During his nearly 34 years as director of the Hull Public Library, Daniel Johnson has most enjoyed welcoming patrons to the architecturally noteworthy building and working collaboratively with the close-knit staff to ensure top-notch customer service.
Now, after more than three decades as director (and, before that, five as assistant director), Johnson is retiring early next month. He will work with new director Diane Costagliola for a week before leaving to start the next chapter of his life. (See accompanying story on Costagliola.)
“I live close by in Weymouth and plan to keep in touch with all my friends here,” Johnson said in a parting interview. “I’ve really gotten to like the people of Hull, which has always been such a warm and friendly place.”
What stand out to library trustee Amy Hyde about Johnson are how much he cares about the people of Hull and his wealth of knowledge about the town’s rich history.
“If you start to tell a story, he draws all the connections. He knows everybody, and we’ll all miss him being such a living part of the library. He has been a great director and a quiet doer,” she said.
Johnson was appointed assistant director in 1982 after majoring in history at Bridgewater State University and going on to earn a master’s degree in library science from the University of Rhode Island.
“As a child I always liked books and visiting libraries, but I didn’t think of becoming a librarian until I was an adult,” he said.
There have been many changes since he assumed the director’s role – from a library addition in the 1980s, through a Friends of the Hull Public Library fundraising effort, and another smaller addition in 2003 to joining the Old Colony Library Network and automating the library’s collection in the 1990s from the former card catalogue.
Another change that has been apparent over the years is the transformation of the Hull library into “much more of a community center, offering a lot more programming and technology,” he noted.
The mission of the Friends group is to augment traditional library services with programs such as museum passes, author talks, and children’s events and to purchase library equipment that may not be obtainable through the town budget.
According to Kathy Grant, a library trustee and longtime Friends member, Johnson was a regular at Friends meetings and helped out with their annual book sale, collecting and holding donations that were dropped off at the library until the next sale.
“Dan was very conscientious and a good leader,” she said. “He knows many people around town, and he will be missed.”
One of the qualities Johnson is best known for is his willingness to listen. “We’re here to serve the public, and it’s important to pay attention to other people’s points of view and to learn from what others have to say,” he said.
He also enjoys working in a building that has an interesting history and meeting some of the descendants of Irish-American patriot and poet John Boyle O’Reilly, who built as his summer home the building that the town purchased in 1913 for use as a public library.
While fiscal 2020 was a lean year for HPL, Johnson chooses to dwell on the good times. “We have always had a lot of support from the community, and we have a good staff, board of trustees, and Friends group,” he acknowledged. “We couldn’t do without them.”
During the pandemic, the library has provided front porch pickup of items patrons have placed holds on through the library’s reserve system and has continued to offer many online data bases such as ancestry.com and Mango languages “to help give people more to do during the shutdown,” Johnson said.
While he misses the in-person interaction with staff and library patrons, Johnson is optimistic that in the not-too-distant future “there will be a time when that happens again.”
Longtime children’s librarian Anne Masland appreciates that Johnson has always been receptive to ideas shared by staff members. “We all work well together, and Dan has taken our suggestions to heart,” she said. “We are all really happy to work here in this beautiful library.”
Staff member Ellen Kane praised Johnson for “setting the tenor of superb customer service. That’s what we pride ourselves on as one of the smallest libraries in the Old Colony Library Network. He takes an interest in every patron and their family and sets the tone for our library’s cozy, warm, and friendly atmosphere. We’re all grateful for that.”
Although he is a longtime Weymouth resident, Johnson maintains a deep affection for the Hull community. “Because it’s a peninsula, the people are close with, and help, each other,” he said. “There’s a small market and an independently owned pharmacy and hardware store, along with other small businesses and a well-functioning local newspaper, which all add to the sense of community.”
Johnson is looking forward to an active retirement. He plans to continue his participation in the Hull Lions Club and with the Quincy Historical Society and to travel around New England.