Bill Morris Retires from State Library of Ohio
The State Library of Ohio is at once delighted and disheartened to announce that after 35 years of dedicated public service, including 25 years with the State Library of Ohio, Bill Morris retired on June 30. Bill was an administrator in the State Librarian’s Office and member of the State Library executive team. He was promoted to Governmental Affairs Coordinator in 2006 and prior to that served as Executive Assistant to the State Librarian. Bill was responsible for legislative affairs for the State Library at both the state and federal levels throughout his tenure and was the National Library Legislative Day Statewide Coordinator. He started his career at the State Library in 1994 during Ohio’s 120th General Assembly and retired in its 133rd. Bill worked under five State Librarians and five gubernatorial administrations with tireless dedication to inform decision makers about the vital role of the State Library in serving state government and Ohio residents, and our work helping all types of Ohio libraries better serve their communities.
“So many milestones in life are bittersweet. I am happy to be entering a new chapter in my life, but sad to be leaving a chapter where I was able to work for an agency filled with so many talented and wonderful people,” expressed Bill. “My colleagues do great work for our libraries and our state. Ohio libraries are truly the best in the nation, and I am proud to have been a part of the Ohio library community.”
Success in any organization is driven by multi-dimensional expertise and contributions from its staff, supporters, and stakeholders. There were many challenges throughout Bill’s tenure including numerous severe reductions in state funding for the State Library leading to cuts in staffing, services, and space. At the same time, there were watershed moments of innovation and collaboration. Bill steadfastly communicated with library leaders and state and federal decision makers about our value and role in advancements such as: the State Library becoming a fully operational member of OhioLINK in 1994; the federal Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) passing in 1996 leading to robust grant programs for libraries and leadership in statewide library programs and development; OPLIN’s creation and Internet connectivity to Ohio’s public libraries in 1997; SEO (formerly the Southeast Ohio Regional Library) services expansion to all Ohio public libraries in 1998; the State Library moving to its current location in 2000; and the formation of Libraries Connect Ohio—a resource sharing collaboration that began in 2003 between OPLIN, OhioLINK, INFOhio, and the State Library to ensure statewide access for all Ohioans to high quality library databases regardless of where they live or go to school. In addition, there were trail blazing collaborative digital initiatives that Bill helped highlight in budget testimonies and meetings with legislators, such as: Ohio Memory—a statewide digital library program of the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio that began in 2000; the Ohio Digital Library—one of the largest digital library consortia in the U.S. that began in 2005 as the Ohio eBook Project; and the Ohio Digital Network—Ohio’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) that debuted in 2018 and now provides access to digital collections from 24 contributing Cultural Heritage Institutions.
When asked about apotheoses in his career at the State Library, Bill pointed to Senate Bill 321 and his work with public libraries and their boundaries, which began after the bill’s effective date in January 2013. “Boundary Bill” as he was nicknamed at the time, spent countless hours working to ensure all public library requests to define their boundaries were resolved appropriately.
Bill also pointed to the 2014 recognition by the Ohio Library Council (OLC) as Citizen of the Year as a high point in his career. The award honors citizens in Ohio who have made a significant contribution that has had a positive influence on library services throughout the State of Ohio. In awarding the honor, OLC remarked, “As Governmental Affairs Coordinator for the State Library of Ohio, Bill Morris has been instrumental in the statewide review of public library boundaries required by the passage of Senate Bill 321 of the 129th General Assembly. The legislation was enacted to ensure no areas of overlap exist for library service taxation.”
In March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was about to change everything, Bill was appointed by the State Library Board as Interim Executive Director starting April 1, 2020, following the retirement of State Librarian Beverly Cain. When Bill ascended to the interim leadership position, the library was closed, some services suspended, and staff were working remotely. The challenges were great, but he successfully led the agency through multiple strategic adjustments in operations, news and planning for previously unforeseen state revenue shortfalls and 15% cut in state funding for the State Library, and a smooth transition for Wendy Knapp as she became the Agency Director and 38th State Librarian of Ohio on June 8, 2020.
In his farewell message to staff, Bill said,
These are certainly difficult times for all, but challenges also bring opportunities. I am confident that new State Librarian Wendy Knapp will help lead the State Library and the Ohio library community through the challenges ahead.
It has been an honor and a privilege to be an Ohio public servant.
Prior to working for the State Library, Bill served as a Legislative Aide in the Ohio House of Representatives for eight years, including serving as committee aide to the House Colleges and Universities Subcommittee.