LAUC-LA Librarian of the Year: Russell Johnson
2009 Librarian of the Year
UCLA Faculty Center
Remarks by Esther Grassian
Hello, everyone. I am speaking to you on behalf of our excellent and hardworking 2009 LAUC-LA Librarian of the Year Award Committee or LOTY, Ruby Gutierrez from HAPI, Kris Kasianovitz from YRL CRIS, and our faculty representative, the Past-Chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, Professor Elizabeth Bjork.
The LOTY Committee solicits, receives, and reviews nominations for the LAUC-LA Librarian of the Year Award. The Award was established in 1993 to recognize excellence in librarianship at UCLA, particularly as it enhances library service and furthers the teaching and research mission of the University. Award recipients must also embody one or more of the following, as exemplified in achievements within the prior 12 to 18 months: creativity, innovation, intellectual or moral courage, leadership, and scholarship.
This year the Committee received sixteen nominations for a wide range of notable contributions. It was highly gratifying to see so many librarians appreciated for their hard work, and we thank those who wrote to nominate and support them. As agreed at the Fall LAUC-LA Assembly, each nominee will receive a letter of congratulations regarding her or his nomination, after the Award ceremony.
It was particularly difficult for the Committee to pick and choose among so many nominees this year, with quite a diverse range of achievements in many areas. In the end, we selected two librarians for the Award whose outstanding accomplishments illustrate the many ways that librarians can have a lasting impact on the Library, on students, on faculty, on the University, on scholarly communities nationally and internationally, and on the general community. I am delighted to announce that those two librarians are Russell Johnson from the Biomedical Library, History and Special Collections Division, and Marjorie Lee, from the Asian-American Studies Center Reading Room. I have the honor of telling you about their remarkable accomplishments, drawn largely from their letters of nomination and support, as well as supporting documentation.
I’m going to begin alphabetically by last name with Russell Johnson. Russell is a librarian in the Biomedical Library’s History and Special Collections Division and archivist for The Neuroscience History Archives.
First and foremost, nominators at UCLA and in other states, focused on his development of the Biomedical Library’s Baby Books collection. As one letterwriter put it, “He has created the largest and best collection of baby books… from 1880 through 1990, in the world.” Other letterwriters indicated that this collection is recognized internationally, and that Russell’s scholarly work in developing finding aids and cataloging the 1200-item collection enhances and eases scholars’ research in this area. One nominator wrote: “The baby book collection opens up a whole new area of research in the field of childhood studies. The collection has been recognized internationally for the light it will shed on the social history of parenting and infant development. Mr. Johnson has promoted use of the new collection through talks at national historical and archival meetings and has assisted researchers from Rutgers, Ohio State and other institutions to make use of its materials.” Russell’s presentations regarding this collection include, most notably, to the Society for the History of Children and Youth.
In addition to his work in developing and creating access to the baby book collection, letterwriters praised Russell for his creativity “in conceptualizing the Neuropsychopharmacology archive as an integrated collection of materials [existing within the Neuroscience History Archives] and as a digital archive project.” Russell’s invitation to present to the Society for the History of the Neurosciences on this archive also illustrates the impact of this endeavor in the scholarly research arena. According to one letterwriter, this collection makes UCLA the premier site for the study of the neurosciences from the post-World War II era to the present. Another stated so well that his work in developing and providing access to these collections provide “rich new primary source materials for teaching in a variety of disciplines.” In addition, Russell has transferred two physical exhibits to online formats, with wide impact and recognition of their value, as, according to one letterwriter, they have been “utilized in several college courses at other important universities… [These are] internationally important exhibits.”
Let me speak next about Marjorie Lee, our other outstanding Award recipient. Marji is the Head of the Asian American Studies Center Reading Room. Marji’s nominators focused in particular on the significance of her invited testimony at public hearings at the Library of Congress regarding establishing a national collection of Asian Pacific American archives, and the fact that she “spearheaded a major community event at UCLA’s Fowler Museum on January 19, 2008… the U.S. debut of the film, Anna May Wong—Frosted Yellow Willows,” as well as her work in developing, indexing, processing, and preserving Asian-American Studies materials. Let me elaborate on each of these and more.
Marji serves as a consultant to the Asian Division of the Library of Congress, so they turned to her for advice on establishing an Asian Pacific American Collection at the Library of Congress. Their view of her expertise is underscored by a letterwriter, who said: “I firmly believe that UCLA’s top rating in this field is a reflection of the library and archival materials that are housed here. Ms. Lee’s past and current work have been central to published and unpublished collections at UCLA.” Other letterwriters noted that she had acquired and worked on the preservation of major collections in Asian American studies, and that she co-chairs the Center’s $5 million Chinese American Studies Endowment Initiative. She attracts donors to that Initiative, as well as to the Friends of the Asian American Studies Library group.
Marji was also instrumental in convincing the filmmaker, Elaine Mae Woo and her team to hold the first U.S. screening at UCLA of a highly significant film, “Anna May Wong—Frosted Yellow Willows.” According to one nominator, this film is “a documentary regarding the career difficulties faced by one of Hollywood’s major silent screen stars [and its screening here] adds immeasurably to this important archive,” that is, the Asian American Studies Center Reading Room. The nominator goes on to say that “The entire event was free and open to the public. In addition to a formal program, Ms. Lee also planned two receptions. The event was standing room only—more than 250 people attended including State Assemblyman Mike Eng, past president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Gilbert Hom, and former actress Nancy Kwan.” Filmmaker Elaine Wood and a panel of film scholars and actors spoke, as well, drawing a wide range of attendees from UCLA and the community. Since this first U.S. screening, the film has been shown worldwide.
Nominators note, too, in particular, Marji’s work in indexing the leading English-language Hmong daily newspaper in the U.S., training and supervising students in this project, and guiding and mentoring Hmong students at UCLA. Others praised her participation in putting together the 352-page 10th edition of the “Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Directory for Los Angeles and Orange Counties,” published in 2008.
Letterwriters also praised Ms. Lee’s preservation actions in the face of a major flood in the Asian American Studies Center Reading Room, a dedicated effort that continued for many months following the flood, and resulted in restoration of services and of the collection in Fall 2008.
I’ll end by saying that these two excellent librarians have made outstanding contributions in very different areas, including scholarship, creativity, innovation, and leadership. They have reached out to their very different user populations, and far beyond, in many exceptional ways. We thank them and appreciate their work, and hope you will join us in congratulating them both on an Award well deserved.
LAUC-LA is delighted to present Award certificates outlining these accomplishments to both Russell Johnson and Marjorie Lee. Kathy Donohue is accepting the Award on behalf of Russell Johnson, as Russell is in San Diego today doing a presentation on the baby books collection.
LAUC-LA is also pleased to present each Award recipient an engraved clock, and an additional $250 in professional development funds, usable either this fiscal year or next. And a sustainable gift—plants!
Congratulations to both Award recipients!
Chair, 2009 LAUC-LA Librarian of the Year Award Committee