Local legislators win state library champion award

denney and halligan(STILLWATER, OKLA. / Sept. 29, 2016) –– The Oklahoma Library Association (OLA) announced the 2016 winners of its Bill Lowry Library Champion Award. The honor is being given to Sen. James Halligan and Rep. Lee Denney for their advocacy on behalf of all libraries during their years of service in the Oklahoma Legislature. The public is invited to the award reception being held at the Stillwater Public Library on Friday, Oct. 14, at 12:15 p.m.

“We know there are legislators throughout the state who passionately support libraries,” said Lynda Reynolds, Stillwater Public Library director and OLA Legislative Committee member. “But we are incredibly proud that two of the strongest advocates come from Payne County.”

Halligan and Denney are both repeat recipients of the award.

“Sen. Halligan and Rep. Denney are being honored this time for their careers as spokespersons of reason and balance, especially during legislatively volatile times for libraries,” said Reynolds. “Throughout their tenure, when there were attempts to remove local control of library collections and to dismantle library funding, Sen. Halligan and Rep. Denney continued their advocacy for the value of libraries.”

In 2008, Denney received the Bill Lowry Library Champion Award for the first time. She sponsored an appropriations bill (HB3202) asking for an increase in state aid to public libraries to $2.50 per capita. This was the first time a request for an increase in State Aid to public libraries received a separate bill, which allowed public librarians and library supporters to provide a specific bill number when asking their representatives to support the increase. 

Although the bill did not make it out of committee, Denney’s efforts resulted in increased funding in the general appropriations bills for the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) in future sessions.

In 2009, Halligan, Chair of the Appropriation Subcommittee on Education which oversaw the ODL budget, was instrumental in keeping the reduction to the agency at only $300.  For these efforts he received the Bill Lowry Library Champion Award in 2010. 

In 2011, Halligan and Denney co-authored HB 1460 which increased telecommunications reimbursements for schools and public libraries, bringing higher connections to local Oklahoma communities. The pair received the Bill Lowry Library Champion Award for the second time, and Denney received a resolution from the American Library Association appreciating her efforts in supporting Oklahoma Libraries. 

In 2012, the duo worked together again on co-authoring SB1287, which removed language in state statutes requiring library board members to live within city limits. This bill was beneficial to rural libraries that have trouble finding board members when they are restricted to those living within city limits. 

According to Reynolds, both legislators also gave their time and expertise generously to help librarians better understand the legislative process and how to advocate effectively.

Halligan served on a panel during the 2008 OLA annual conference on the topic of “How to Talk to Decision Makers that May Not Agree with You.” Denney served on a panel for an OLA workshop titled “Libraries by the Book: Understanding the Governance, Funding and Needs of Academic, Public and School Libraries” and provided a forecast for upcoming legislative sessions.

“Because Sen. Halligan and Rep. Denney are leaving the Oklahoma legislature, we will miss their support,” said Reynolds. “But the long lasting result of their efforts is that Oklahoma libraries are stronger and more effective than ever.”

Halligan joined the Oklahoma Senate in 2008 as a supporter of libraries and education, having served as Oklahoma State University’s sixteenth President. Halligan is not seeking re-election in the 2016 race.

Denney joined the House of Representatives in 2005 already a supporter of libraries in her own community of Cushing. In 2014, Denney was added to House Leadership and served in her last session as Speaker Pro Tempore for the House. 

During this session, House Leadership refused to support an initiative that would have consolidated the Oklahoma Department of Libraries under the Secretary of State’s office. Denney cannot seek re-election in 2016 due to term limits.

For more information about the Bill Lowry Library Champion Award or the reception, please visit http://www.oklibs.org or contact at the Stillwater Public Library on its webpage at http://library.stillwater.org.

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.).