning process that redefined the agency and its role in the information age.

Clark was first employed by ODL from 1969 to 1973 as head of the Division of Archives and Records and then as data processing coordinator. One of his first projects for the agency was an effort to save many of the state’s important historical documents. Documents from territorial days, WPA records, early correspondence from attorney generals, and other irreplaceable documents were rescued for posterity thanks to that effort.

In 1976, he was selected to head the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. One of his first actions was moving all of the state’s Interlibrary Loan Activity to the automated OCLC environment, where millions of records could be accessed to help locate materials for patrons. Clark used state funds to create and maintain a statewide online catalog in the 1990s and ODL’s Interlibrary Loan entered a new age with an online catalog since even the smallest libraries could now request materials directly from other libraries in the state.

Clark also promoted the use of federal funds to assist the disadvantaged populations in Oklahoma’s state institutions. Residents of correctional, mental health, and juvenile institutions all benefited from improved library services thanks to these funds.

Governor’s Conferences on Libraries and Information Services held in 1978 and 1990 lead to the creation of a statewide friends group, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma, and a statewide adult literacy program.

During his directorship, the agency initiated two significant programs targeting improved access to state government documents. In 1978, Governor Boren signed legislation creating the Oklahoma Publications Clearinghouse, a repository of state agency publications printed at taxpayer expense.

Twenty years later, in 1998, the agency took the lead in improving access to state government information online. ODL provides a directory of finding aids, and a special search service that indexes all state government websites. “Our mission to connect people with government information remains the same, no matter what the media,” he said.

Clark said his retirement from ODL represents a happy ending. It’s a time to reflect on the aggregate of many years and many experiences.

“I have seen our profession move from card catalogs to information available in real time. I’ve seen the difference a good board and a good staff can make in improving the lives of Oklahomans. I’ve been blessed.”

Bob Clark died on May 26, 2018 at the age of 72.

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