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Pam Gladis Named 2020 Cathy Cowan Award Winner

Published Thursday, April 02, 2020
Cowan Award winner Pam Gladis
Cowan Award winner Pam Gladis

Pam Gladis, whose work as SMSU Librarian touches every facet of academic life at the University, has been named the 2020 Cathy Cowan Award winner.

The award is named for the late psychology professor Cathy Cowan, who died in an auto accident on Dec. 22, 2001. It is the most prestigious award at SMSU.

The 1995 alumna is in her second stint at SMSU. She was the distance learning librarian from 1999-2001. She left for a time, and was the librarian for Marshall Public Schools and, later, Minnesota West Community and Technical College, before returning to SMSU as the web services/instruction librarian in 2012. She became SMSU Librarian — department chair — in 2015.

She’s a true Mustang. “I love my job; I love this University,” said Gladis, who signed the institution’s 25th anniversary charter as a student, and its 50th anniversary charter as an employee.

She took a first-year psychology class from Cowan as a freshman, and remembers her as a tough, fair instructor. “I got a B, and I wasn’t used to getting a B,” said Gladis, an Alvord, Iowa native. “I talked to her and told her I didn’t think I did very well. She disagreed, and encouraged me to take another psychology course.”

Gladis is a first-to-arrive, last-to-leave employee who has systematically transformed the library space, and its operations, over the years. “So many materials are moving to an online format, and what the students are doing now is increasingly through computers and not so much (the library’s) physical resources. We’ve made changes to accommodate student use — more work group areas for collaboration, and we’ve reduced the size of our print collection to make more inviting areas for students to study. It’s about the space, and people feeling comfortable in the library environment.

“The library is the academic heart of the University, at least I feel that way,” she said.

The criteria for consideration for the Cowan Award places an equal emphasis on both campus and community involvement.

On campus, Gladis serves on many committees, including Liberal Education, Graduate Council, Strategic Planning and Institutional Assessment, among others. She has been the department chair of the McFarland Library since 2015, and is on the Mustang Booster Club Executive Committee.

On a broader scale, she is involved with, and holds leadership positions in, statewide library groups, including the MnPALS consortium, its Governance Structure Task Force, and the Minitex Policy Advisory Committee.

On a community level, she’s served three, three-year terms  on the Marshall-Lyon County Library Board, and was president her final term. She’s served on the Plum Creek Regional Library System’s Governing Board, and is a member of the Lyon County Historical Society.

She was a lead in moving the Technology Resource Center (TRC) into the library’s first floor, so that technology assistance is immediately available to students. As an added benefit, the TRC’s hours have expanded to match those of the library.

“I’ll never regret inviting them in (to the library),” she said. “It’s a greater service to the students. They can get help when they have a technology issue. We can now refer students  to people who are better equipped to answer those types of questions.”

In addition, she coordinated the move of the Southwest History Center from the Social Science Building, the northernmost building on campus,  to the fifth floor of the library, better coordinating that valuable regional asset to align better with library resources.

Gladis also initiated, and serves as editor, for the new undergraduate research journal Discovery, which will give students a publishing experience. The inaugural issue is this spring/summer.

Away from the job, she’s an involved mother of two daughters: Brooklyn, a freshman at Minnesota State, Mankato, and Bellamy, a sophomore track and cross country runner at Marshall High School.  She is married to Jeff Gladis.

To say she was surprised to receive the Cowan Award is an understatement. “I love my job, and I love this University,” she said. “I am shocked, and humbled. I knew who Cathy Cowan was, and understand her impact at SMSU. To receive this honor, in her name, means so much.”