CLIR Distinguished Service Award

2019 Citation Recipient


Harold McIver Leich

The 2019 ASEES CLIR Distinguished Service Award was awarded to Harold McIver Leich (Library of Congress, retired)

The ASEEES Committee on Libraries and Information Resources is pleased this year to grant its Distinguished Service Award to Harold McIver Leich, who has contributed to the strength of our field, including, for more than three decades, as the brilliant and renowned Russian area specialist at the Library of Congress.

Harold (“Harry”) Leich began his long and illustrious career as an academic and librarian in 1969 at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He spent his first three years in the Slavic and East European Library, cataloging Slavic monographs before moving on to the mysterious and mystical and nebulous realm of Slavic serials cataloging. Three year later, Harry was appointed as Librarian for Slavic and East European Acquisitions, and remained in that position until 1987, when he was tapped by the Library of Congress to become the next Russian area specialist, where he thrived for the next 31 years.

Like another famous Harry, our Harry is known for his wizard-like ability to solve research problems. One colleague writes: “In 1987, on his first full day working in the European Division, he and I were shown a citation to a Soviet periodical needed by a researcher. It was an esoteric Academy of Sciences subseries, unknown to me, and I wanted to search it in our catalog. But Harry said right away, ‘Oh, yes, we have this,’ and he did a quick search that instantly brought up the title. I had been at LC for four years already, and Harry walks in knowing LC better than me.”

A real MacGyver of academic research, Harold McIver Leich possesses a genius-level intellect, proficiency in multiple languages, an encyclopedic knowledge of linguistics, Russian and East European history, cataloging, reference works, and library collections. Over the years he has saved many researchers with his “incredible network of friends and allies all over the world who are willing, at his request, to locate otherwise inaccessible material and pass it along to the desperate researcher — in photocopies, scans, or whatever is required.”

Harry has a natural ability to connect with people, and he is always willing to share his knowledge, his experience, his remarkable stories, and his lively sense of humor. Says another colleague: “I have known Harry since I started working at the Library of Congress. I was quite nervous about coming to LC, but Harry was so welcoming. He put me at ease, treated me like an equal, and spent countless hours ever since talking with me about many aspects of the profession. And I am far from the only beneficiary of his professionalism and kindness, for I have seen him repeat these actions with other younger librarians, scholars and volunteers. He simply loves being a Slavic librarian.”

Our congratulations to Harry, on his achievements.