A leadership model for Chinese American Librarians: an oral history of Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee.

Author:He, Yan

Hwa-Wei Lee, former chief of the Library of Congress's Asian Division and dean emeritus of Ohio University Libraries, was born in China, did his undergraduate studies in Taiwan, and completed his MEd, MLS, and PhD degrees at the University of Pittsburgh. During his fifty-year career, he worked in various library administrative positions at the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, the Asian Institute of Technology (in Bangkok, Thailand, under the sponsorship of the U.S. Agency for International Development), Colorado State University, Ohio University, and the Library of Congress. He was also a visiting distinguished scholar at the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and a Fulbright senior specialist in Thailand.

Dr. Lee has been very active in international librarianship and has done consulting work in many Asian countries. He authored or coauthored six books and 130 papers on library and information science. His latest publication was a two-volume set, Collected Works, published by Sun YatSen University Press (Guangzhou; 2011). Among the many important awards he received were the 1983 Outstanding Administrator of Ohio University, the 1983 Distinguished Services Award from the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), the 1987 Ohio Librarian of the Year, the 1991 ALA John Ames Humphrey Award for Contributions to International Librarianship, the 1991 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association's Distinguished Services Award, the 1999 Ohio Hall of Fame Librarian, an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Ohio University in 2012, the Melvil Dewey Medal of the American Library Association in 2015, and the Outstanding Library Leadership Award from CALA in 2016. Upon his retirement in 1999, Ohio University named a new library building the Hwa-Wei Lee Library Annex and the first floor of the main library the Hwa-Wei Lee Center for International Collections.

A biography of Hwa-Wei Lee, The Sage in the Cathedral oj Books, originally written in Chinese by Yang Yang and translated into English by Ying Zhang, was published by Ohio University Press in 2016.

Dr. Lee, could you briefly review your career as a librarian and a library leader?

My library career began in 1958. While studying for my master's degree in education at the University of Pittsburgh, I began working as a part-time student assistant at the university library. This was just one year after my arrival in the United States from Taiwan on a student visa.

After completing my master's degree in January 1959, I had the choice of either continuing my graduate studies in education or becoming a full-time librarian trainee at the Pitt Library while beginning a master of library science at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). I decided to postpone my pursuit of a PhD and accepted the offer to become a librarian trainee at the Pitt Library; I subsequently started my study of library science at the Carnegie Library School. The reason for my decision was not merely because of financial necessity but also for my newly acquired love of library work.

Pitt Library was a great place to nurture my library experience. After two years of intensive library training at Pitt and my expedited study at the Carnegie Library School, I not only completed my master of library science but also was hired as the first assistant in library acquisitions at Pitt Library in 1961--my first professional position.

From Pitt, I went on and moved up the ladder of my library career, serving as the head of technical services at Duquesne University Library from 1962 to 1965. After completing my PhD in education at Pitt in 1965,1 was appointed deputy library director at Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) and then was promoted to the directors position in 1967. At that time, it was very rare for a Chinese American to become a college library director, especially as a new immigrant.

A year later, I was recruited by the U.S. Agency for International Development to work as the founding director of the Library and Information Center at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand, a position I held for seven years until 1975. When the USAID sponsorship ended in 1975, I returned to the United States and accepted a position at Colorado State University as the associate director of libraries and professor of library administration. Three years later, in 1978, I was offered the position of library director and adjunct professor of education at Ohio University, where I worked for twenty-one years and had my library title...

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