Meet Aisha Johnson, the Library’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Outreach

Aisha Johnson joined the Georgia Tech Library in 2021 as associate dean for Academic Affairs and Outreach. Before that she was the Master of Library Science program director for the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, the only HBCU with an MLS program. She came to Tech because she was ready for a new challenge and an opportunity to grow.

“I knew that by coming to Georgia Tech I would grow as a professional and I would learn a different side of academia,” she said, having worked in environments ranging from federal offices to public and private universities to HBCUs. “I have learned the business ins-and-outs, navigating not only at a university level, but also at the university system level, as well as state politics and educational policy. For anyone who aspires to be a senior executive leader or an administrator in any form, it’s extremely important to learn how to navigate policy and still get things done.”

Johnson is responsible for four areas at the Library Archives, Special Collections, and Data Curation; Assessment; Public Programming and Community Engagement; and Academic Engagement. “Currently, I have four direct reports — previously 18 — and 25 people within my line. But as a leader I feel responsible for all 94 people in the Library.”

She describes her role as an educator, advocate, and scholar. She enjoys solving problems and developing people. “I like giving people enough space to try to figure things out. At the same time, I’m always in a position of encouragement and support, stepping in when heavy lifting and additional guidance are needed.”

Johnson has a bachelor’s in political science, a master’s in library and information studies, and a Ph.D. in information studies, all from Florida State University. She also has an M.B.A. from Clark Atlanta University.

She was recently awarded an individual ALA Carnegie-Whitney Grant for the collaborative project, Sustainable Leadership as a Solution for Representation and Inclusion in LIS: A Bibliography and Toolkit, which will provide library leaders and aspiring leaders with the resources to build sustainable leadership practices. It will be applicable across disciplines.

Johnson is a prolific writer, from think pieces to research. In 2019 she wrote a book titled The African American Struggle for Library Equality: The Untold Story of the Julius Rosenwald Fund Library Program, about the program that established more than 10,000 school, college, and public libraries in the American South, and funded library science programs and institutes that trained African American librarians. She will be featured in an upcoming documentary on Black librarians, to be released in summer 2025, highlighting the importance of access to information and the value of Black librarianship. “I’m excited to be a part of the documentary and honored to be one of the interviewees,” she said.  

Away From Work

When she isn’t working, Johnson is a world traveler. “I try to leave the country about five or six times a year, just to explore the world,” she said. “I want to see everything, and I find such comfort in traveling. I’m almost giddy when I’m on the plane because I can’t wait to get there.”

Travel provides a respite when work can feel consuming. “In academia, we must pay attention to what’s happening at the state level, what bills are on the floor and how they will affect us. But also, being a people-leader is selfless. You need an outlet. For me, travel became that outlet a few years ago.” 

Her recent travels have taken her to Brazil, Fiji, Zanzibar, and Greece. “Crete, in Greece, is one of those places that is what you see on TV. The people are beautiful. The food is organic. It’s like a Hallmark movie.” She would like to visit Ghana and Nigeria soon.

Although travel is a great escape for Johnson, she still manages to write, even if she’s on a beach. “I always have a notepad or my phone with me. So, it’s work but it’s different.”