ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
2006 - Herbert Achleitner
Dr. Herbert Achleitner saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and envisioned an opportunity for librarians.
What Achleitner began to foresee was bringing together library and information service stakeholders in the democratic and economic reforms in the former Soviet bloc countries. He believed it was an opportunity to help libraries in these countries re-establish and integrate library practices from the West.
Having grown up in Austria, Achleitner had a strong affinity for that part of the world and his long-standing involvement in libraries and library science seemed like a natural partnership for involvement. He proposed his ideas to Emporia State School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) colleague Dr. Roger Wyatt.
“They were determined that they had to be involved in the very historic time,” recalled Dan Roland, an administrator for SLIM at the time.
With burgeoning technology, including expansion of the World Wide Web, what grew out of Achleitner’s vision developed into the Sofia Conference based in Sofia, Bulgaria. The international library conference linked students and faculty at Emporia State and its satellite campuses at the tme in Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore., with counterparts and international experts overseas.
“This is definitely a grass-roots civic action in a wired world,” said Dr. Wyatt in a 2000 interview with Rob Curley, an ESU Alum and a reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal at the time. “We’re a regional university in the middle of Kansas, yet our goal is to educate knowledge brokers. And using the Internet it doesn’t matter if you’re around the block, or around the world. Whether you are working at a library in Lebo or for Sprint in Kansas City, the Internet gives you a global office.”
The conference thrived and other cities and countries were added. And Achleitner noted that librarians had a vital role in helping the populations of these countries blossom in the freedom of information.
“There is a tremendous amount of restructuring going on in Russia and eastern Europe, he said. “Throughout this process, people are beginning to realize that civic and economic development cannot be accomplished if librarians don’t take leadership roles.”
In the fall of 2001, he was a visiting professor at the University of Sofia, Department of Library and Information Science, and in the spring of 2005, at the University of Belgrade, Serbia on a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant. In 2004, he was awarded the "St. Kliment Ohridski" University of Sofia Blue Ribbon Medal for Distinguished Service. Achleitner organized a series of international conferences in Kansas City, Kan, Warsaw, Poland, and Sofia, Bulgaria.
Achleitner earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and an MLS from the University of Denver.
He worked as a consultant for the U.S. Information Agency in Paraguay and Poland, and the World Bank in Paraguay. He served as a consultant on the Chief of Staff U.S. Army Training and Leader Development Executive Panel for two years.
Achleitner summed up his philosophy to students during an Emporia State commencement address, saying, “As the race car driver Mario Andretti said, 'If you're in control, you're not going fast enough’. Control was the signpost of the industrial age. It is not appropriate for the information and content age. So step on it!"
Dr. Achleitner certainly did.