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Director of Palliser Regional Library receives prestigious provincial award

The Saskatchewan Library Association (SLA) recently announced that Jan Smith is the recipient of the 2022 Frances Morrison Award, an award of merit for outstanding service that the organization gives to an exceptional Saskatchewan librarian. 

Jan Smith, the director of Palliser Regional Library, is “pleased as punch” to receive a prestigious provincial award that recognizes her efforts to support the library system.

The Saskatchewan Library Association (SLA) recently announced that Smith is the recipient of the 2022 Frances Morrison Award, an award of merit for outstanding service that the organization gives to an exceptional Saskatchewan librarian. 

In 1981, Frances Morrison received the Canadian Library Association’s Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award, while in 1999, she received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for her contributions to the library services in this province. 

Morrison worked with the SLA in 1982 to create this award, and since then, there have been more than 30 recipients. 

Smith will receive the award during the SLA’s annual conference on May 6.

“I’m very, very honoured. It’s not given out on a regular basis, and it is truly a merit award, and I was thrilled by the nomination, and I was equally thrilled by the nominators (four active or retired library directors),” Smith said. 

Smith moved to Saskatchewan from Eastern Canada in 1999 and became the systems librarian with Palliser Regional Library (PRL). She then became director two years later.

With a laugh, Smith said she couldn’t believe she had accomplished so much since 2001 after seeing a list of her achievements. However, one of her nominators indicated that she had achieved those distinctions “and much more.”

Smith acknowledged that she is a strong advocate for library systems everywhere. She pointed out that if other regions succeed, so does Palliser, and vice versa. 

“I feel they are very important public institutions,” she said. 

Libraries showed during the pandemic that they could adjust to COVID-19 restrictions and proved how important they are since they continued to deliver services, Smith added. They adapted and switched to online services, helped with mental health initiatives, and continued providing information and entertainment to the public.

Smith is “very deserving” of this award since she is a big supporter of co-operation among libraries, stakeholders and other community organizations, and has led many fruitful partnerships and initiatives over the years, said Dorothea Warren, SLA’s executive director. 

Her enterprising nature has also helped bring in nearly $1 million in extra funding for PRL, enabling the organization to develop new programs and educational opportunities.

“Jan recognizes the critical role that libraries have and is committed to the ever-evolving range of services that libraries can offer to meet community needs,” Warren said, adding Smith pushed to have libraries carry and distribute COVID-19 rapid-test kits. 

Smith has been thrilled to be PRL’s director since 2001 because she — along with dedicated staff — has contributed to the stability of the organization, which turns 50 in 2023, she said. She noted that the first director worked 25 years, the second director lasted two years, while she has worked 21 years. 

“It’s very hard to get a good regional plan going and making sure it’s delivered. And my staff have been consistent through the whole thing too, which is good,” she said. 

PRL might reach 50 years in 2023, but Smith won’t be the director then since she is retiring this year due to age. She noted that it’s time for someone new to come in with fresh ideas and higher energy levels. 

“It’s time. It’s not like I will disappear off the face of the Earth,” Smith said. “I will still be around if they need me for anything.”

Smith added that she plans to pursue some political projects in retirement, including pushing the federal government to compensate libraries with gas tax refunds since they use courier services to deliver materials. 

The Palliser Regional Library annual meeting is Friday, April 29. 

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