THE QUIET LIFE? They named a library annex for Hwa-Wei Lee when he retired as Ohio University’s dean of libraries in 1999. No such honor is likely to come with Lee’s most recent retirement, after five years at the Library of Congress, but you never know.
Since taking charge of the LOC’s Asian Division in February 2003, Lee has revamped and reorganized its staff and its vast resources to ensure it had one of the finest Asian collections in the United States.
“He introduced innovative programs designed to improve and expand the division’s resources, collections, services and outreach,” said Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
When Lee was named its chief, the Asian Division director’s job had been vacant for three years; staff morale was low; funding was tight and the collection was disorganized.
Lee started an overhaul, securing funds for seven new positions, improving the process for selecting materials and reorganizing the collection’s 2.8 million volumes and 16,000 periodicals into five areas: China-Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and South Asia.
The China collection was made “more contemporary,” Lee said. And, at Honda’s urging, an Asian Pacific American Collection was started last year and is headed by Reme Grefalda, a cultural activist from the Filipino American community.
After a library career that started in 1959 at the University of Pittsburgh, Lee feels he has capped off his life’s work nicely on Capitol Hill and at age 75, retired last month with his wife, Mary, in Jacksonville, Fla.
“As anyone who has met Dr. Lee can attest, his boundless, enthusiastic spirit will not allow him to stay idle,” Honda said.
This article appears in the May 3, 2008, edition of NJ Daily.