Snapshot: Linnea Johnson '01BA, '04LS

September 09, 2014

I want alumni to feel connected to SLIS and students to value what the Alumni Board can offer them. I'm looking forward to increasing awareness of what the Alumni Board can do for graduates and students.

As Manager of Technology at Simmons SLIS, Linnea Johnson has revolutionized the technology services offered to students, staff, and faculty. Involved with development of the Collaboratory, SLIS Media Lab, and Usability Lab, Johnson also initiated a podcast service, SLIScast, which recently expanded to a YouTube channel, a technology workshops program for the community. She also first introduced Moodle as an online learning platform for classes and continuing education, and secured an internal Simmons grant (SLIS iPad Project for Curricular Enhancement and Enrichment) to fund the purchase of three iPads, which are available in the Tech Lab for SLIS community members to check out along with other e-readers and tablets. She and her team offer wikis, blogs, and other tools for SLIS community members, and they provide technology support for faculty research grants. Johnson is an MBA student and advisor to SLIS' award-winning ASIS&T student chapter, and has been elected President of the SLIS Alumni Board for 2014-15 with her term officially beginning on July 1. She claims the secret to her success is surrounding herself with a skilled team of proactive, passionate professionals who share her vision of integrating technology with a LIS perspective.

Why did you decide to run for President of the SLIS Alumni Board?

I felt it was time for me to give back to the Simmons community by assuming an executive position on the Alumni Board. Since I joined the Board in 2010, I have enjoyed working with a dedicated group of people who love information institutions, love SLIS, and have a genuine interest in helping others. My experiences as a SLIS staff member, Simmons undergraduate, SLIS alumna, and a current Simmons MBA student give me an understanding of SLIS processes and connections throughout the school. I know how the school works and whom to call, which makes for a seamless experience in expediting alumni initiatives.

I want alumni to feel connected to SLIS and students to value what the Alumni Board can offer them. I'm looking forward to increasing awareness of what the Alumni Board can do for graduates and students. Our reach extends nationwide and internationally, as we have board members in Austin, Texas, San Francisco, California, Washington, D.C. , and Canada. For example, we have started monthly BiblioBrews events, casual opportunities to meet other alumni, students, and other members of the SLIS community at a Boston or Cambridge restaurant. We are investigating new ways to keep the SLIS community connected, including hosting webinars that will feature alumni and leaders in the library and information science field. Since scheduling time is a challenge for many people who are trying to juggle busy professional and personal lives, virtual "lunch and learn" webinars can offer the flexibility to establish and maintain connections. As a result of the success of our webinar series, I have been helping the Simmons Executive Alumni Board with their lunchtime webinars since last fall and hope to continue collaborative efforts with the other boards on campus. I hope to expand our current webinar offerings so the SLIS alumni community can connect virtually during their lunch hours. I want alumni to feel connected to SLIS and to be in the loop on new initiatives that the school is undertaking.

What are the advantages to students of participating in the Alumni Board?

Librarians enjoy helping people. SLIS alumni are advocates for students and can network, mentor, and assist in job placement. In addition, student participation in the Alumni Board provides a chance to give back to the Simmons community. As soon as students start the program, I want to introduce them to the Alumni Board and highlight how we can help support them during their time in the program and beyond.

To reinforce the board's presence among students, we sponsor a table at the annual Simmons SLIS career fair, and we participate in cover letter and resume workshops so board members can provide career advice to students. In addition, I hope to work with current SLIS student group leaders to assess co-sponsor opportunities. To create a bridge between our campus activities in Boston and South Hadley, the Board participates in a career panel of SLIS West alumni, and I hope to find other opportunities to connect with our South Hadley community.

Since you've spent your academic career at Simmons, what motivated you to want to work for the college?

As an undergraduate I worked at the Help Desk, where I answered questions for staff and faculty. I enjoyed Simmons' close-knit community. When SLIS approached me with a job opportunity, it seemed like a good fit. Although the SLIS lab had only 12 mismatched computers when I started, once the Palace Road building was unveiled, I saw myself growing professionally along with SLIS as its resources grew. With help from my entire team and faculty sponsors, I designed and implemented a cutting-edge Tech Lab four times the size of the former one. I appreciate SLIS West Program Director's Terry Plum's guidance in identifying new initiatives and his ability to successfully implement them. As a result, I've been able to shape my position and take on a leadership role.

I have enjoyed the camaraderie and commitment of staff, faculty, and students, as well as learning from the great ideas generated in the community. SLIS has a history of deans, including James Matarazzo and Michèle Cloonan, who have been staunch supporters of information technology. Dean Eileen Abels is continuing the tradition by expanding this area; working closely with her has already been incredibly rewarding and exciting.

What is your vision for how Simmons SLIS should incorporate technology into the spaces available to the SLIS community?

Technology skills are essential to working in the LIS field today and experiential learning in technology has been infused throughout the SLIS curriculum. Through the SLIS Tech Lab, SLIS Media Lab, Usability Lab, and Collaboratory, Simmons SLIS offers students hands-on, practical experiences as well as usability tools to broaden the educational experience. In addition, we have increased access to Simmons SLIS events and workshops through podcasts and a SLIS Technology YouTube video channel.

SLIS faculty members need space to create exhibits, and archival projects, and to provide practical technology experience for students. Students need space for group work and practice. We partnered with SLIS faculty and other technology staff, as well as with an architect, to create a flexible space that allows users to move furniture so the room can be adjusted to accommodate various needs. The Collaboratory has touch screen Mondo pads that can stream movies and events, and use Skype or GoToMeeting video conferencing. Professors Candy Schwartz and Donna Webber are recent examples of SLIS faculty who have used the Collaboratory for hands-on class time for Digital Libraries and creation of exhibits by archives students. I envision that the SLIS spaces will continue to evolve to bring practical, pedagogical, and cutting edge learning experiences for the community.

What's next for technology projects at Simmons SLIS?

Since technology changes so quickly, it is difficult but an extremely exciting part of my job to keep up with the latest developments. Within budget constraints, we examined the most cost-effective ways to provide resources to the SLIS community. We are creating spaces where students, faculty, and staff can push the boundaries of what can be accomplished.

In addition to increasing use of the Collaboratory, we received a gift from a Simmons trustee to procure a 3D printer and 3D scanner, which will arrive this summer and will be unveiled this fall to the SLIS community. In addition, we are currently in the planning phases of opening a new Innovation Lab, as well as exploring the possibility of creating a Makerspace.

Under your guidance as faculty advisor, the Simmons SLIS chapter of ASIS&T won the Student Chapter of the Year Award in 2010, 2011, and 2013. What factors do you contribute to the chapter's success?

Professor Candy Schwartz, my advisor when I was in the program, introduced me to ASIS&T. I felt a connection with the organization. Since I now manage technology staff and students, I encourage my team to be active in the chapter as it is another way to show they are contributing to the profession. I have hired students who share a passion for bringing resources to the community. As a result, we have showcased our achievements at Simmons and collaborate with other student chapters with fewer resources. Helping others is a testament to our commitment to the profession and we continue to be recognized for such efforts.

As manager of the SLIS Technology Lab, Cataloging Lab, Media Lab, the Collaboratory, and Usability Lab, how do you find time to manage it all and pursue a MBA at Simmons?

Being the Manager of Technology at SLIS, I need to stay connected constantly, which means little downtime and a strong emphasis on time management. Delegating tasks to skilled, proactive, and passionate people makes my job easier. It is incredibly rewarding to serve as a mentor, to watch my team grow in their positions. I currently manage 15 student workers, which includes two Dean's Fellows, usability research and multimedia assistants, technology reference assistants, and staff member Pablo Morales Henry, who is the Curriculum Support DevelopereH. I emphasize excellent customer service and look for students with demonstrated skills who share a passion for LIS. It's a joy mentoring students as they further their careers at SLIS.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer