Assistant Librarian of Congress for Processing Services

Assistant Librarian of Congress for Processing Services


With regard to technical library processes, represented the Librarian of Congress in the formulation of the Library’s policy and role relating to cooperative undertakings with other libraries and institutions both nationally and internationally. Directed the implementation in Processing Services of cooperative undertakings to which the Library was a party. Was responsible for budget preparation and justification to Congress, personnel recommendations to the Librarian of Congress and technical management and planning functions for the regular divisional activities of the Department. Was responsible for directing the Department’s EEO plan. Was responsible for planning and directing the Library’s acquisition program, including overseas offices. Was responsible for planning and directing the Department’s automation program including a computer section consisting of an IBM 158 computer, a Xerox optical disc scanner and printer, and other sophisticated equipment most of which operated independently of the Library’s main frame. Planed and directed the development of cataloging policies and rules pertaining not only to publications but to manuscripts, motion pictures, prints and photographs, microfilm, phono- records, music, and materials in complex languages such as Arabic, Cyrillic, Indic, etc.. Planed and directed a sales service of Library of Congress printed catalog cards and technical publications. Directed the development and maintenance of the card catalogs of the Library, the publication of various catalogs listing the holdings of the Library of Congress and other libraries, e.g. “The National Union Catalog”, which is divided into two series: the Pre-1956 Imprints is a 754-volume set containing all older records in a consolidated alphabetical format, while post-1955 volumes were published serially.  Also the “National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)” and “New Serial Titles”.  Directed the work of 17 divisions with 1700 employees with a budget over $50 million dollars. 

I had four wonderful assistants, Lucia Rather (Cataloging), Henriette Avram (Automation), Franks McGowan (Acquisitions & Overseas Operations), and Paul Edlund (Personnel).

Initially, the Department was in the Annex (later named the Adams Building); however, on May 28, 1980 we moved to the new Madison Building, where I had a wonderful large office from which I could see the Capitol as well as the Main (Jefferson) Building.



I was LC’s representative to Z39.  I don’t remember much about it but I do remember that their meetings were held in my office.  They also liked the view.  One of our accomplishments was setting the standard for bar code implementation.  I remember voting “yes” even if I didn’t completely understand its future impact on American life.

Meeting the Dalai Lama

I was delighted when Dr. Boorstin, the Librarian, invited me, along with his four other assistants, to his office to meet his Holiness, the Dalai Lama.  I was in awe upon meeting him.   I’m sure that I would have been speechless had it been a meeting that required conversation; however, it was obvious that we were not there for a chat but to listen to His Holiness make a short speech.  What he said was inconsequential but being in his presence one felt an overwhelming reverence.  Unfortunately, the audience was very short so that I didn’t have enough time to absorb much of it before others came to take him to the Orientalia Division to show off some of the Library’s collection of Buddhist and Tibetan rarities.

Pinyin vs. WadeGiles for Chinese romanization

This subject brings up a conundrum for me.  The facts are:

June 29, 1979 – The Library of Congress (Joe Howard, Lucia Rather, Henriette Avram) announced in its Information Bulletin that it was consider changing to adopt Pinyin romanization system; thereby changing from the long-used WadeGiles system.  Pinyin was the official system used in China, the United States Government (for more than two decades), the United Nations, and most of the world’s media.  For libraries, it was a “shot across the bow”, aimed at getting comments.  Several meetings were held at LC.  It met mostly with negative responses.

September 39, 1979 – The New York Times on p. 5:

The introduction of China’s official Pinyin system of rendering its language in the Roman alphabet, which the American press has adopted relatively smoothly, has begun to arouse protests from major university libraries in the United States.

The opposition to the new system of spelling Chinese personal and place names in English came to light after the Library of Congress, the nation’s largest library, decided tentatively earlier this year to adopt the Pinyin system for cataloguing of Chinese books and other publications.

Major American libraries use standard cataloguing cards prepared by the Library of Congress, and some of them fear that the introduction of a new system, at a time of tighter library budgets, will prove expensive and cause confusion. There are Chinese book collections in some 80 institutions in the United States, representing holdings of more than seven million Chinese books.

The Chinese written language, which uses ideograms instead of an alphabet, must be rendered into other languages by a system that phonetically represents the sounds implied in the characters. The proponents of Pinyin contend that this system comes closer to the actual pronunciation of Chinese than the WadeGiles system, which was devised by two British scholars and has been widely used for about 50 years.

For example, the name of the late Chinese leader is rendered as Mao Zedong in Pinyin and as Mao Tse-tung in the WadeGiles system. . .

Oct. 2, 2000 – The Library of Congress Information Bulletin contained the following article: “Library of Congress, Other U.S. Libraries Join International Community on Use of Pinyin.”

What happened between 1979 and 2000?  Did I “chicken out” or did I leave it unfinished when I was loaned to the Department of Agriculture to be acting Librarian of the National Agricultural Library (later Librarian).  I don’t ponder very long.  It is not that important.

Outstanding Service to Librarianship

In 1979, I received “Outstanding Service to Librarianship” from the University of Oklahoma.

Sued for Discrimination

Parking around the Library was scarce and was limited to 2-hour parking during working hours.  Sometime before 1980, Gloria Hsieh, Chief of the filing division, had an employee who would leave his job every two hours to repark his automobile.  Often, he would be gone for up to an hour.  When his supervisor accused him of the fact, the employee stuck the supervisor, knocking him down, and opening a wound from an appendix operation.  Gloria recommending that the offending employee be fired.  I agreed and proceeded with the paperwork.  He appealed to the Union who took up his case.  LC’s legal office suggested that I agree to a settlement.  I refused and the union took the case to the DC courts.  I won the case.

Bomb Threats at the Card Division

The Card Division was located in a large warehouse-looking space in the Navy Yard – a couple of miles south of the Library of Congress three buildings.  We received 2 telephone calls with threating bomb threats.  I did not have the “guts” to call their bluffs.  Instead, we evacuated the building each time.  When we got the third call, I was ready for them by sending a bus to bring them to the Filing Division when they were put to work by helping in the initial preparations for filing cards.  This stopped future threats. 

Closing the card catalog

For some time, we had been discussing the closing of LC’s card catalog.  It was a scandal that there was a backlog of cards to be filed of over 3 million cards.  The scandal was ameliorated by the fact that all roman-alphabet cataloging had been in the on-line catalog since about 1968.  No cards have been added since 1980.  The old card catalog was still available and has since been digitized.

Outstanding Rating

In May 1983, I received an Outstanding Rating from my supervisor, William J. Welsh.  The following “bullets” are excerpted from that rating.

  • 1982 was another record year of accomplishments in the Library of Congress.
  • As Director of the largest of the 8 departments in staff (over 1,300) and in appropriation (over $53 million) you played a major role in many of these accomplishments, and we are indebted to you for the leadership you have given.
  • Development of an online automated cataloging system for input, verification, and update of name authority records which will increase productivity of catalogers and provide immediate access to bibliographic records
  • Planning for cooperative cataloging for microforms
  • Increasing participation by publishers in the Cataloging in Publication program
  • Increasing our exchange receipts with official exchange partners
  • Expansion in our Name Authority Co-op project
  • Expansion to include online input of both name authority and bibliographic records
  • Continued development of the Linked System Project
  • The development of character sets for bibliographic use both nationally and internationally
  • Participation in a project to input, update, and retrieve machine-readable catalog records containing Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters
  • Automation planning for the National Union Catalog and for publication of the NUC in microfiche
  • Development of new missions for the Cataloging Distribution Service and an automated serials control system
  • You and members of your staff have participated in meetings and seminars outside LC to ensure responsible and orderly communication between LC and the information community.
  • As I am a former director of Processing Services, I have a special appreciation for what these accomplishments and others mean to the overall effectiveness of services at the Library of Congress and to library service throughout the country.


Detailed to NAL

In 1982, the Library of Congress (LC) was asked for someone the participate in a Blue Ribbon Panel to recommend solutions to the problems at the National Agricultural Library (NAL).  Upon its completion, The Department of Agriculture asked LC again to send someone to go to NAL as its Acting Director until they could appoint a new Director.     I was asked to be that person.  Even if I knew very little about NAL, I agreed.

A Special Reward

I received the following award from Bob Zich and Grace Ross who were the personal assistants to the Librarian.  Bob’s title was Director of Planning.

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