Edward R. Johnson
Oklahoma Library Legends
Edward R. Johnson holds a B.A. in history from the University of Colorado, M.A. in library information science and Ph.D. in Library and Information Science both from the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to Oklahoma he served as a librarian at University of Iowa, Assistant Dean of Libraries for Technical Operations at Pennsylvania State University, and Director of Libraries at North Texas State University.
He joined the OSU Library as Dean in 1987 where he stayed until retirement in 2003. During his 16 years of service in Oklahoma, Johnson truly stood out as a dedicated library supporter and advocate. He distinguished himself with his work for the Friends, the OSU Library and libraries of Oklahoma.
It was clear when Johnson joined OSU that fundraising was a priority for him. He set the goal of one million dollars for the Edmon Low Library Endowment which was reached and surpassed. In 1988, Johnson worked with Edna Mae Phelps to establish the Friends of the OSU Library. Other fundraising accomplishments include the renovation of the library’s Browsing Room, creation of three endowed chairs, and establishment of approximately 20 named endowments.
Within his first year at OSU, he established the University Library Advisory Committee. This was the first group to gather both faculty and students from outside the Library to discuss library issues and advise the Dean of Libraries. Johnson worked continually to develop the OSU Library’s applications of technology. In 1991, under Johnson’s leadership the Library moved from the traditional card catalog to PETE, its first automated system. PETE was eventually replaced with the web-based OSU Library Catalog, and the Library now offers access to thousands of online full-text journals. In an effort to provide a computer lab environment in the Library, Johnson launched the incredibly successful student laptop checkout program. Other student service success stories include improved Interlibrary Loan, the 2 am weekday closing time and the 24-hour access for finals week. In an effort to restore the seating to storage ratio originally planned for the Library, Johnson also oversaw the purchase, renovation, and now the use of the desperately needed Library Annex.
Throughout his career Johnson worked tirelessly to inform both faculty and students on campus of the Library’s financial needs and educated them about the unique inflation problems of research journals. This resulted in significant increases from University Administration and support from the students for the implementation of the student library fee. These funding increases were instrumental in improving the OSU Library’s standing in the Association of Research Libraries ranking.
His outreach to the campus community extends beyond funding issues. Johnson regularly met with faculty and the Student Government Association to discuss library issues. In 2001, he spearheaded an outreach campaign called the “Crisis in Scholarly Publishing and Its Impact on OSU.” The purpose of the campaign was to educate campus faculty and administrators about the breakdown in the scholarly communication system and the impact on OSU. His efforts resulted in OSU’s adoption of the Tempe Principles, which provide guidelines for re-shaping the emerging system of scholarly publishing.
His work for libraries does not end at OSU. Johnson held leadership roles in national and state-level organizations such as the American Libraries Association, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, and Oklahoma Library Association. He was a founding member of Oklahoma Council of Academic Library Directors, an advisory group to the State Regents, and served as the group’s chair from 2001 to 2003. He worked to establish consortia of libraries to streamline operations and increase the groups’ collective bargaining power with vendors. For example, Johnson was a force behind the establishment and continued efforts of the Greater Western Library Alliance, which now numbers 30 research libraries. The group fosters Interlibrary Loan cooperation and shared database subscriptions.
Before his retirement, Johnson worked to help state legislative leaders understand the implication of UCITA (the Uniform Computer Information Technology Act) to both libraries and citizens of Oklahoma. This project included the publication of his article “The Law Against Sharing Knowledge” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Oklahoma Library Association presented him with a special award for his efforts.
Edward Johnson retired to Angle Fire, NM with his wife Benita. He now sits on the Board of his local public library and volunteers his service as a reference librarian there.