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Dan Johnson, senior library specialist at the University of Houston Libraries, has been selected as a 2013-2015 Association of Research Libraries (ARL)/Society of American Archivists (SAA) Mosaic Program fellow.
The highly competitive program, jointly sponsored by ARL and SAA, is part of the ARL diversity initiatives which seek to identify and promote emerging leaders from underrepresented groups to advanced positions in archival work in academic research libraries. Fellows are awarded tuition support, practical work experience, mentorship, and professional development.
The two-year fellowship will allow Johnson to complete an MSLS in archival studies and digital image management from the University of North Texas.
Johnson was encouraged to apply for the fellowship by his manager Santi Thompson, metadata and digitization operations coordinator. “This amazing opportunity will allow Dan to learn from and to collaborate with some of the best archivists and librarians in the field,” Thompson said. “He will be well situated to enter into the archives and special collections world after completing the Mosaic Program and to make an immediate impact on the profession. All of us at UH Libraries are so proud of his work and this well-deserved recognition.”
As part of the fellowship, Johnson will also begin an internship in UH Libraries Special Collections in the fall of 2014.
Interestingly, Johnson’s long-time interest in graphic novels led to this point in his career. After stints at an online business research company and in tech support for a state agency, Johnson thought about going back to school for an advanced degree in English, but a visit to a special collection for graphic novels and comics art at Michigan State University changed his mind.
“I always had a big passion for graphic novels,” Johnson said. During the visit to the MSU archives, Johnson was excited to realize that he could pursue a degree in library science and work on expanding a graphic novel collection that would support teaching and research needs.
Over the years, Johnson has incorporated his interest in comics into his academic work. He has researched and written on a range of topics from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to Robert Crumb.
He noted that secondary educators are increasingly seeing the value and benefit of adding comics to their curriculum.
“We’re starting to see that graphic novels are being used in the classroom,” Johnson said. “Graphic novels are really useful for ESL students because of the visual component that is not language-specific. It’s really good for reluctant readers, who start reading comics and in the process, increase their vocabulary and literacy skills.”
As Johnson completes his MSLS, his internship with UH Libraries Special Collections will help expand his knowledge of original collection processing and reference work.
Mary Manning, university archivist in Special Collections, will advise Johnson’s internship. “As the Mosaic program coordinator, I look forward to identifying projects and working with Dan and Special Collection’s curators to develop an internship learning plan that will guide his experience,” Manning said. “Dan will have the opportunity to organize, preserve, and make available unique archival materials from University of Houston’s Special Collections, and work with curators on projects that will allow him to experience the different aspects of the work that we do.”
Looking to the future, Johnson hopes to expand UH Libraries’ relationships with faculty and researchers incorporating graphic novels in teaching and research, and to build connections with Houston-based artists to share their unique materials with UH.