Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Join OLA
Jan Sanders
Share |

Photo of Jan SandersI will forever be beholden to the state of Oklahoma for giving me the opportunity to grow into a better librarian than when I came. One of the best parts about this state is that it allows any person, any age, any experience to have a say, to offer assistance, and to make a difference. That’s wonderful—and rare. Thank you for that.

Early on, I became involved with the Oklahoma Library Association and its work on Intellectual Freedom. Soon enough, I chaired that committee, working for three years to lead the charge against unfounded challenges and giving assistance and support to those on the firing lines. During that time, the committee presented any number of workshops and advocacy sessions, each designed to give direction and assistance without issuing edicts. The crowning moment came when I was selected as one of two Oklahoma Librarians to be listed on the ALA’s Freedom to Read Hall of Fame in 1999.

When I became a full-fledged library director, I got involved working on state-wide certification. I think that the work Oklahoma has done on universal staff certification is some of the finest in the country. Our training manual and syllabus set the standard for course content and objectives. The definitions we created for what any person working in a library in Oklahoma should know created a professional attitude at a time when we could afford fewer and fewer degreed people to fill our roles. This practical, reasoned approach to staffing should be replicated in other states. Special thanks should go to Susan McVey who really led this effort from concept to completion.

I also served for a number of years as a trainer throughout the state. Presenting workshops on customer service, library procedures, adult services, trustee training, and advocacy allowed me to hone my skills and to make a difference in communities other than my own. I am very proud of this work and only wish I could have done more.

As for “my own” libraries, I tried to do the best job I could. I was at Pioneer System in Norman for four years, working with Mary Sherman and her excellent team. We created some very exciting programs, including the ever-popular legislative breakfast where we presented our thoughts and managed to lampoon ourselves at the same time. What fun.

For ten years I headed up the Bartlesville Public Library, going there in 1991 to build a new central library. During that service, we (the whole staff and I) created a strong sense of community and made sure that any cultural event, any open discussion, any exchange of ideas in that town had the library at its core. The library really became the gathering spot of the community and the place where any thought could be explored. It made me very happy to know that Bartlesville was a better place to live because of its library.

But the people are what I’ll remember most about Oklahoma, and the friendships are my proudest accomplishment. At the risk of sounding like an old woman “remembering when” (even though I am), the best were the years I spent working with Donna Morris, Susan McVey, Kay Boies, and Debra Engel as we watched the (then) senior members Lee Brawner, Mary Sherman, Pat Woodrum, Marty Thompson and others. Those were magic times. If we had known then what we had and what we were creating, we might have paid more attention. Together we could discuss, imagine, and solve all kinds of issues. I miss those conversations and I miss those colleagues as part of my daily life.

So, if you are reading this as a beginning librarian or someone new to Oklahoma’s libraries, or even if you’re much later-on in your professional development, note this: the work is important, the principals are worth protecting, and the results are uplifting, but the best is always, always, the people you come to love. If I have been allowed to give back even a little of what I’ve gained, I thank you for that.

Jan Sanders accepts the Library Legends Award

Jan Sanders accepts the Oklahoma Library Legend Award
from OLA President Pat Weaver-Meyers

April 2, 2007

Return to the Oklahoma Library Legends

Site Search
Sign In



Oklahoma Library Association
1190 Meramec Station Road, Suite 207, Ballwin, MO 63021-6902
Phone: 1-800-969-6562 Ext 5 | Fax: 636-529-1396 | Email:

Follow us: OLA on Facebook