Sue Johnson, 68; Trained Librarians And Information Specialists for World Bank

By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sue Snyder O'Neill Johnson, 68, who trained librarians and information specialists around the globe for the World Bank and performed locally as a pianist and singer, died Sept. 27 of a rare form of endometrial cancer at the Casey House hospice in Rockville. She lived in Potomac.

Mrs. Johnson, who worked as a librarian at government and private venues, spent 12 years at the World Bank as manager of the IT Resource Center. She trained professionals at the bank's headquarters and overseas field offices in using information management tools to spread knowledge of best practices in economic and social development.

After retiring in 2001 as the World Bank's senior information projects officer, she established a small consulting business specializing in international informatics, or organizing information using computers and statistical methods. One of her most important projects was a detailed study of the status of clinical trials throughout the world for the National Library of Medicine.

Mrs. Johnson, a mentor who was known for her leadership abilities and irrepressible sense of humor, pushed those she trained to think globally. She held top positions in several professional associations, and at their meetings she often brought together librarians from developing countries to hear about the problems they faced.

"She really loved meeting and talking to different persons all over the world," P.K. Jain, a deputy librarian at India's University of Delhi, wrote in an e-mail. "Her contributions as a policy maker . . . have been very influential."

As a member of the Special Libraries Association, she raised funds to bring 25 librarians from developing countries to an international meeting in England. For her efforts, she received the association's national President's Award. She was elected president of the D.C. chapter in 2001 and won the Member of the Year Award.

At the American Society for Information Science and Technology, she co-founded the group's international paper competition, which brought travel grants, memberships and publishing opportunities to dozens of information professionals in developing nations.

Mrs. Johnson also extended her reach into the musical community in the Washington area, including setting up musical fundraisers for a local library association.

A gifted pianist, she performed in a jazz trio at the Army and Navy Club and played solo piano or accompanied singers at other venues. In recent years, she sang and played at senior and adult centers in the Washington area. Her repertoire covered American standards, show tunes, and folk and gospel songs.

Mrs. Johnson, a native of Chicago, grew up in Riverside, Conn. She attended Connecticut College, where she was a leader and composer-arranger of a vocal group. She graduated from Boston University and received a master's degree in library science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964 and a master's degree in public administration from American University in 1989.

She married in 1960 and moved to Lexington, Ky., where she lived from 1964 to 1984. She raised her family there and volunteered as a fundraiser at the Lexington Public Library before becoming its first professional manager of public relations. In the 1970s, she and two friends formed the Singing Huns, a German folk trio.

She moved to Washington in late 1984 and worked at the Library of Congress, the Georgetown University medical library, the IIT Research Institute and Jane's Information Group.

Since 1990, Mrs. Johnson had composed and orchestrated the music for two original shows done for charity and wrote dozens of songs for the annual shows at Hexagon, a Washington musical and comedy revue. She also composed a four-part choral piece and a commissioned birthday cantata for soprano and piano. Several of her longer pieces recently were performed in concerts by the Composers' Society of Montgomery County. In 2005, she produced a CD of nine of her compositions.

Her marriage to Dr. Richard Patrick O'Neill ended in divorce. A son from that marriage, Todd Richard O'Neill, died in 1984.

Survivors include her husband, Douglas L. Johnson of Potomac, whom she married in 1990; three children from her first marriage, Dr. Terry O'Neill, Paul O'Neill and Debra O'Neill Flynn, all of Lexington; a stepdaughter, Emma Johnson of Boston; two brothers; and five granddaughters.

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