Immediately after the Oklahoma Department of Libraries Board of Directors appointed Vicki Sullivan as the agency’s deputy director on March 1, 2002, Sullivan and her colleagues were driving down Lincoln Boulevard to go to a celebratory lunch.
When approaching the State Capitol Building, former ODL Webmanager Michael O’Hasson brought up a story from Sullivan’s past: while applying for the Deputy Director job at the Oklahoma Historical Society, word came back to her that one OHS board member had quipped, “There’ll be a woman as deputy director of this agency when that capitol has a dome on it!”
While passing the capitol building in 2002, seeing the long-awaited dome rising above the scaffolding, it was impossible not to laugh at the irony and the serendipity.
Sullivan officially retired from state service on October 31, and staff held a reception to thank her for her long service to the agency and the state. In addition to serving more than 17 years as Deputy, she also headed the Oklahoma Publications Clearinghouse and the Office of Government Information. In addition to her service at the Historical Society, she also logged some time at the Department of Human Services—before embarking on a library career—bringing her total years of service with the State of Oklahoma to 44.
Thirty-five years of her state service were spent at ODL, and more than 33 of those years were in positions of leadership.
As director of the Office of Government Information, Sullivan supervised state and federal document collections and depository programs, the State Archives and Records Management functions, and the creation of online finding aids to state government information.
In 1998 she initiated a State Government Web Managers Group, where IT and communications professionals from agencies could learn from and support each other as they navigated moving information and services online. The organization thrived and lasted for 21 years until its dissolution in 2019.
As Director’s Proxy to the Oklahoma Historical Records Advisory Board, she helped the members conduct a survey of records repositories in the state and then pursue a re-grant program through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. This program continues to benefit local libraries, museums, and historical societies with document preservation and digitization efforts.
As Deputy, Sullivan supervised the business office, all technical services, and all public service areas of ODL, including legal and legislative reference, the Interlibrary Loan collection at the Wright Library, and all government information services.
Sullivan also managed the bidding process for the statewide online information and reference resources, which brought EBSCO and Britannica School databases to all schools and all types of libraries.
During much of her tenure as Deputy Director, the state struggled through some tough economic periods, and the agency saw budget cut after budget cut. ODL staffing levels dropped from a high of 82 in the 1990s to fewer than 40 full-time staff members today. And that difficult period figures into one of the accomplishments Sullivan says she is proud about during her time as Deputy Director.
“We weathered those tough times without having to furlough any staff members or layoff any employees through a reduction in force (RIF),” she said. “And we were also able to keep essential services in place.”
Sullivan said she and former Director Susan McVey were able to plan ahead and reduce the staff through natural attrition. They also worked to protect the agency’s federal funding by protecting state funds for public library services as long as they could. Eventually, the agency’s budget reductions meant cuts to State Aid to Public Libraries, and that would lead to a reduction in federal funding.
When the time came, Sullivan presented ODL’s case to maintain its level of federal funding, even though budget cuts were hindering the agency’s ability to meet its federal Maintenance of Effort. The agency received waivers during the dismal budget years thanks to Sullivan’s efforts. Staggered reductions of the agency’s federal dollars for the next few years have only now kicked in, but the state is in a better situation economically.
“I’m going to miss everyone,” Sullivan said to colleagues at her retirement reception on October 31. “But I know the agency will be fine, because of the people in this room.”
“It’s time for a new chapter,” she said. “I’ve worked for more than 50 years, so I think it’s OK to take some time for me.”