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Esther Mae Henke
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Photo of Esther Mae HenkeEsther Mae Henke was Associate Director for Public Library Development at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries until she retired in 1983.

There was no one more proud to be an Oklahoman than Esther Mae Henke.

During her 30 year career at ODL she was responsible for development of public library services throughout the state, the administration of state and federal funds to public libraries, statewide public library consultant services, new building construction and organization of multi-county library systems. One of her primary goals was to have at least one publicly supported library in every county of the state and that was achieved in 1974.

Esther Mae received the Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Library Association in 1971. In making the presentation at the annual conference, Awards Chair Allie Beth Martin referred to her as "Miss Public Library of Oklahoma" and continued:

Hers has not been an eight to five job of developing libraries in the state. Wherever two or three people are gathered together, and she is there, the topic is sure to be Oklahoma libraries–where they are and aren't, how good or bad they are, and what she and the hundreds of citizens she has interested in good libraries can do about it.  She starts early and she doesn't turn off at five p.m.1

Governor George Nigh issued a proclamation declaring December 2, 1983 Esther Mae Henke Day in Oklahoma. She was appointed by Carl Albert, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, to the Advisory Council to plan the 1979 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. She was a member of the Woman’s Posse of the Westerners and was a member of the Soroptimist Club, twice serving as President. In 1966 she received the Theta Sigma Phi Byliners Award as Outstanding Woman of the Year in Library Science.

Esther Mae Henke died in Oklahoma City on May 22, 1997.

1Allie Beth Martin, “Distinguished Service Award: Esther Mae Henke,” Oklahoma Librarian 21, no. 3 (July 1971): 8.

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