Retired UHV Library director receives library champion award
Joe Dahlstrom’s impactful career in libraries across Victoria and the state is now being recognized with an award from the Texas Library Association.
The Texas Library Association recently announced that Dahlstrom, who served as the University of Houston-Victoria Library’s senior director for more than 30 years, will be added to the list of Texas Library Champions. The Library Champions award was first created in 2002 to celebrate the association’s 100th anniversary and recognize 100 individuals who have made an impact on libraries in Texas through their activities, leadership, and overall support in making a significant contribution to libraries and library service during the period 1902-2002. Since then, the association has continued to honor more individuals by adding them to the list. As part of the award, Dahlstrom will be honored in April during the association’s annual conference in San Antonio.
“I’m pleased to receive this award and acknowledgement of my work supporting libraries,” Dahlstrom said. “The Texas Library Association does great work supporting libraries across the state and providing resources to legislators to help them make decisions. I am proud to have been part of the association’s work and of my work at the UHV Library.”
Dahlstrom’s long career in libraries began with a love for music. When he was studying music at the University of Texas in Austin, he got a student job in the university’s music library. From there, he took some classes in library science and decided that he wanted to pursue a career in library administration. He earned a Master of Library Science from UT in 1972 and eventually received a doctorate in adult education from Texas A&M University in 1982.
After he received his master’s degree, Dahlstrom worked for San Antonio Public Libraries from 1972 to 1980, when he began working at Hardin-Simmons University as a professor and director of university libraries. He served in that role until 1988, when he became the director of libraries for UHV and Victoria College, which shared a joint library at that time. He retired in 2019 after helping UHV establish its own library in the new UHV University Commons building.
“Dr. Dahlstrom exhibited the highest levels of leadership in his post here in Victoria,” UHV President Bob Glenn said. “In my 48 years as a higher education administrator, I have worked with hundreds of library professionals. I can say with conviction that Dr. Dahlstrom is in the top 5 percent of those professionals with whom I have had the pleasure to work.”
Throughout his career, Dahlstrom actively participated in the Texas Library Association, the American Library Association and many other organizations that focus on libraries and higher education. In the Texas association, he served on the executive board from 1984 to 1989, including a term as president from 1987 to 1988. He also served on several of the association’s committees including as chair of the College of University Libraries Division, the Bylaws & Resolutions Committee, a strategic planning committee, a legislative committee, a conference local arrangements committee and more.
“I first became involved with TLA when I was getting my master’s degree, and I’ve greatly enjoyed my time as a member,” Dahlstrom said. “I’ve found the work with the association very gratifying, and I continue to be involved in their efforts to promote and support libraries.”
Apart from his involvement with professional organizations, he has been involved in a wide array of community organizations including Rotary clubs, the Museum of the Coastal Bend Advisory Board, the Crossroads Community Band, Victoria Preservation Inc., the Victoria Fine Arts Association and was an active member at Northside Baptist Church when he lived in Victoria.
Karen Locher, the current UHV Library senior director, worked under Dahlstrom throughout his time at UHV, and his leadership served as a good role model for the 30 years he was in Victoria, she said. His leadership was especially effective when it came to encouraging change in the library’s services offered to students.
“The past 30 years have seen massive amounts of change in technology and what resources libraries offer,” Locher said. “Joe was supportive of making those changes. He knew that the world was changing, and he supported every minute of the library’s efforts to meet those changing needs.”
In addition to leading the library through the ongoing shift in technology and its usage, Dahlstrom also brought a service-oriented attitude to the library, Locher said.
“Joe would tell us to ‘choose service,’” she said. “He emphasized that everything we do is for the university’s students, not ourselves. Our focus should be on making it easier for students to find what they need, not on making the job easier for ourselves or how helping someone will inconvenience us. The students are why we’re here, and our first priority should be to serve them. That perspective created a welcoming, positive atmosphere for our students through the years.”
Reflecting on his career and his time volunteering with the Texas Library Association and other library groups, Dahlstrom said he is pleased to see how libraries have grown and continue to be important parts of their communities as well as colleges and universities. He plans to continue serving as long as he is able.
“Libraries have been an equalizer for everyone,” Dahlstrom said. “They serve the needs of students and the community. They provide alternative viewpoints through the knowledge they provide. It’s an opportunity for people to do their own research and make up their own minds about what they believe. A library’s main job is to provide people with resources and teach them the skills they need to research and achieve their goals.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 50 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.