2022 ULS Candidate for Member-at-Large: Melissa Johnson
Tell us more about yourself and how you became an academic librarian.
I am an Instructional Design Librarian at the Business Library, part of SMU Libraries and the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University (SMU). I hold MSLS and MS in Learning Technologies degrees, both from the University of North Texas (UNT). I’ve been at SMU since 2010 and absolutely love it. I started as a Reference Librarian and through on-the-job learning, university library committees, and other professional development opportunities had the amazing experience of crafting the role I now occupy. I get to work with library colleagues and faculty designing, developing and implementing instruction as well as teaching information literacy skills.
I lovingly refer to myself as a nerd by nature; librarian by choice. After graduating with my BA in Spanish, I taught high school for a few years and really enjoyed interacting with my students but found myself wanting a career change. While deciding what direction I wanted my life to go in, I took a job at UNT in the Financial Aid Office and through campus experiences found myself drawn to the idea of librarianship. As UNT has a great program, I applied and was accepted. My first official librarian job was at a now-inactive for-profit institution. I enjoyed the experience but realized I need to work in a different setting. When a job at what is now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley became available, I jumped at it. I fell in love with working in a university campus environment and haven’t looked back. I learn something new every day as an academic librarian and each day is unique.
How long have you been involved in ULS and what attracted you to the section?
I joined ULS in 2016. It was about seven years into my career as an academic librarian. Before then, I was more involved with my state library association and RUSA in ALA. After reviewing my professional and personal goals, I wanted to be more involved in university librarianship and learn from colleagues working in university libraries. I realized that the best way to begin was to join ULS due to its focus on emerging trends and issues in university libraries. I attended ACRL in 2017 and signed up to help out at conference as a door greeter on the first day. I had a lot of fun and met some new people. Because of this positive opportunity, I took a chance and volunteered to serve on the ULS Technology in University Libraries Committee. It was a great way to learn more about how committees work in ULS and later led to my advancing to a leadership role on the committee. It’s through these events that I discovered some of the wonderful people that make up ULS and I’d love to meet and learn about many more.
In your opinion, what are some of the most interest topics or trends we’re seeing in university libraries?
Near and dear to my heart is the current emphasis on universal design and learning, which goes hand in hand with instructional design. COVID has shown us that we can teach face to face or online, but what we’ve all seen is that learning thrives when the instructional materials are accessible and usable by all. Incorporating what may seem like small changes in how learning objects are designed will have very large impacts not just on how they’re used but also the ways in which people benefit. In particular, I am excited with how my campus is realizing the value of working with librarians as experts and partners to create assignments and instruction with measurable outcomes that align with the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.
I am also happy and hopeful about the importance being placed on equity, diversity, and inclusion in libraries. From designing inclusive instruction and using inclusive language in our conversations to bringing in diverse people who work in our libraries, it’s important for academic libraries to represent and reflect the communities in which they are based. We have made improvements but we can and should do more. If we want people to continue seeing libraries as relevant and important, we need to show them through our language, environment, and membership that everyone is valued.
What goals for the section would you have if elected to this position? How do you envision committees and members helping the section achieve those goals?
I want all of our members to feel heard, seen, and valued. ULS is large and it can be difficult to make our individual voices heard so I’d like us to focus on developing ways for everyone to feel connected and comfortable with sharing ideas to help our membership grow and strengthen the diverse and unique ties among us. Perhaps those could be more informal networking events throughout the year, whether held online or in person, but also by offering more and different ways for members, new and continuing, to take part in a variety of professional development opportunities. Or it could be something completely new that we want to try. We should ask our members how and in what ways they want their voices heard.
Where do you see ULS going in the future? How does it need to change and evolve to stay relevant to academic librarians?
I see ULS continuing to remain focused on university libraries and the people who work in them, but I think it’s important to remember that we don’t work in a bubble. There are many aspects to working in an academic library and I’d like to see ULS celebrate and promote all of them, as well as bring in more diverse and unconventional members to help show what a university library and its people look like. I also think there’s value in working more closely with other sections to learn what’s happening across all types of libraries and use that to inform how we want ULS to adapt.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that not very many people know.
I belong to online LGBTQ+ book communities and spend much of my off-work time reading and reviewing books on a volunteer basis. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve made some great friendships by discovering people who share my reading interests.