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Dr. Edward R. Johnson

Dean of Libraries from 1987 to 2004 passes

May 6, 2013

For Immediate Release

STILLWATER -The staff and faculty of the OSU Library and the Friends of the OSU Library acknowledge with profound sadness the death of Dr. Edward R. Johnson. Johnson held the position of Dean of Libraries from 1987 to 2004. He died at the age of 72 on April 25, 2013.

Johnson held 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.

During his nearly 17 years of service in Oklahoma, Johnson stood out as a dedicated library supporter and advocate. From the beginning of his OSU tenure, Johnson made fundraising a priority, and the numerous gifts secured under his leadership stand as a lasting legacy of his commitment to OSU.


Ed presents annual staff awards with his friend and library supporter, Dr. James Wise, and Wise's daughter.

In 1988, he identified a core group of library supporters, and together they establish the Friends of the OSU Library. The group continues to work today to secure private funding to support the library’s mission. In 1990, Johnson set a four-year goal of raising one million dollars for the Edmon Low Library Endowment which was reached and surpassed two and a half years later. Upon his retirement Johnson along with his wife, Benita, created the Edward R. Johnson Endowment to support the purchase of materials for library and information science.


Johnson, center, with 1999 Cobb Speaker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Jennifer Paustenbaugh.

While at OSU, Johnson led the automation of the libraries and set a path for the continued adoption of innovative technology to improve library services. In 1991, the Library moved from the traditional card catalog to the automated system, PETE, and later to a web-based OSU Library Catalog. Johnson launched the successful student laptop checkout program, which remains one of the most popular services today.

Johnson also expanded the library’s special collections and placed a priority on the cultivation and preservation of these materials which provide unique research opportunities. Under Johnson’s direction the Oklahoma Women’s Archives was established, and the collection now serves as a highlight of the University’s special collections.


Dr. Neil Hackett, Dr. Kenneth Dollarhide discuss library materials with Dr. Ed Johnson.

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.

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.

President James Halligan and Dean Edward R. Johnson in 2000.

His work for libraries did 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. Johnson was a force behind the establishment of the Big 12 Libraries, later renamed the Greater Western Library Alliance. He worked to establish consortia of libraries to streamline operations and increase the groups’ collective bargaining power with vendors.

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.


Johnson, front row center, with his Dean's Office staff and President James Halligan, center row right, in 2000 with the Library's Celebrating State Award.

Johnson was named an “Oklahoma Library Legend” by the Oklahoma Library Association for his numerous contributions to libraries.

As we mourn the loss of this distinguished scholar, mentor and friend, we also extend our condolences to this wife, Benita, and his son Elliot.

Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU is America’s Brightest Orange.  Through leadership and service, OSU is preparing students for a bright future and building a brighter world for all.  As Oklahoma’s only university with a statewide presence, OSU improves the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality  teaching, research, and outreach. OSU has more than 37,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 240,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.

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URL: http://www.library.okstate.edu/news/sum13/Johnson.htm
Last Updated: 06 May 2013

Media Contact:

Bonnie Ann Cain-Wood, APR
Email: lib-pub@okstate.edu
Phone: (405) 744-7331

225 Edmon Low Library
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078-1071

 

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