In the Spotlight with… Kay Johnson

Newsletter Issue: 
Volume 37 n0.1 March 2017

Lisa Romano, Column Editor

Gearing up for the next OLAC conference this fall, our spotlight column features Kay Johnson, the chair of the 2017 conference. Kay is the head of Collection and Technical Services (CaTS) at Radford University in Virginia and oversees a department of ten. The group includes Collection Management, Monographics (firm orders), and Serials & E-Resources (subscriptions), and handles collection management, acquisitions, cataloging, shelving/conservation, maintenance/trouble-shooting, and usage for all formats. Kay’s immediate priorities are budgeting and space estimates related to future reductions in library materials allocations and the reallocation of library spaces. What does Kay enjoy the most about her job? “The people, especially the ones in my department! In terms of day-to-day work, I like working with others individually or in groups to brainstorm, resolve problems, or implement a new process.”

A year ago Kay faced one of the biggest challenges in her career - the system migration of Innovative Sierra and Serials Solutions to OCLC Worldshare Management Services (WMS). Her department, which she describes as “terrific,” began cleaning up legacy data about six months before their contract was signed with OCLC. Kay led weekly departmental meetings in which her group shared their workflow, ideas, and frustrations. “We worked together to resolve what we could and report problems we couldn’t resolve. Our data migrated as cleanly as could be expected, and everyone jumped in to learn the new system and revise procedures.“ The group is still involved in revising processes and workflows as the needs arise.

Kay began her library career as a student assistant for the Geology branch of the Library at Virginia Tech. She opened the library on weekends and worked the desk. Plus as a Geology major, she helped freshmen students with their rock identification. The library had trays of rocks, minerals, and fossils for introductory geology classes on reserves, and students would check out the trays to help them in their specimen ID tests. After graduating, Kay “fell into cataloging as a staff job after graduation, and decided I wanted to be a professional cataloger. I focused on finding a way to go to library school.” And Kay’s one piece of advice to new librarians?

Say, “Yes,” to opportunities of interest, and then learn to say, “No,” as you refine your interests and as you are called upon to do everything.

One of Kay’s interests has been OLAC. Her first involvement started in 1996 when her friend and colleague at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville), Richard Harwood, recruited her as the OLAC Newsletter conference reports editor. Kay’s work with OLAC has included: OLAC Newsletter-Editor-InChief, OLAC Vice President, OLAC President, OLAC Millennium Committee Co-Chair, and OLAC Award Committee Member. Plus, Kay presented a “Cataloging Nonprint Serials” workshop at the Charlotte Conference in 1998 and was behind the proposal to rename the OLAC Award to the Nancy B. Olson award (which she describes as her most important achievement in her career)!

Some of the highlights of Kay’s OLAC career include being the Editor-In-Chief of the OLAC Newsletter longer than anyone else. Kay recalls: I was the first to incorporate photographs in the newsletter. I used to take my camera to OLAC meetings. I modernized the font and layout of the newsletter, but it was still in print. She printed about 150 to 200 copies of the newsletter, and sorted and bundled them for mailing! Towards the end of Kay’s editorship, the newsletter was also posted in PDF form with free access on the OLAC website. Kay’s describes this move as “highly controversial because we were afraid we would lose members by giving away our newsletter for free on the Web.”

Additionally, Kay proposed and was co-chair of the OLAC Millennium Committee which was formed in 1998 to review and revise OLAC’s mission statement, goals, name, and logo. The plan was to unveil the results in the year 2000 in celebration of the new millennium and OLAC’s 20-year anniversary. The group decided to keep the OLAC name, but added a subtitle to explain the purpose of OLAC – the Internet and AV Media Catalogers Network. “We tried valiantly to come up with a new logo, including holding a contest, but none of the submissions were appropriate. On a temporary measure, we dropped the film reel in favor of a capital “O” for OLAC. The temporary measure lasted for years.”

Finally, when asked what she is looking forward to the most at the next OLAC conference? Kay responded:

There are many things that I’m looking forward to, but initially I’m completely jazzed to have an OLAC Conference in Virginia. I’m very thrilled about working with and getting to know the other planning committee members. My’s (Ngoc-My Guidarelli) and Tina’s (Tina Frick) enthusiasm in looking at hotels in Richmond with me was contagious. We’re all psyched for a Richmond conference.