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The History and Status of Chinese Americans in Librarianship.


THIS ARTICLE REVIEWS THE BRIEF HISTORY OF Chinese Americans in the United States and their contributions to librarianship. Despite the hardships and challenges they faced, Chinese American librarians made great Lcontributions to the building of East Asian libraries, to the cataloging of East Asian and Chinese collections, and to the development of library automation. They have advanced information technologies, promoted multicultural and diversity library services, and participated in library management and administration. Chinese Americans are active in library and information science education, in professional associations, in international librarianship, in national library and information services policy making and programming, and national policy making. Pioneers and key figures are identified with their accomplishments. The origin, purpose, programs, and activities of the Chinese American Librarians Association are also described.


The Chinese have been in the United States since the 1820s. Their history in this country is the longest among all Asian groups. With a population of 1,648,696, according to the 1990 U.S. census, it is also one of the largest ethnic groups in the country (Lai, 1995). During the last two centuries, Chinese Americans have played an important role in the nation's economy.

There are basically four groups of Chinese in America: (1) Chinatown-centered Chinese; (2) Chinese in Hawaii; (3) scholars and professionals; and (4) Chinese who temporarily reside in the United States, including college students from China; industrial, business, and military trainees from China; visiting merchants; and governmental representatives (Hsu, 1971). Chinese American library and information science professionals fall into the category of "scholars and professionals," and a majority of these completed at least part of their higher education in China and then emigrated to the United States within approximately the last fifty years.

Early Chinese immigrants were chiefly engaged in labor and services. It was not until after World War II that an educated Chinese American middle class began to emerge. By 1965, with the reform of the U.S. immigration policies, the number of Chinese professionals emigrating to the country increased significantly. This group of Chinese professional immigrants was mainly from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Because there was great demand for librarians in the 1960s, library science became one of the favored professions for the many new Chinese immigrants. There were no statistics about Chinese Americans in librarianship prior to 1970, but the number of Chinese American librarians, archivists, and curators reached 795 according to the U.S. census in 1970 (234 males, 561 females) (Sung, 1976, p. 77). The next wave of Chinese professional emigration started in the 1980s and continued to the 1990s after the relaxation of China's emigration policy, which led to a great increase in Chinese immigrants from Mainland China. A great number of these new immigrants are well-educated professionals, and some eventually became librarians or library and information science educators. Unfortunately, the U.S. census no longer provided a detailed breakdown by occupation for Asian American groups in 1990. The total number of Asian/Pacific American librarians was recorded as 6,776, of whom 1,812 (27 percent) were males and 4,964 (73 percent) were females (U.S. Census, 1990).

After years of professional endeavor in librarianship, Chinese Americans have made great contributions to the profession just like their ancestors did to the U.S. economy. Although more writings on Chinese Americans appear in the literature in recent years, there is very little documented information on Chinese Americans in librarianship. This article tries to fill this information gap by joining pieces of available information through scattered documents, notes, messages, unpublished reports, and personal communications. A few significant achievements may have been overlooked. The writing of this article is to fulfill the purpose of a Chinese saying: "Throw a brick to bring forth a jade."


Two studies examined the status and characteristics of Chinese American librarians in the United States. Li (1979) established an early profile in the 1970s. His report showed that a great majority of Chinese American librarians (76.2 percent) worked in academic libraries; of them a large number were engaged in Asian studies. Knowledge of more than one language was a strong asset to this group. Advanced degrees in other subject areas also helped Chinese American librarians perform well as subject specialists. The reason that a majority of Chinese American librarians worked in academic libraries was because "a heterogeneous cultural background is perhaps more acceptable in academic circles" (p. 44). Similar to national trends, most Chinese American librarians were female, with the ratio approximately two to one. "Nearly nine out of ten male librarians are employed in academic libraries, and one out of three is in an administrative position. Female librarians in administrative positions account for 27 out of 176, or 15.3 percent" (p. 45). At that time, more than half of Chinese American librarians worked in technical services such as cataloging and acquisitions. Less than a fifth of them worked in public services (e.g., reference, reader service, and bibliographic instruction). Geographically, Chinese American librarians lived almost equally in each part of the country--Northeast, North Central, South, and West.

No further systematic studies on the Chinese American librarians' status could be found until Yang's (1996) job survey on Chinese American librarians was published. Yang surveyed members of the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA). She found that a great majority of Chinese American librarians (96 percent) were born outside the United States, namely China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. It was a female-dominant group (82 percent) just as Li (1979) observed. About half of the group was over fifty years old. One-third held a second master's degree and one-tenth held a doctorate degree. The largest groups of Chinese American librarians worked in academic libraries (47 percent) or public libraries (31 percent) with a small number (14 percent) working in special libraries. None of the surveyed librarians worked in school libraries. This finding differs from that of Li's study in which the number of public librarians was much smaller (16 percent). It indicates that, during the last seventeen years, the participation of Chinese American librarians in public libraries has increased. Another significant change found in Yang's 1996 study in comparison to Li's profile was the Chinese American librarians' job assignments. Seventeen years ago, the number of Chinese American librarians working in technical services was almost four times more than those in public services. Recently, they are nearly equally distributed with the number in reference slightly higher. This change reflects the importance of providing effective diverse services to multicultural communities. Bilingual communication skills can be valued in technical services but are equally valuable in providing direct information services to a diverse public. Chinese American librarians have good self-motivation and are active in professional organizations at the national or state levels. It is encouraging to learn that three-quarters of Chinese American librarians were in managerial positions with a majority at the middle management level with job titles of branch manager or department head. The ratio of males and females in high level administration is still unequal. While 29 percent (8 out of 28) of male Chinese American librarians are directors or deans, only 6 percent (8 out of 129) of females hold the title.

It should be noted that, although a majority of Chinese American librarians are composed of first-generation immigrants from outside the United States, second-generation Chinese Americans began to join the workforce at a younger age. As many of the first-generation Chinese American librarians are at retirement age, it is encouraging to have new blood entering the profession to strengthen the group.


Like most ethnic minorities in the United States, Chinese Americans face a number of hardships and difficulties, namely racial discrimination and unequal opportunities. Historically, treatment of Chinese Americans in this country has not been kind. Early immigrants were treated with suspicion and disdain, which was reflected in laws that barred Asians from citizenship and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that barred Chinese immigration to the United States. For many years, white and minority societies were segregated. Chinese Americans had very limited opportunities for education and employment. Such restrictions are still felt by Chinese Americans. When the economy and job market shrink, Chinese Americans and other minority groups are affected first. Chinese American librarians are sometimes dismissed after years of dedicated service without legitimate reason. With limited knowledge of legal information, they did not always fight for their civil rights. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act was an improvement, but it cannot assure overall true affirmative and equal hiring practices.

Although discriminative laws are no longer legal, there are other barriers to Chinese Americans in the workplace and in daily life. These barriers were generated based on their cultural background, their method of communication, and their value system. There is a misconception that Chinese Americans are very successful in American Society. The mythical "model minority" label implies that Chinese Americans are able to acquire status without any assistance. Many Chinese American librarians perform highly skilled tasks in cataloging, reference, and other library operations with wholehearted devotion. But they are often bypassed when opportunities for promotion to management arise. Lack of opportunity to succeed often acts as a damper on ambition and self-esteem. Chinese American librarians who are placed in a dead-end loop with career limitations are often desperate and rarely voice their dissatisfaction because of a fear of damaging working relationships. The silence is often interpreted as a lack of motivation. The unhealthy circle then goes on as these individuals continue to be overlooked for advancement.

Most of the foreign-born Chinese Americans who attain administrative positions have to utilize their linguistic competency to their best advantage in East Asian libraries. Very few Chinese Americans have reached top administration levels at academic or public libraries. Most Chinese Americans are at the middle management level and have difficulty in breaking the glass ceiling.

Recent reports on Chinese Americans and their connection to questionable political fund-raising revealed that those stereotypical views toward Chinese Americans still exist. Bridges must be built to help the general American public understand Chinese Americans. Hsia (1979) stated that a career in librarianship "can evolve in many directions. The challenges to a Chinese American librarian seem to have no bounds" (p. 64). To be a successful librarian surviving in American society, a Chinese American must examine his/her personal service philosophy, career expectations in terms of peer recognition, and adjust one's social consciousness and ethical viewpoints. Frequent and open communication with peers is the key in solving many misunderstandings. Chinese American librarians can enrich librarianship with their own cultural backgrounds.

Chinese Americans feel proud that their ancestors made a substantial contribution to the growth and development of this country in spite of prejudice, intolerance, and poor working conditions. They will follow their ancestors' positive spirit to meet the challenges and strive to make even greater contributions to society. As John F. Kennedy said: "Our task now is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix a course for the future."


Julia Li Wu (1979), former Commissioner of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, pointed out that "Chinese American librarians are characterized by their intelligence, diligence, and ability to assimilate American culture. Outstanding performers in the profession, they have tremendous upward mobility" (p. 72). Despite the hardships and challenges that they have to face, Chinese Americans have made great contributions to librarianship and have been, and continue to be, great assets to the library profession.

This author tried to group the significant achievements that Chinese Americans have made in librarianship into categories. However, there are a few outstanding leaders like the legendary Ching-chih Chen, Hwa-Wei Lee, and Tze-chung Li whose all-around accomplishments can hardly be categorized under one single section. Nevertheless, the author made the effort in placing their greatest contributions under a major category while incorporating their other functions in more than one section.


Most East Asian libraries in this country rely on Chinese American librarians' comprehensive knowledge of the Asian/Chinese language, culture, and literature. And for almost a century, Chinese American librarians have made remarkable contributions to the development and organization of East Asian collections, making them accessible in the United States.

While the history of oriental vernacular language collections in this country can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, there was no significant growth of East Asian collections until the 1930s. A handful of Chinese American librarians began to devote their whole career to the building of East Asian libraries. Alfred Kaiming Chiu (1898-1977), one of the early leaders in Chinese American librarianship, started building the Harvard-Yenching Institute Library in 1927. He devised a unique classification scheme for Chinese and Japanese books, which was subsequently adopted by many American libraries with collections in East Asian languages and became the first librarian to apply modern library techniques to classifying and cataloging Chinese and Japanese materials in American libraries. His monumental works include A Classification Scheme for Chinese and Japanese Books published by the American Council of Learned Societies, Washington, D.C., in 1943 and Cataloguing Rules for Chinese Books published in 1931 by the Commercial Press in Shanghai. "The founding of the Harvard-Yenching library was a historic event in the history of East Asian librarianship and East Asian studies in the United States. It was a true pioneering effort to which all in the field will remain deeply indebted" (Wu, 1993, p. 69).

In addition to building the Harvard-Yenching Library, Chiu also helped build the East Asian library at the University of Minnesota and an academic library at Chinese University of Hong Kong. During his tenure, he trained numerous younger librarians, thus developing a group of competent Chinese American librarians (Wong & Chiu, 1978). "He can be seen as one who epitomizes the concept of the `ideal librarian,' one who combines practical experience with scholarly endeavor" (p. 384).

Another notable early pioneer in librarianship was Tung-li Yuan (1895-1965). Yuan was an advocate of the modern library movement and a distinguished library administrator in China and later became a distinguished bibliographer on Chinese classics in the United States. Before settling in the United States, he was the director of the National Library of China and made great contributions to Chinese librarianship. While at the Library of Congress, as a consultant in Chinese Literature, he edited a descriptive catalog of rare Chinese books in the Library of Congress. He also served as the Chief Bibliographer of the Stanford Research Institute. Yuan was a productive scholar. Among his numerous works, his China in Western Literature: A Continuation of Cordier's Bibliotheca Sinica (New Haven: Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, 1958) was worth special attention. It was a comprehensive listing of some 18,000 monographic works on China in English, French, and German published from 1921 to 1957. It was the most important bibliography on China since the appearance of the monumental compilation by Henri Cordier (1849-1925) several decades before. His other work, Russian Works on China, 1918-1960, in American Libraries (New Haven: Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, 1961), listed Russian materials not included in China in Western Literature. To record the academic interests and accomplishments of Chinese students who had pursued advanced studies abroad, Yuan compiled a number of lists of doctoral dissertations. The first one was A Guide to Doctoral Dissertations by Chinese Students in America, 1905-1960 (Washington, DC: Sino American Cultural Society, 1961), a compilation of about 3,000 dissertation titles. This was followed by Doctoral Dissertations by Chinese Students in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 1916-1961 and A Guide to Doctoral Dissertations by Chinese Students in Continental Europe, 1907-1962. To honor his dedication and accomplishments, the T. L. Yuan Memorial Scholarship was established at the School of Library Service at Columbia University in 1966 (T. L. Yuan: A Tribute, 1967).


After World War II, more groups became interested in Asian/Chinese studies and in producing scholarship through traditional social science disciplines, particularly history and sociology, ethnic studies programs, historical societies, and associated groups in the community (Lai, 1994). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, ethnic studies emerged as an academic discipline, and courses on Asian history and culture as well as Asian American studies gradually became an integral part of many college and public school curricula. The increasing demand for research materials led to the establishment of many Asian, East Asian, and Asian American studies libraries. Chinese American librarians' devotion in systematically developing and organizing the core collections for these libraries was significant. With their knowledge of Chinese history and culture and their bilingual skills, they not only acquired and organized many valuable materials but also discovered a number of obscure and neglected documents and made them accessible to researchers. Currently, there are more than eighty East Asian libraries in this country. Approximately ten of these libraries are under the direct management of accomplished Chinese American scholar librarians such as those at Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, University, of Illinois, University of Chicago, University of Washington, University of Pittsburgh, University of Colorado, and Hoover Institute (CEAL Membership Directory, 1996).

One of the outstanding directors of East Asian libraries was Eugene Wu. For four decades, Wu was the dynamic leading force in the development of research sources for modern and contemporary China studies. As the curator of the East Asian collections at Hoover Institute and the librarian of the Harvard-Yenching Library, he presided over the growth of two outstanding East Asian collections, which have made possible the start of modern Chinese studies. Wu and his collaborators produced the invaluable bibliographic and research tool, Contemporary China: A Research Guide, based on the resources of libraries and research institutions around the world. With his effort, the Center for Chinese Research Materials (CCRM) was established. Wu's career was closely associated with the growth of the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL), a professional organization representing East Asian libraries and collections and their users in North America. As the chair of CEAL, Wu launched the study of the problems faced by East Asian libraries, bringing national attention and new funding to their solution. At his retirement, CEAL presented Wu with an award honoring his extraordinary achievements and leadership in the field of East Asian librarianship and scholarship and his many contributions to CEAL (Tribute to Eugene Wu, 1998).

Chinese American librarians in East Asian libraries often faced a pressing problem of national resource development and bibliographic control. Early efforts began with Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien's 1957 analytical survey of the growth of East Asian collections in the United States and Canada since 1930. The survey, which was repeated at five-year intervals, contained information on libraries' holdings, current status of acquisitions, and sources of financial support. The survey was then replaced by an annual statistical compilation conducted by CEAL (Wu, 1996).

Numerous bibliographies have been written to aid scholars in locating needed information. Among the significant reference tools are A Guide to Reference and Source Materials for Chinese Studies (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970) and East Asian Collections in America (University of Chicago, 1965) by T. H. Tsien; Chinese Newspapers Published in North America, 1854-1975 (Washington: Association of Research libraries, 1977) by Karl Lo; Notable Books on Chinese Studies: A Selected Annotated, and Subject-Divided Bibliographic Guide Compiled and Edited, with Introductory Essays (San Francisco: House of Overflowing Felicities) by C. H. Lowe, to name only a few.

While building East Asian library collections was not an easy job, development of the Asian American Studies Library was an even more demanding task. Few selection guides and tools systematically review the available Asian American works and the vendor or publication sources where they could be acquired. Some available bibliographies were outdated. To solve the problem, Chinese American librarians took the initiative of writing the selection guides to help the library select, purchase, and catalog these materials. One such valuable guide was Wei Chi Poon's A Guide for Establishing Asian American Core Collections (Berkeley, CA: Asian American Studies Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1989).

Problems often occur in the process of organizing and cataloging these collections because traditional classification systems--i.e., Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal Classification--do not meet the needs of classifying the Asian/Asian American materials. "Not only are current available subject headings and classification schemes inadequate to meet the wide diversity of materials now available on Asian Americans, but some of them are racist in nature as well" (Poon, 1989, p. 133). With this problem in mind, some Chinese American librarians, such as Wei Chi Poon, the head of the Ethnic Studies Library at the University of California, Berkeley, developed lists of subject headings for her own collections. These were included in her guide and, based on the Library of Congress system and her own reference experience, she attempted to make this special collection more accessible. In 1998, Wei received the Distinguished Lifetime Service Award from the Association for Asian American Studies.

The valuable resources and their ready accessibility have helped the advancement of scholarship in Asian/Chinese and Asian/Chinese American cultures. With the increasing number of writings and publications, a new body of research materials and literature on the subject was created. All these efforts have helped the nation understand the ideas and values that the other cultures hold, thereby alleviating the ignorance that could cause racial conflicts and prepare one for survival in a multicultural society.


Lois Mai Chan is a Chinese American name widely recognized in the library profession for her outstanding contributions to cataloging and classification. Chan is a professor at the College of Library and Information Science of the University of Kentucky. She was presented the Margaret Mann Citation for outstanding achievements in cataloging and classification through her publications and participation in professional cataloging associations. Among her numerous publications, several textbooks with their updated editions are extensively used in library schools such as A Guide to the Library of Congress Classification (Libraries Unlimited), Cataloging and Classification: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill), Dewey Decimal Classification: A Practical Guide (Forest Press), Library of Congress Subject Headings: Principles and Application (Libraries Unlimited), and Immroth's Guide to the Library of Congress Classification (Libraries Unlimited). Her textbooks are highly praised as "models of clarity and precision, furnishing important analyses and explanations of basic concepts for students." And her contributions "have enriched the study and teaching of cataloging and classification" (Carrigan, 1989, p. 423). In addition, Chan is a popular and highly regarded scholar known for her teaching, research, and service.

While Chan's contributions to technical services cover cataloging and classification in general, many Chinese American librarians have made contributions to cataloging and classification of East Asian and Chinese collections in particular, especially the automation of bibliographic control for East Asian and Chinese materials. When most libraries in the United States were automated twenty years ago, East Asian libraries in the United States mainly functioned as warehouses of books rather than as active information service organizations due to the lack of comparable bibliographic utilities. It was not until the late 1980s that most East Asian libraries in North America could process their Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) materials in vernacular languages and scripts in library computers in the same way as Western-language materials. Chinese American librarians and information professionals have made great contributions in this CJK automation process. When the Library of Congress and the Research Libraries Group (RLG) initiated a project for seeking means and methods to automate CJK bibliographic records, the Chinese American librarians, under the leadership of CEAL, responded enthusiastically. After years of collaborative efforts, a new era for East Asian libraries began on September 12, 1983, when the Library of Congress entered its first online cataloging record containing Chinese vernacular script into the RLIN database (Zeng, 1991). Later, OCLC also began to develop the CJK library support package. The discussions and studies on the capabilities of the RLIN CJK and OCLC CJK systems and their impact on libraries were carried out extensively among Chinese American librarians and other library professionals. Their writings were published in various library professional journals such as Journal of East Asian Libraries, CEAL Bulletin, Information Technology and Libraries, Library Resources & Technical Services, and Cataloging and Classification Quarterly.

In the process of automation, a major policy decision should be made on which romanization system of Chinese characters to use--i.e., Wade-Giles or Pinyin. A system using romanized letters is an absolutely essential tool for most Westerners to enter the Chinese intellectual universe (Zeng, 1991). Chinese American librarians participated in the discussion. CEAL formed a task force and conducted a survey among its member libraries on the question of whether to

switch from Wade-Giles to Pinyin. In 1997, the Library of Congress announced plans to switch to Pinyin as the standard Chinese romanization scheme for bibliographic records no earlier than the year 2000 (PR97-158 LC, November 19, 1997). With the announcement, LC also plans to host meetings and discussion on the conversion. The Chinese American librarian representatives on the CEAL's Pinyin Liaison Group are working actively with LC and RLG on the Pinyin conversion project.

As the only professional organization of East Asian libraries and librarians in North America, CEAL has been playing a crucial role in the development of East Asian studies and in the process of automation of East Asian libraries. It has worked successfully on the national standards, and encouraged and supported national and regional cooperative projects, training institutes, and resource sharing programs. "The fact that East Asian libraries no longer find themselves in a backwater, but in the mainstream of North American library development is the result not only of the indefatigable work of the libraries and librarians themselves, but, equally important, also of the existence of a national organization through which national planning and interlibrary cooperation can be effected through voluntary efforts" (Wu, 1996, p.9). During the past thirty-five years, a number of Chinese American librarians chaired CEAL with strong leadership. They include Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien (University of Chicago), Weiying Wan (University of Michigan), Raymond Tang (University of California, Berkeley), Shih-kang Tung (Princeton University), Thomas Kuo (University of Pittsburgh), Eugene Wu (Harvard University), Karl Lo (Indiana University), and Tai-loi Ma (University of Chicago).


Very few people in the library world could be as dynamic and energetic as Ching-chih Chen in the application of new information technologies to libraries. Chen has spent almost forty years serving the library and information science community as an award-winning librarian, teacher, speaker, consultant, researcher, and innovator. She is an author and editor of more than twenty-nine books, 150 journal articles, and numerous reports, and has produced several electronic publishing products (McCook, 1998). Standing at the forefront of cutting-edge library development, she is always one step ahead of everybody else.

Chen's career started with scientific, technical, and medical librarianship in the early 1960s and later she became associated with teaching in library and information science at Simmons College where she was also the associate dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (1979-1997). Her early work provided a number of essential reference sources which included Scientific and Technical Information Sources (MIT Press, 1977), Quantitative Measurement and Dynamic Library Service (Oryx Press, 1978), Library Management without Bias (JAI Press, 1980), Health Sciences Information Sources (MIT Press, 1981), and Information Seeking: Assessing and Anticipating User Needs (co-author) (Neal-Schuman, 1982), to list only a few.

When the microcomputer was first introduced, Chen began to concentrate her energy and professional activities on the application of new information technologies in libraries. During the years, she worked on numerous high-tech projects, from interactive videodisc technology, to multimedia technology, to electronic publishing and CD-ROM desktop publishing, to digital imaging, to Internet-related applications, the World Wide Web, and the global information infrastructure. Her interactive videodisc and multimedia CD-ROM product entitled The First Emperor of China was awarded a Cindy Award of the Association of Visual Communicators and was chosen by MacUser as one of the "Best 50 CD-ROMs" in 1994. Recently, Chen launched a Global Digital Library (GDL) initiative which demonstrated how the repository information of various types of educational institutions, such as national libraries, national archives, major museums, networks, and research/academic libraries, can be linked together in one single global digital library system with a coherent and consistent interface (Chen, 1998, 1999).

To deliver new ideas and tools to librarians, information specialists, and the general public, Chen's publication emphasis has shifted to technology related areas since 1981. She has published extensively in the last fifteen years on various new technological topics, such as Microcomputers in Libraries (co-author) (Neal-Schuman, 1982), Numeric Databases (co-author) (Ablex, 1984), HyperSource on Multimedia/Hypermedia Technologies (Library and Information Technology Association, 1989), HyperSource on Optical Technologies (Library and Information Technology Association, 1989), Optical Discs in Libraries: Use and Trends (Learned Information, 1991), Planning Global Information Infrastructure (Ablex Publishing Co., 1995), Electronic Resources and Consortia (STIC, Taiwan, 1999), and IT and Global Digital Library Development (MicroUse Information, 1999). She was the founding chief editor of Microcomputers for Information Management: Global Internetworking for Libraries and serves on the editorial board of a number of professional journals including Electronic Library. She has been the keynote speaker at many national, regional, and international conferences in over forty countries. Chen's contribution to the library profession is beyond the country boundary.

Because of her extensive and thorough contributions to librarianship and information science, Chen has become one of the most decorated information professionals with numerous leading awards and recognition such as her Distinguished Alumni Award in 1980 by one of her alma maters, the University of Michigan. The citation appropriately stated, "as librarian, she worked with scientists; as scientist, she trained librarians.... Space and time are scarcely dimensions to her.... She is Newman's uncommon person, the discoverer and teacher caught in one." In the last two decades, she has continued this legacy and collected many more major awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Taiwan University in 1983; the Distinguished Service Award from the Chinese American Librarians Association in 1982; Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award from ASIS in 1983; LITA/Gaylord Award for Achievement in Library and Information Technology in 1990; LITA/HiTech Award in 1994; the first ALISE-Pratt/Severn National Faculty Innovation Award in 1997; and the Grazella Sheperd Memorial Award for Excellence in Education from Case Western Reserve University. In 1985, she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Ching-chih Chen's professional career was further highlighted when she was appointed by President Clinton to serve as a member of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). She is also a member of PITAC/NGI (Next Generation Internet) and PITAC/IT*2 Review Subcommittees.

Following Chen as a role model in advancing library technologies, many Chinese American librarians are either doing research or applying cutting-edge information technologies to library services. In recent years, newly developed information technologies have made library collections even more accessible nationally and internationally. Problems occur when different languages are exchanged over the World Wide Web. Without a standard unified character code, patrons must use different software and terminals to display or enter data in different languages, especially when dealing with multiscripts. Therefore, a few Chinese American librarians began to work on the Unicode standards, which can support the creation of global software that can be easily adapted for local needs. Their research and proposals have received wide attention among international information processing communities (Zhang & Zeng, 1999). Many others are working on various digital library projects. Among the notable digital library projects is the American Memory, part of the National Digital Library Program at the Library of Congress. Under the leadership of Nora Yeh, the archivist of the American Folklife Center at LC, the center did a successful digital conversion of its multiformat collections. The project made millions of items from the center's incomparable collections relating to American history freely available on the Internet, such as manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, films, videos, periodicals, microfilms, posters, and brochures. Having the items available through the Internet, the center fulfills its mission to preserve and present American folklife to a worldwide audience (Yeh, 1998). There is more research reported in the library science or information technology literatures by Chinese American librarians than it is possible to review here.


During the last two decades, the demographics of the U.S. population changed. Society is becoming more culturally diverse with a greater minority composition. According to the 1990 U.S. census, there are more than 7 million Asians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States. About one-quarter of them are of Chinese descent. The projection for the year 2000 indicates that all ethnic minority groups combined will make up approximately one-third of the U.S. population (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). Chinese Americans are significant in their numbers and their contributions to American society. As an integral ethnoracial group in American life, the information needs of, and the dissemination of information about, Asian and Chinese Americans warrant special attention.

Minority groups, especially the new immigrants, are facing four major issues: education, health care, wages and jobs, and public safety. They need information about how to deal with these issues, and the information must be in a language that they can read. Therefore, there is a growing interest and need by academic and public libraries across the country in developing collections in languages other than English. Librarians have the responsibility to play a part in helping the new immigrants learn the English language and develop skills designed to help them fit in with the cultural mainstream.

The information needs and behavior of an Asian/Chinese American may be very different from those of a traditional library user due to variations in cultural experiences, language, level of literacy, socioeconomic status, education, level of acculturation, and value system. People with limited English ability may have to resort to other ways to solve their problems or get their questions answered. To help libraries plan more effectively for diverse communities, several libraries carried out needs assessments in their communities. With the active participation of Chinese American librarians, San Jose Public Library did a successful needs assessment. The assessment identified the key problems, changes needed, and suggested roles for the library. The changing needs were recognized, and recommendations were made to develop collections, resources, and services in multiple languages and easy English, and increase outreach to all segments of the community (Cromwell & Lyons, 1991). In order to aid librarians in developing systems and services to meet the challenge, Liu (1995, 1997) discussed ethnicity and information seeking and studied the information-seeking behavior of Asian students on university campuses. Liu found that barriers to effective communication in libraries include language, conceptual awareness of library services, and philosophy of education. Among Asian groups, informal social networks and gatekeepers play a crucial role in seeking information. She suggested that librarians develop intercultural communication skills, learn and understand Asian cultures, establish outreach programs, and treat patrons thoughtfully and courteously.

California is a highly diverse state, and everyone in the library community faces the ongoing challenge of providing effective library service to an ever-changing population, especially the Asian American community. In the last twenty years, California has been the primary preferred destination of new Asian immigrants to the United States. As a result, California public libraries are now serving larger numbers of Asian-language-speaking and -reading patrons than ever before (Wong, 1997, p. 6). With the collective efforts of Patty Wong, program manager for Children's Services at Oakland Public Library; Kathleen Low, the principal librarian and Human Resources Development consultant for the California State Library; Suzanne Lo, the manager of the Fairfax Branch of Matin County Free Library; and many other librarians, a valuable publication, Harmony in Diversity, was produced. This booklet with its supplements provides clear and concise guidance to library directors, administrators, public service librarians, and staff on how to improve service to Asian-language speakers and readers throughout California.

With the support of the California State Library, Chinese American librarians were very enthusiastic in promoting diversity in library services. They began two notable library diversity projects, "Developing Library Collections for California's Emerging Majority" and "Partnership in Change." The first project produced two major tools to help librarians improve service to California's increasingly diverse multicultural population. One was a conference held in San Francisco in 1990, which brought librarians with ethnic collection development expertise together to share their knowledge with the broader library community. The second tool was a manual of resources for ethnic collection development entitled Developing Library Collections for California's Emerging Majority (Berkeley, CA: Bay Area Library and Information System). Chinese American librarians in California were not only active attendees at the conference but were also significant contributors to the manual. Their writings in the manual discussed collection development principles, guidelines and policies for ethnic studies collections, interlibrary loan, and interlibrary cooperation for ethnic materials and resources for Asian/Southeast Asian collection development (Scarborough, 1990). The "Partnership for Change" program created a strong support base for bringing libraries and communities closer, reaching out to people with diverse ethnic backgrounds. Library brochures were printed in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese,Japanese, Korean, and Filipino. Local resource directories and legal handbooks were published in multilingual editions. Special exhibits were displayed to promote cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. Some primary local historical materials that related to the specific ethnic group were preserved. Chinese American librarians took a very active part in this exciting and encouraging program with Patty Wong and Angela Yang as key players in northern and southern California respectively.

Many libraries in California created a new job position of Multicultural Services Librarian or Outreach Librarian. Among many of these librarians with this unconventional job assignment, Angela Yang stands out as a role model. Yang was the very first Outreach Services Librarian at San Diego Public Library. She then became the first Multicultural Services Librarian and later the first Outreach Services Librarian at the University of California at Irvine. During her long-time devotion to reaching communities, she planned, implemented, and supervised a very successful Adult Literacy Program that changed many functionally illiterate adults' lives. By serving on the San Diego City Council for the Aging and the San Diego Council for Minority Elderly, she initiated and delivered library services to older adults and the disabled communities. She effectively planned and delivered the children's story hours with creativity. She was also a key player in "Partnership for Change" in southern California. For her outstanding work in eradicating illiteracy, Yang received the Finest Citizen of the Finest City Award from the San Diego City Club in 1989. With the same high spirit, Yang is now reaching out to students and faculty in providing library services on the UC Irvine campus. She said "the guiding principles that propelled me to take on new assignments and newly created jobs have always been my strong belief in the important roles of a library in the community, and my practice of Confucius' teaching that among any three people, I can find at least one teacher" (A. Yang, personal communication, September 27, 1999).

In another example, San Jose Public Library has successfully established an ongoing outreach program under the leadership of Maureen Kwok and Jia-Lih Lee, outreach librarians of the library. They have taken a proactive role in introducing the library to the residents of the city. With a mission of serving the underserved customers, promoting the library's visibility and encouraging lifelong learning, they set up information booths at cultural and community festivals, provided parent workshops, held information nights at schools, used bookmobiles to service remote sites, provided home delivery/mail service to users with disabilities, and partnered with other libraries and agencies to offer various programs. These innovative programs have received high praise from the San Jose community (J. L. Lee, personal communication, September 21, 1999).

On the East Coast, NewYork City is another ethnically diverse area of the United States, and the Chinese community of some 100,000 people is the second largest immigrant community in Queens. The Queens Borough Public Library launched the Ni Hao campaign to meet the community's growing demand for Chinese materials. Chinese American librarians at the library have put great effort and enthusiasm into making this innovative project a successful one. According to the director of Queens Borough Public Library, Gary Strong (1996), the Ni Hao Program is "the largest public library collection development program in the United States for general Chinese readers." The Ni Hao collection has a total of over 80,000 items. The library has emphasized the publications of modern literature by best-selling authors from the 1920s through the present. In addition to adult and children's books, audiocassettes, CDs, videos, magazines, and newspapers are also available. The library has developed an extensive service program including ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, Mail-a-Book in several languages including Chinese, performing arts programs that celebrate the cultures of Queens' immigrants, and lectures and workshops in native languages on topics that are essential to new immigrants' acculturation. A Chinese home page has been developed on the library's Web site that provides pointers to resources in China and Asia in vernacular text, linking library customers to desired resources worldwide (Strong, 1996).

In Chicago, a Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library was established about twenty years ago in the late 1970s with the effort of Chinese American librarians (Chiu, 1979). Many other Chinatown branch libraries increased their collections in major cities under the management of Chinese American librarians. Library services to ethnic populations also caught the attention of Chinese Librarians in Colorado libraries (Yang, 1995). In Maryland, the Cultural Minorities Services of the Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries was established in 1986 through a Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) Grant to serve the Chinese, Hispanic, Korean, and Vietnamese populations, the four fastest growing cultural and language minorities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Its mission was to promote library services and to make library materials and general information more accessible to these racial and cultural minorities. With the effort of Chinese American librarians, the services have reached out to the Chinese, Hispanic, Korean, and Vietnamese populations with great success (Tse, 1997).

Chinese American librarians have proved that they can serve as effective catalysts to library users and nonusers in the communities with their bilingual and bicultural background. As information conveyors, they are conscious of reflecting Chinese and American cultural heritage in the profession.


On June 22, 1999, an Ohio University News Release announced: "In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Ohio University's Board of Trustees adopted a resolution naming a new library building the `HwaWei Lee Annex.' By a separate action, the Board also conferred on Dr. Lee the title of Dean of Libraries Emeritus. A permanent office in the Library Annex has been provided to Dr. Lee for his use after retirement."

Hwa-Wei Lee's great retirement honor was based on his lifetime dedication to libraries and his forty-year distinguished career in academic libraries. During his twenty-one years as the Dean of University Libraries at Ohio University, the University Libraries experienced unprecedented growth and progress under his skillful leadership. The reorganization of the library resulted in more efficient service, and it became one of the founding members in OhioLink, a statewide system pooling materials of all major academic libraries into one unified entity. Library endowments grew to over $8 million, major renovations were accomplished, a regional annex was constructed, the first digitization project was secured, and library acquisitions exceeded 2 million volumes. The library has become one of the top 121 research libraries in the United States and Canada, achieving membership in the highly competitive and prestigious Association of Research Libraries (Ohio University News Release, June 22, 1999).

In addition to his domestic library services, Lee was also a model of international contribution. Under his administration, an international librarian exchange program was created and developed, and the unique status of depository for four countries was achieved, which allows the library to receive depository publications from these countries on a continuing basis. Lee left footprints on five continents as a library consultant and lecturer. "He is a world citizen and a remarkable role model to students and colleagues alike. His career has advanced scholarship and human understanding while setting unparalleled standards of service, loyalty, honor, honesty, and integrity" (Friends of Hwa-Wei Lee Committee, June 22, 1999). His tireless effort in promoting the practice of boundless modern libraries has made him internationally known (Hong, 1997).

The American Library Association (ALA) also commended Lee's remarkable contributions to American, Asian, Chinese, and international librarianship upon the event of his retirement. Lee served the American Library Association in a variety of capacities, including as a Councilor-at-Large and the chair of the Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific of the International Relations Committee. He also served actively at the Ohio Library Association as a board director, was recognized as the Ohio Librarian of the Year in 1987, and was appointed as a delegate to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services in 1991. Lee was one of the founders and past presidents of the Chinese American Librarians Association and was the recipient of the CALA Distinguished Services Award in 1984. His valuable contributions also extended to the Asian/ Pacific American Librarians Association (APAI). He was the recipient of the APALA Distinguished Services Award in 1983. In addition, Lee was a much sought after lecturer and consultant in many Asian countries and organized five international conferences. He is the author of three books and more than sixty articles (ALA/IRC East Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, June 1999). More recently, the Ohio Library Council named him "Hall of Fame Librarian" of 1999. It is the highest honor one can receive as a librarian in Ohio.

Very few Chinese American librarians have reached top administrative library positions in the United States. Most Chinese American librarians with management responsibilities remain at the middle administrative level. An incomplete list of the few top library administrators includes Bessie Hahn, assistant provost for Libraries and University librarian, Brandeis University; Samson Soong, associate university librarian for Administrative Services, Rutgers University Libraries; Hsiping Shao, assistant vice chancellor of Technology & Information Resources, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater; Nancy Fong, city librarian, San Leandro Public Library; Yvonne Chen, library director, Redwood City Public Library; and Hsu-Min Tan, director of the Central Library at Queens Borough Public Libraries.


ALA-accredited library science programs have educated numerous qualified librarians for the profession yet, compared to other graduate programs in the United States, the number of library schools is very small. Only a small number of Chinese Americans holds teaching faculty positions in library science. It was not until recently that a number of Chinese American Ph.D. graduates joined the teaching profession in library and information science.

The earliest Chinese American pioneer in library science education is Tze-chung Li, scholar, teacher, lawyer, writer, and former dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at what is now Dominican University. For the last fifty years, Li has held many important positions in Taiwan including judge, examination commissioner, and director of the National Central Library and has taught and lectured at numerous U.S. and international universities. During the years, Li has made significant accomplishments in the field of library and information education and became an undisputed leader in librarianship among Chinese American librarians. Li was the first and only Chinese American scholar to become the dean of a library school in this country. He is also a prolific writer and has published fourteen books and more than 100 articles in the fields of library and information science, law, land economics, and political science. In addition to his own publications, Li was the founding editor of the Journal of Library and Information Science and a member of the advisory board for the Journal of Information, Communication and Library Science. Li also helped create professional journals and series including International Journal of Reviews in Library and Information Science and Guide to Asian Librarianship Series (Greenwood Press). Among his notable accomplishments was the founding of the Chinese American Librarians Association. His tireless effort in promoting library education and Chinese American librarianship has won him great honors, including the Dominican University Elise O. and Philip D. Sang Award for Excellence in Teaching and the CALA Distinguished Service Award.

In addition to his domestic professional activities, Li is very active in international teaching and research. He has been invited to be a visiting professor at the National Taiwan University, Peking University, East China Normal University, Zhejiang University, and Suzhou University. He is also the honorary professor of Jiangxi University. Whether at home or abroad, his tireless teaching efforts and well-prepared lectures always received high evaluations from his students. He is widely recognized as "ardent, trustworthy and erudite Dr. Tze-chung Li" (Ho, 1997, p. 97). Recently, Li announced his retirement in January 2000. In recognition of his longstanding commitment to the university and his distinguished career, Dominican University announced that Li would be named dean and professor emeritus.

In addition to Tze-chung Li, Ching-chih Chen and Lois Mai Chan are also among the senior library and information science faculty whose achievements and award-winning research activities were noted in earlier sections. Recently, as more Chinese Americans joined the library science faculty, they have gradually become a strong force in library and information science research. Notable research projects include Web search engine analysis (Long Island University), thesaurus management systems (Kent State University), multicultural library services (University of California, Los Angeles), distance education (University of Tennessee), and information-seeking behavior among interdisciplinary researchers (University of Kentucky) to name only a few.

Although not involved in teaching, many practicing Chinese American librarians are also active at research and have made numerous contributions to professional publications. There are two bilingual professional library science journals that are jointly edited and published by Chinese American librarians and their counterparts in Taiwan. The first title is the Journal of Library and Information Science published semiannually by the Department of Adult and Continuing Education, National Taiwan Normal University, and the Chinese American Librarians Association. Wilfred Wong and Mengxiong Liu are the U. S. editors. This journal provides a forum for the discussion of problems common to librarians and information scientists; to introduce new concepts, systems, and technology; to report leading events worldwide; and to promote the development of Chinese/Chinese American library and information services. It is indexed in major library science indexes, such as Library Literature, Information Science Abstracts, PAIS, and Library and Information Science Abstracts. The Journal of Educational Media and Library Sciences (Chang C. Lee and Sally Tseng, U.S. editors) is devoted to studies regarding the fields of library science, information science, and audiovisual and educational technology. It is indexed in Chinese Periodicals, Information Science Abstracts, Library and Information Sciences Abstracts, CIJE-ERIC, and PAIS. The publications of these Chinese American librarians have become an important part of library and information science literature.


The American Library Association (ALA) is the largest and most influential professional organization in the library and information science profession in the nation. Over the years, ALA has played a leadership role in promoting library and information services nationwide. However, there has never been an Asian American president in its over 150-year history. In 1996, Ching-chih Chen broke the record by becoming the very first Asian American Presidential Candidate officially nominated by the ALA. The campaign in support of her election has motivated many librarians--Asian and non-Asian alike--who shared her vision for the libraries of the twenty-first century. Although ALA was not ready for an Asian American president, Chen has provided an excellent role model and inspired librarians in diverse backgrounds to strive for ultimate achievements in the profession. At ALA, she served for nine years as a three-term councilor-at-large and was involved in numerous committees such as chairing the Legislative Committee, LITA Board, and many other important committees. In addition to ALA, Chen is also very active in ASIS, ALISE, and other organizations.

Many Chinese American librarians are active in professional organizations at national or regional levels, serving in various capacities on committees of AiA and its divisions including ACRL, PLA, and state library associations. Six Chinese Americans served, or are serving, on the ALA Council. Ching-chih Chen, Hwa-Wei Lee, and Sally Tseng were past ALA councilors, and Peter Young, Patty Wong, and Betty Tsai are currently serving on the council.

Sally Tseng, the past APALA and CALA president and current CALA executive director, is a dedicated library professional and outstanding cataloging specialist, leading a serials cataloging team at the University of California, Irvine. Throughout her library career, she has demonstrated innovation and leadership. She has held offices in several library organizations, edits and writes for professional publications, and organizes and conducts workshops in the United States and abroad. During her tenure as an ALA councilor, she worked closely with colleagues in making ALA a stronger professional organization. For her outstanding achievements, she was awarded the CALA Distinguished Service Award.

It is not an easy job to be elected to the ALA council, especially for people of color. Betty Tsai was nominated as an ALA council candidate three times. It was not until the third time that she won the election. It takes courage and strength to fight for diversity in AIA. Tsai is a strong advocate for diversity in librarianship. She has been involved in the ALA Council Committee on Minority Concerns and Cultural Diversity (CCMCCD) for years and voiced to ALA the concerns and problems related to diversity issues. Through her tireless efforts, she became a recognized leader in diversity and eventually made her way to the ALA council. Tsai was a past CALA president and a recipient of the CALA Distinguished Service Award.

In recent years, a few Chinese American librarians have been appointed to some important committees and task forces at ALA. Mengxiong Liu was appointed to the Spectrum Steering Committee, which overlooks the association's three-year Spectrum Initiative to encourage and assist ethnic minorities to pursue careers in library science. Harriet Ying was appointed to the Spectrum Jury Committee. Ling Hwey Jeng and Jium C. Kuo received appointments to ALA's Education Task Force.


Although active at ALA and other professional organizations, Chinese American librarians felt a lack of a network to communicate with their ethnic colleagues on issues and problems of common interest. They felt that ALA did not adequately represent them, did not provide opportunities for them to participate in decision-making, and responded to their needs too slowly and tentatively (Echavarria & Wertheimer, 1997).

They needed an official professional organization to assist in fighting for fair treatment in recruitment, retention, and promotion in American libraries. On March 31, 1973, the very first Mid-West Chinese American Librarians Association was formally established in the Rosary College Graduate School of Library Science under the leadership of Tze-chung Li, the renowned library leader and library science educator. With a complimentary effort, another Chinese American librarians association headed by Irene Yeh was formed at Stanford University in California in 1974. In order to create a strong group with a single identity, the two organizations merged in 1983 under the name of the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) (Li, 1983). CALA is an active affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA) and a member of the Council of National Library and Information Associations (CNLIA). With over 700 members, CALA is one of the largest Chinese American professional associations in the United States.

The goal and purposes of CALA are: (1) to enhance communications among Chinese American librarians; (2) to serve as a forum for the discussion of mutual problems and professional concerns among Chinese American librarians; and (3) to promote the development of Chinese and American librarianship (Feng, 1999, p. i). To meet the goal of communication, CALA publishes a three-issue-per-year newsletter, an annual directory, and co-publishes the Journal of Library and Information Science with the National Taiwan Normal University. CALA also maintains a listserv ( and a Web site (http:// linked to ALA's home page. In addition to written communications, CALA provides members with opportunities for personal networking by sponsoring an annual program, a membership meeting, and a banquet in conjunction with the ALA annual conference. Each year, CALA sponsors a program on topics of members' interests. Renowned librarians, information professionals, library science educators, and community leaders were invited to speak at the programs. The themes of the last few years include "Global Information Internetworking: Pacific Rim Perspectives," "Building the Future: Library Youth Services in Asia and the U.S.," "CALA Reaches Across the Pacific," and "Leadership, Socialization and Community Relations." The annual program is usually followed by the annual membership meeting where reports are presented and official business is discussed.

To assist Chinese American library science students in pursuing their studies, CALA created two scholarships, the Sheila Lai Scholarship and the C.C. Seetoo/CALA Conference Travel Scholarship. The Sheila Lai Scholarship awards $500 to a student of Chinese heritage who is currently enrolled in an ALA-accredited library school as a full-time student. The scholarship is designed to encourage the development of leadership in Chinese American librarianship. The C.C. Seetoo/CALA Scholarship helps a student to attend the annual ALA conference and CALA program. It is designed to provide the award recipient with mentoring and networking opportunities at the ALA conference. In addition to scholarships, CALA established an annual CALA Distinguished Service Award. Each year a librarian who has provided outstanding services to CALA and its related activities is selected. The winner list includes such distinguished leaders of Ching-chih Chen, Hwa-Wei Lee, Tze-chung Li, Lois Mai Chan, and many more. The names of the scholarship and award winner are announced at CALA's annual banquet.

CALA has been operated on a healthy budget that continues to grow due to the efforts of the executive officers, especially the dedicated executive officers, Eveline Yang, Sheila Lai, Amy Seetoo, and Sally Tseng. The Lai and Seetoo families both established a scholarship with generous contributions and worked diligently on overall CALA business. Sally Tseng is now serving the second-term as CALA executive director with expertise and devotion.

CALA has six chapters throughout the United States: California Chapter, Florida Chapter, Greater Mid-Atlantic Chapter, Midwest Chapter, Northeast Chapter, and Southwest Chapter. Members also live in Canada, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. Chapters hold their own meetings and programs at the local level, which give members an opportunity to network locally when national participation is not possible. To aid Chinese American communities in searching for local information, some chapters published local resources directories, such as the Directory of Chinese American Resources in the Greater Metropolitan New York Area by the Northeast Chapter, the Midwest Area Chinese American Resources Guide by the Midwest Chapter, and A Visitor's Guide to Major Chinese Resources and Attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area by the California Chapter. Another valuable publication was China and Chinese Culture: A Selected Bibliography to Promote a Better Understanding Preschool to Grade 12 by the Greater Mid-Atlantic Chapter.

As an affiliate of ALA, CALA takes an active role in AIA activities in general and with a special interest in its diversity programs. CALA has representatives in the ALA council, the diversity council, and the spectrum steering committee. CALA sent representatives to the recruitment team of the ALA diversity officer and OLOS director. In promoting diversity, CALA also works closely with other ethnic librarians organizations, the American Indian Library Association (AILA), the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), and the National Association to Promote Library Services to the Spanish Speaking (REFORMA). In 1997, CALA produced an important document in response to ALA's GOAL 2000, which addresses Chinese American issues and concerns and recommends policy development and strategies. This position paper entitled "CALA and ALA: Partners for GOAL 2000" was published with papers from four other ethnic librarians associations in a special ALA booklet Equal Voices, Many Choices: Ethnic Library Organizations Respond to ALA's GOAL 2000.

While actively involved in the domestic library professional arena, CALA extends its relationship with international library organizations. CALA established sister relations with the Library Association of Central Governments Units and Scientific Research Networks of Beijing and with the Library Association of China in Taipei. CALA also exchanges publications with the East Asian Library Resources Group of Australia and many others. In recent years, two of its significant roles in the global arena were its co-sponsorship of the First China-U.S. Conference on Global Information Access: Challenges and Opportunities and its forum at the 1996 IFLA Annual Conference in Beijing. CALA members are frequently invited to lecture or present papers in East Asian countries. CALA also maintains the Books to China project, an ongoing effort that delivers gift books to libraries in China and Taiwan to help build their collections.


While CALA as an organization is actively sponsoring international activities, many Chinese American library professionals are making individual contributions to international librarianship. Among those involved in international librarianship, Ching-chih Chen, Hwa-Wei Lee, Tze-chung Li, and Sally Tseng are the most notable figures who have made extensive contributions to librarianship in many Asian countries and developing nations.

In addition to her numerous accomplishments in information technology, library science education, and professional associations, Ching-chih Chen is also an international consultant to over twenty-five countries. Because of her genuine commitment to developing countries, since 1987, she has organized, mostly with her own resources, a series of eleven international conferences called NIT (New Information Technology) in Bangkok, Singapore, Guadalajara (Mexico), Budapest (Hungary), Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Alexandria (Virginia), Riga (Latvia), Pretoria (South Africa), Hanoi (Vietnam), and Taipei (Taiwan). NIT has been so successful in bringing together library and information professionals from both developing and developed countries that it has built a powerful network of over thirty countries.

Hwa-Wei Lee and Tze-chung Li are two more models of international contribution whose activities and accomplishments were described in the previous sections. Both Chen and Lee received ALA's Humphry/OCLC/ Forest Press Award on International Achievement. Sally Tseng has developed close relationships with libraries and library associations in China, Taiwan, and other countries.

As professional organizations, both APALA and CALA have been assuming leadership roles in promoting international librarianship. Many Chinese American librarians were inspired by the themes of the 1985 APALA/CALA Joint Conference on "Areas of Cooperation in Library Development in Asian and Pacific Regions" and the 1996 CALA Annual Conference "Global Information Internetworking: Pacific Rim Perspectives." With the support of ALA's International Relations Committee, APALA, and CALA, Chinese American librarians are working diligently on establishing an unprecedented global information network.


Federal government representation in the library profession is very important. There were two Chinese American librarians who have been active in the U.S. political arena, Julie Li Wu and Peter R. Young. Julie Wu was appointed by the president to serve on the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS), an independent executive branch federal agency to advise the President and Congress regarding library and information services and policies. Wu was the first Chinese American woman appointed to the NCLIS commission. In addition to NCLIS, she also served as the president and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Community Colleges for a number of years. Being a librarian and educator of a cultural minority group, Wu made every effort in urging the commission to heed the library and information needs of ethnic minorities. As a result, a committee on cultural minorities, handicapped, and other special constituencies was finally appointed. As a national library program planner, Wu had a positive vision for the roles that Chinese American librarians could play in assisting to achieve the goals of the national program. The most remarkable achievement of the commission during Wu's tenure was the outcome of the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. She strongly encouraged Chinese American librarians to make themselves visible and heard by actively participating and expressing their views at the White House Conference (Wu, 1979). Julie Wu has received numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from Monterey Park City Council in California, and from the Asian/ Pacific American Librarians Association, and the Chinese American Librarians Association.

Peter R. Young served as the executive director of NCLIS from 1990 to 1997 and now is the chief of the Cataloging Distribution Service at the Library of Congress. During his seven-year tenure as NCLIS executive director, Young directed and administered numerous commission programs and drafted legislation, policy recommendations, and congressional testimony. In addition to supporting numerous NCLIS initiatives, he directed the commission's program for U.S. library statistics in cooperation with the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and helped coordinate and support the Federal-State Cooperative System (FSCS) by which annual public library statistics are collected and published. He also managed the commission's program by which the Department of State provides NCLIS funding in accordance with the International Conventions and Scientific Organizations Contributions (ICSOC) to support U.S. involvement in international information, libraries, and archives activities.

One of his significant accomplishments at NCLIS was his successful administration, planning, and implementation of the 1991White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. This conference started with sixty-one state and regional pre-conferences and concluded in a five-day national conference in Washington, DC. At the White House Conference, delegates adopted ninety-six recommendations to improve library and information services for the American people. His other accomplishments include NCLIS activities related to the National Research and Education network (NREN), directing three national surveys of public library Internet connectivity, and holding regional hearings on the reauthorization of the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) by which the federal sector provides over $150 million in support of U.S. libraries. In addition, he led the NCLIS effort to provide Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discounts for Internet connections in public schools and libraries. He also worked closely with library representatives, Congressional sources, and administration officials in assuring passage and enactment of legislation resulting in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and amalgamation of federal library funding programs within the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). In addition to NCLIS, Young is also actively involved with ALA. He is currently an elected member of the ALA council and served on LAMA, LITA, PLA, and ALCTS committees. He also served on the Section on Statistics of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, was the U.S. representative to the International Standards Organization (ISO) library statistics and performance indicators working groups, and was president of the Chinese American Librarians Association. In 1996, Young was recognized on the ALA Washington Office 50th Anniversary Honor Roll.


Although the U.S. government has been making national policies regarding library construction and development and information technologies with the consultation of library and information professionals, there was never a librarian at the top level of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee' (PITAC) until Ching-chih Chen was appointed in 1997. PITAC reviews the current over $1.2 billion IT budget of the ten largest federal agencies and has been responsible for the administration's latest IT*2 initiative which provides $366 million for new IT research and development. This is a committee composed of a very select group of world-class high-tech leaders in academics, computing, and industy. Created by a specific executive order, the committee is charged to provide guidance and advice to the President on all areas of high performance computing, communications, and information technologies of the nation. Involved in the national policy making process, Chen is able to present a librarian's viewpoint and influence the IT and R&D budgets of major federal agencies, such as the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, NCLIS, IMLS, and so on. The committee's recommendations will set the IT policies and directions in the country and will have long-lasting effects nationally and internationally. When PITAC submitted its first-term report entitled Information Technology Research: Investing in Our Future, a new IT*2 Initiative with $366 million of new money was introduced by the Clinton-Gore administration immediately. For this and her other leadership, Avenue Asian selected Ching-chih Chen as one of the 500 most influential Asian Americans in 1997 and 1998.


Like their ancestors, Chinese American librarians have overcome many difficulties and eventually been recognized as an indispensable part of the workforce in the library and information science profession. Diversity has become a reality.

However, it is still difficult to document accurate numbers and data about Chinese Americans in librarianship due to the lack of statistics. When responding to ALA's GOAL 2000 in 1997, CALA recommended that ALA encourage participation in Census 2000. CALA offered to work with ALA to help Chinese Americans, especially recent immigrants, understand the significance of Census 2000 and the importance of participation. CALA also promised to work with local Chinese American communities to increase the return of census questionnaires. Our goal is to ensure that Census 2000 will provide an accurate count of the U.S. population with detailed characteristics for race and ethnic origins so that diversity can be further valued.


This article was completed with the support of many Chinese American librarians. The author wishes to thank Ching-chih Chen and Hwa-Wei Lee for their review and comments, and Tze-chung Li, Wei Chi Poon, and Peter Young for the information they provided. The author also wants to express her great appreciation to Loriene Roy and Blanche Woolls for their editing efforts.


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MENGXIONG LIU is an engineering librarian and professor at San Jose State University, California, since 1989. She received her Ph.D. in library and information studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her teaching and research efforts have focused on science and technology information resources and human information-seeking behavior. More recently, she extended her research on information seeking behavior to multicultural populations. Among her recent publications are: "Information Seeking Behavior of Multicultural Students: A Case Study at San Jose State University" (College & Research Libraries, 1997); "CALA and ALA: Partners for GOAL 2000" (in Equal Voices, Many Choices: Ethnic Library Organizations Respond to ALA's GOAL 2000. Chicago: American Library Association, 1997); "Ethnicity and Information Seeking" (Reference Librarian, 1995); and "Library Services for Ethnolinguistic Students" (Journal of Educational Media and Library Sciences, 1995). In addition to teaching and research, Ms. Liu has been actively involved in the American Library Association (ALA) and ethnic librarians associations. She is currently a member of ALA's Spectrum Steering Committee and was the former president of the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA). She also works in various capacities with the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA).
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Date:Jun 22, 2000
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