Professor Emeritus of Library Science Lester E. Asheim dies at age 83: Described as a man of vision, intelligence, dignity and eloquence

Release date: 
July 2, 1997

CHAPEL HILL, NC — Dr Lester Eugene Asheim, 83, retired William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, died early Tuesday, July 1, at Carolina Meadows retirement community, where he had lived since 1993.

Asheim's distinguished career included membership in the faculty at the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago, 1948-61 and 1971-74, serving as dean from 1952-61. From 1961-66 he served as Director of the American Library Association (ALA) International Relations Office, and from 1966-71 as Director of the ALA Office for Library Education. In 1975 he joined the faculty at the School of Information and Library Science at UNC at Chapel Hill as William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor, where he served with distinction until his retirement in 1984.

Often cited as his most important work, Asheim's 1954 article "Not Censorship but Selection" studies the distinction between selection and censorship, is widely reprinted and continues to have influence in the field. Among many others, he wrote "The Humanities and the Public Library" in 1957; "Librarianship in Developing Countries" in 1966; the original ALA "Library Education and Personnel Utilization" statement in 1970; "Trends in Library Education — USA" in 1975; and "Ortega Revisited" in 1982.

Included in the list of Asheim's areas of special interest were intellectual freedom, library service to the public, library education, professional associations, international and comparative librarianship and mass communications. Students he taught continue to be inpsired by his teaching and writings and remember him fondly.

Asheim's quiet dignity and numerous contributions to librarianship through his teaching, writing and handling of leadership positions won him abundant respect and praise throughout his career and into his retirement. Honors bestowed upon him include the University of Washington School of Librarianship Distinguished Alumnus Award, 1966; Illinois Library Association Intellectual Freedom Award, 1966; Beta Phi Mu Award for Distinguished Service to Education for Librarianship, 1973; Joseph W. Lippincott Award, 1976; ALA Honorary Membership, 1984; ALISE Award for professional Contribution to Library and Information Science Education, 1992. In 1979, in honor of his 65th birthday, colleagues presented him with a Festschrift, "As Much to Learn as to Teach."

Born on January 22, 1914, in Spokane, Washington, Asheim grew up in Seattle. He took an A.B. in English in 1936 and a B.A. in Librarianship in 1937 from the University of Washington, where he then also earned an M.A. in American Literature in 1941. After three years of service in the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Corps during World War II, Asheim enrolled at the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago and received a Ph.D. there in 1949.

Asheim is survived by many cousins, among them Peter, Marty, Harriet, Lisa and Steven Frank, all of Los Angeles; Daniel, Diane and John Frank and Barney Greenberg, all of Seattle; Marc Greenberg of Snohomish, Washington and Doug Greenberg of Victoria, B.C.; and Michael Frank of New York City.

A celebration of the life of Lester Asheim will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 20th, in 209 Manning Hall on the UNC at Chapel Hill campus.

Memorials may be made to the Lester Asheim Scholarship Fund and sent to Melissa Cain • School of Information and Library Science • UNC at Chapel Hill • CB #3360 • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3360.