Neill Johnson

Assistant Superintendant of Schools

Louis Riel School Division

Imagine an educational leader who models integrity, builds trust, and inspires potential with the pure purpose of improving teaching and learning.  Imagine a leader who actively listens and expertly navigates challenges through creative problem solving.  Imagine a leader who asks how can I help, and what do you need to make this happen?   Imagine a leader who has vision and imagination, someone who can transform ideas into sustainable change that will impact favourably on academic success, student engagement, and active citizenship across the division.  In Neill Johnson, school libraries in Louis Riel School Division, are fortunate to have found such a leader.                                                                                                                         Kathleen Atkin

In 1977, Neill Johnson began teaching high school science at J. H. Bruns Collegiate. He has worked in schools as a teacher, a guidance councilor, a principal before moving into the role of Assistant Superintendent in the newly formed Louis Riel School Division in 2002.  As the Assistant Superintendent responsible for school libraries in Louis Riel School Division, Neill Johnson’s vision is to ensure that both the physical and virtual school library is a vital part of every school’s academic culture, and a hub for student learning. Neill has brought a scholars’ approach to his leadership, following current research about school libraries and translating the learning into action in the schools, championing teacher-librarians by promoting their leadership role as learning specialists and supporting implementation of new information technologies and expanded views of literacy.

“As a result of his vision and support, our school libraries have enjoyed an increase in staffing, continuing funding for professional learning, innovative new library initiatives, and the implementation of a new library resource management system.”                                                            Kathleen Atkin

Neill Johnson has affected school libraries in Louis Riel through staffing and support of professional learning for staff.  Neill assumed the challenge with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose after reading the Canadian Library Association’s landmark document, Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada (Asselin, Branch & Oberg, 2003).  As a leader, Neill is an avid reader of professional educational materials that explore new ideas,  inform practice, and extend thinking. He devised and implemented a new library staffing formula that not only equitably redistributed existing school library personnel more effectively, but also added new positions in schools to create collaborative teacher-librarian and library assistant teams.  

Neill made professional learning a priority for both teacher-librarians and library assistants. Itinerant teacher-librarian support for small schools ensured that all school libraries had access to qualified personnel in the areas of collection. Neill was proactive in recommending a part-time itinerant teacher-librarian position to transition new library staff, especially teacher-librarians, into their new assignments.

I am pleased to support the nomination of Neill Johnson for this year’s MSLA School Administrator Award for Distinguished Service. … Neill describes himself as a ‘convert’ to understanding how the work of teacher-librarians enhances students’ education. His conversion has had positive results for libraries, librarianship and most importantly, our students’ education and intellectual development.                                                                                                 Harriet Zaidman

Feedback has been overwhelmingly appreciative to Neill’s introduction of a new recommendation to the Board of Trustees that all school libraries in Louis Riel School Division receive a minimum budget of $3,500 per year.   Because of a High Potential Literacy Support Grant that allotted funds for specific K – 8 schools, students could purchase a book of their choice in a local bookstore or a custom, school-based book fair; in the past 2 years, school library personnel have coordinated field trips, tours and book fairs through McNally Robinson and Chapters, for hundreds of LRSD students, many of whom have never stepped foot inside a bookstore before.

Neill Johnson has been the driving force behind the restoration of the dormant library space at the René Deleurme Centre in LRSD to house the division’s special interest library collections, now including almost a dozen professional resource collections. Neill is also responsible for designating a half-time library assistant position to manage and circulate these resources efficiently throughout the division.

Neill has encouraged a highly beneficial partnership between staff at the Aboriginal Resource Library and our school library personnel – resulting in numerous opportunities for collaboration, including the organization of indigenous author visits to schools and support for school library staff in evaluating resources for bias, perspective and authenticity.

Neill has been instrumental in the development of the Aboriginal Resource Library that is available to the Louis Riel School Division staff, students and community. … This library has had a profound effect on the teaching within the school division. Neill’s vision of the Aboriginal Resource Library is to not only support the purchase of new resources for the library, but to also employ qualified staff to be able to help teachers use the resources in a meaningful way.                           Dionne Deer.


One of Neill’s first tasks in harmonizing the library services in Louis Riel School Division was to update the former St. Boniface school libraries to an efficient, automated resource management system.  Neill also introduced a division-wide, centralized cataloguing service that allowed library assistants to spend less time creating records for materials, and spend more time assisting students and staff in the library.  This transition also had a direct impact on the physical set-up of the library work station, so Neill proposed a new divisional budget that allocated funds to replace and/or update library circulation desks to improve ergonomic standards for library assistants.  In 2013, Neill successfully advocated for a new web-based resource management system for school libraries that has substantially improved access to divisional resources for both students and staff.  

When Neill Johnson assumed responsibility for LRSD School Libraries, our lives in these libraries changed for the better.  We gained a committed advocate who knew how integral school libraries are to the education of LRSD students, and someone who readily assumed the task of interpreting their importance, necessity and impact on student learning. …in Neill Johnson, LRSD School Library Staff has the ideal school administrator advocate in the Superintendent’s Office – someone with vision and purpose, but most importantly, someone who makes things happen so all staff and ultimately, students, benefit beyond the moment.                                                      Zoya Osipova

For Louis Riel School Division, Neill Johnson is that true voice that advocates so diligently on behalf of the invaluable work of the school libraries.  He ensures that school library programs are always represented on the frontlines in the division His vision that has guided our ongoing transformation towards embracing a learning commons concept where all literacies meet in the school library.  He believes in the potential of school libraries to change lives for the better, and he has consistently endorsed that belief through his actions and unwavering commitment to enriching teaching in learning in Louis Riel School Division.

Contact the MSLA:
Man­i­toba School Library Asso­ci­a­tion
307 Shaftes­bury Blvd.
Win­nipeg, MB. R3P 0L9

© 2017 Manitoba School Library Association