iSchool Alumnus Alan Harkness Named Georgia’s Public Library Director of the Year

Alan Harkness (MLS ‘90) was named Georgia’s Public Library Director of the Year on December 5, 2023. Harkness is the current director at Chattahoochee Valley Libraries in Columbus, Georgia. He was recognized locally on February 12 and will be celebrated at the Capitol in Atlanta on March 11, where the Governor and the State Librarian officially issue the award.

Leading Chattahoochee Valley Libraries to eliminate fines for overdue materials was a predominant reason why he received the award. He has also helped other library directors execute the same goal. “It’s really a great honor to be recognized by one’s peers, as they understand the work better than most,” said Harkness.

As a public library director, Harkness is responsible to library boards, funding agencies, and taxpayers. “I’ve done a lot of things in public libraries, including shelver, reference librarian, children’s librarian, branch manager, IT Network Manager, two stints as a library director, and Assistant State Librarian,” said Harkness, “I started as a shelver 40 years ago this fall.”

He loves the variety of work and developing people. “​​A lot of this work, no matter where you are, is assessing your organizational strengths, and figuring out how to leverage them more effectively.”

When Harkness decided to come to Florida State University (FSU), he took a chance, not knowing for certain if the program was for him. “I knew I was in the right place, with the right people, studying the right thing for me.” He ended up finishing in nine months, taking courses taught by the late Professor Alphonse Trezza, who emphasized the politics of how to get things done.

Harkness’s advice to current students: “Get a variety of things in your toolbelt. Look for opportunities to broaden what you know. There are people who will help you, so build that network (I’m still friends with many almost 35 years later!). What you think you’ll do probably won’t be what you end up doing, so be open and be ready.” 

Looking back on all he has accomplished, he shared, “I’m grateful for my time at FSU, and for becoming a librarian. It has taken me further than I could have dreamed.”