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Robert Wedgeworth's Biography



Robert Wedgeworth became President of Laubach Literacy International in March, 2001. Wedgeworth was previously Vice Chairman of the Laubach Board of Trustees and Interim President. Laubach is the oldest and largest volunteer literacy agency in the U.S. It publishes basic and advanced literacy training materials and provides literacy training through its partnership agencies located throughout the U.S. and in 36 other countries. Its headquarters in Syracuse, NY employs about 100 staff.

Robert Wedgeworth received an M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois. He served as University Librarian, Professor of Library Administration and Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UI) from November 1993 until August 20, 1999 when he retired from the University. Prior to that Wedgeworth had been Dean of the School of Library Service, Columbia University from 1985-1992 and Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA) from 1972-1985.

Assuming the leadership of ALA during a turbulent period of internal strife, he led the effort to democratize the Association and gave it new visibility and credibility nationally and internationally. Under his leadership the Association grew from 28,000 members to over 40,000. He developed a new Headquarters building in a joint venture that more than doubled the value of its property and produced a $3 million windfall profit in 1999. With the demise of the National Book Committee, Wedgeworth negotiated with the publishing industry to bring the National Library Week program to the ALA. It quickly became a nationally visible marketing tool and the third major revenue source for the Association.

His interest in reading and literacy led to his involvement in the creation of the Friends of libraries USA and to his initiative to organize the Coalition on literacy in 1979. He then persuaded the Advertising Council to launch the first nationwide ad campaign promoting literacy.

In his almost 40 years as a librarian, library educator and association executive, he has created and edited two major reference works, ALA Yearbook, 1976-1985 and the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, 3d edition, 1993. ln addition he has written and lectured widely on international librarianship, international book trade and copyright and information policy and information technology. He has also conducted special studies of librarianship and the book trade in Western Europe, Latin America and South Africa. His publication, Starvation of Young Black Minds: The Effects of the Book Boycotts in South Africa, New York, 1989 written jointly with Lisa Drew raised serious questions about curbing the free flow of information during the struggle to combat apartheid. More recently, he produced a study of library development in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe for the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1998.

After six years on the Executive Board of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), he was elected President in 1991 and re-elected in 1995 to serve until 1997. He is only the second American to be elected IFLA President and the only one to be elected to serve a second term.

For his achievements Wedgeworth has received many honors and awards including five honorary doctorates. In 1991 he was honored as the Most Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science and in 1996 he received the Medal of Honor from the International Council of Archives for his international activities. From the American Library Association he has received three of its highest honors, the Lippincott and Melvil Dewey awards for professional leadership and, most recently, the Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award for achievements in international librarianship.

Currently, he is a life member of the American Library Association, a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a member of the Board of Trustees of Wabash College, the Board of Trustees of the Newberry Library and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Laubach Literacy International the nation's oldest and largest literacy advocacy organization. Previously he has served on many boards and advisory committees including advisory committees to the Princeton, Miami, Stanford and Harvard University Libraries. He recently completed twelve years as a public member of the Accrediting Council for Journalism and Mass Communication and six years as an editorial adviser to the World Book Encyclopedia

He and his wife, Chung-Kyun (C.K.), who is also a retired librarian, have one daughter who is a journalist with the Los Angeles Times.