John Johansen understands the relationship of risk to reward. An entrepreneur and community volunteer who has been investing time and resources in new ventures big and small since his youth, John bringsthis business acumen to his commitment to the Ridgewood Public Library including, most recently, as President of the Board of Trustees.
“We were raised in the world of ‘To those whom much is given, much is expected,” John explains. This mantra eloquently sums up a leadership style that harnesses people’s individual talents for the collective greater good, whether around the office, the board room or the neighborhood.
John began sharing his aptitude for identifying and then working to meet a need – and then turning that into an opportunity – as a teenager whose father was running his own company. They needed a better way to print multiple invoices, and John’s first official computer program was born. A Computer Science degree from Lehigh University eventually followed.
Managing not only people but also information has remained a theme of John’s work and is another thread of connection to his library service. A partner at Agile Technologies since its founding, John brings teamwork and technology together through many initiatives. Familiar with building from the bottom up, John once hired a librarian to create information sources for executives. Today, John says, the firm continues to help “clients compete on information.”
Friendly competition also informs John’s professional and personal endeavors. When a fellow library supporter talked to John about becoming one of the founding members of the Ridgewood Library Foundation’s Gertrude L. Pease Planned Giving Society, John didn’t hesitate to say, “I’m in.”
John and his wife Nancy first became involved with the Library several years ago through a book club; not surprisingly, John agreed to join the Library Board just a couple of years later. “I was intrigued that volunteering for the library leveraged my passion for reading and books as well as my experience as an entrepreneur,” he notes.
Sustaining the Library “as a resource for the community for the long term” is important to John and why he has named the Ridgewood Public Library Foundation as a beneficiary in his estate plan. “When it comes to the things that are going to make the Library special, those are what the Foundation brings to bear—and if you care about those, you do what you can in the near term, by volunteering time and donating as modestly or as much as you can.”
John and Nancy also support fundraising events, like the “Great Gatsby” dinner they hosted as part of the Foundation’s fantastically successful “Novel Night” benefit. “I read The Great Gatsby every year, and it says something different to me every time,” John remarks.
John loved going to the library even during his childhood in New City, New York—where he and Nancy knew each other from the time they were three years old. “I was always surrounded by books. I read through my elementary school library, and the public library was a terrific resource right in the center of town, not to mention the furthest place to where I was allowed to ride my bike,” John recalls. When his town library moved into a new building further into town, young John considered it “an amazing place to learn.”
The Library continues to play a cherished role in the Johansens’ lives. John beams with pride when describing how their two now-teenage daughters have participated in various Library activities, including the Reading Marathon. He considers the diversity that the Ridgewood Public Library fosters to be especially vital and valuable, pointing to the wide variety of programs and resources available for people at all ages and stages of their lives.
“The Library is the community center and a terrific equalizer,” John says succinctly. He knows as well as anyone that you get as much out of something as you put in—and in the case of the Ridgewood Public Library, the return on investment is infinite.