Pioneer Library System’s Executive Director announces retirement

Anne Masters Color PhotoDuring a career in library service that started in school libraries and moved to one of Oklahoma’s largest multi-county library systems, Anne Masters has seen libraries adapt to a world of ever-changing technology and the needs of readers.

What hasn’t changed with her or the people she works with is their desire to provide the service those readers need in a changing world.

“The library-related skills are important, but working with people is the biggest thing,” Masters said. “You can be successful at the technical part of libraries but if you can’t also work well with people, it doesn’t work.”

The Executive Director of the Pioneer Library System since 2007, Masters has announced her retirement, effective in January 2017. She has invited members of the community to a reception on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 15, at Norman Public Library West, 300 Norman Center Court.

And Norman West is a great place to start in a look back at Masters’ time with PLS. The building is the first owned by the library system, purchased in 2011 after work by Masters and her staff and approval by the PLS Board of Trustees. The former Borders Bookstore has served as a hub of activity on the busy west side of Norman, as well as a central location for PLS administrative offices.

Masters’ tenure leading PLS also has seen the organization open a new library in Blanchard in 2010 and add a 10th branch in Southwest Oklahoma City in 2011 before Norman West opened in late 2013. A 12th library is on the way, with Norman East slated to open in 2018, part of the Norman Forward plan passed by Norman voters in October 2015.  A new Norman Central will open in 2019.

“We have worked to stay current. Being Pioneers, I think we have been ahead of a lot of libraries in implementing a lot of things in service to our customers and in technology options; our new Brand Promise is perfect for us, 'Pioneering tomorrow’s library,'” Masters said.

“With the millage in 2008, we were able to increase our hours and our collection size; all libraries are now open on Sunday afternoons year-round and our collection has grown substantially thanks to the voters in our three counties.”

 Also during Masters’ time as Executive Director, the Pioneer Library System Foundation was formed in 2009. It serves as a nonprofit charitable organization supporting literacy and learning throughout PLS communities. As Executive Director, Masters has been an ex-officio member of the Foundation Board since its formation.

In honor of her retirement, the Foundation is encouraging members of the community to consider donating to an endowment being established. Masters is making a sizable donation herself to begin the process, and the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma will match gifts by donating an additional $5,000 if the Foundation reaches its goal of $25,000 by Dec. 31, 2016.

Masters followed Bill Lowry and Mary Sherman in becoming just the third Executive Director in the history of the system, which was founded in 1957.

She came to PLS in 2001 and served as the system’s Associate Director for System Services and Training. In that role she was responsible for the areas of selection, programming, training, public information and literacy.

Prior to coming to PLS, Masters was the Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology for the Norman Public Schools for 29 years. While with the school system, Masters oversaw the building or renovation of school library media centers in 21 schools in addition to selecting materials, staff, and technologies for each. In 1989, the American Association of School Librarians and Encyclopedia Britannica selected her program as the national School Library Media Program of the Year.

Her library career actually began in August 1969, when she was the school librarian at Moore Junior High School. It’s ending in leadership of Oklahoma’s third largest library system.

“It was a great opportunity for me,” she said of coming to PLS. “In the school system we had worked closely with Pioneer, but I had never expected to have the opportunity to go to work for Pioneer and certainly never expected the chance to be the Executive Director. It’s been a great second act in my career.

“I’ve appreciated the staff of the Pioneer Library System so much. It is a group that comes from diverse backgrounds and are interesting, dedicated, hard-working people.”

Masters’ library-related honors include the first Urban Libraries Council Joey Rodger Leadership Award, Oklahoma Library Association “Oklahoma Library Legend,” Oklahoma Technology Administrators Outstanding Director of Technology, Public Libraries Association Trainer Cadre, and the OU School of Library and Information Studies Outstanding Alumni. In 2011 she was named a finalist for the Journal Record’s Most Beloved CEO for a non-profit with more than $10 million in annual revenue.

Professionally, Masters is a member of the American Library Association, the Public Library Association, Urban Libraries Council, and the Oklahoma Library Association for which she has served as president and the chair of the legislative committee and the long range planning committee.

In the community, Masters is an active member of Norman Sooner Rotary, where she has served as Program Chair and Nexus Committee Chair. She also has served on the Norman Arts Council Board and served two terms as the Rotary District 5770 Literacy Chair.

Masters holds a B.A. in English and Masters of Library Science degrees from the University of Oklahoma. She is a native of Henryetta, Okla., and has two daughters, Melanie Masters Moulton, son-in-law Scott Moulton and grandson, Luke Moulton; and Laura Masters Spates, and son-in-law Jeremy Spates. 

In retirement, she is keeping her options open. “During the first year, I said I wouldn’t make any long-term commitments,” she said, although she does plan to visit the small Italian hometown of her grandfather, and spend plenty of time with a new grandbaby due in May.