Springfield, MO

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2011 Most Influential Women Honoree: Kathleen O'Dell

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Kathleen O’Dell has built her career connecting people with information.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism, O’Dell spent more than three decades reporting the news, with publications including USA Today and Springfield News-Leader.

Today, she is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District, which she has served since September 2009, promoting the library’s services and programs with patrons and potential customers.

Both roles require O’Dell to lead.

“Leadership as a journalist always required the ability to listen and balance what I heard, to refrain from snap judgments, to maintain patience in ferreting out the facts, and to maintain courage in writing the truest, most balanced report,” she says. “Now, I believe I lead by attracting people to their library district and showing them all the services they never knew existed.”

Library district Executive Director Regina Greer Cooper says O’Dell plays a crucial role for the library – and the community.

“She makes sure that information about library services gets out to the public through a variety of media so that their lives can be improved and enriched by all the library has to offer,” Cooper says.

O’Dell says trust is the highest honor that can be given to a journalist, and she’s proud of the respect and trust she’s built through the years, covering stories about issues of the day, and health and medical news. Earlier this year, she was honored with the Writers Hall of Fame Quill Award.

“Sources have told me they didn’t always like the stories I wrote, but they trusted their information in my hands and respected the accuracy of the finished work,” she says. “That trust has followed me into my new career … as former news sources are now willing partners with me in library projects.”

O’Dell also connects community organizations with which she’s involved.

“I have brought nominees to the Ozarks Fighting Back Citizens Advisory Board, community project ideas to the BancorpSouth Citizens Advisory Council and Springfield Rotary Club Board of Directors,” O’Dell says. “The latter resulted in a $2,000 grant for early literacy stations for the library district.”

O’Dell also helped craft and promote the 10 tenets of the Civility Project of Springfield-Greene County. She is a board member of the Missouri Literary Festival and helped organize the 2011 Missouri Literary Festival. She also serves on the citizens’ advisory committee of The Health Commission and the board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Southwest Missouri.

Click here for full coverage of the 2011 Most Influential Women.
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