by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
APALA lost two of its primary founders in 2013 with the passing of Drs. Suzine Har Nicolescu and Sharad Karkhanis. In addition to helping create the organization, the two were well-respected librarians, administrators, authors and champions of free speech, social justice and the fight against racial discrimination.
Suzine Har Nicolescu was born March 21, 1931 in Seoul, Korea. A lover of language and the arts, she received a Bachelor’s in English Language/Literature and Fine Arts at Ewha Womans University in Seoul before moving to the United States. There she received her Master’s in Modern Languages/Literature and Comparative Linguistics from the University of Denver, where she also obtained her Master’s in Library Science. She would eventually add a Ph.D. in Library Information Systems from Simmons College.
After beginning her career in the library field as a foreign languages cataloger/bibliographer at the University of Denver, Nicolescu made stops at Illinois State University, Stony Brook University and The City College of New York before assuming the role of instructor/chief of instructional services at CUNY Medgar Evers College, where she would also serve as registrar, director of information systems, chief librarian and director of library services before retiring in 1999. At the time of her retirement, Dr. Nicolescu was one of only 30 Asian American directors in the United States. Nicolescu was also active in ALA, ACRL, LLAMA, American Library Trustees Association, International Relations Round Table and various other round tables and regional and state associations. She was president of APALA in 1985-1986.
Dr. Nicolescu was a proponent of dealing with discrimination with patience, objectivity and effort (Yamashita, 2000, pg. 99). She wrote articles and made presentations internationally on the topic of multicultural librarianship, including an article on the formation and goals of APALA for the journal Ethnic Forum and co-authored “Needs Assessment Study of Library Information Service for Asian American Community Members in the United States” with Henry Chang.
In his history of APALA and its founders, Dr. Kenneth Yamashita said,
“Her Asian ancestry espoused the advantages of hard work and perseverance, influencing her artistic ability, and sustained the ethical and moral values in her relationship with others.” (2000, pg. 99)
Dr. Suzine Har Nicolescu passed away Feb. 22, 2013 at the age of 81 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Sharad Karkhanis was born March 8, 1935 in Khopoli, India. Karkhanis earned a diploma in library science from the Bombay Library Association before even receiving his bachelor’s – which he would earn in economics from the University of Bombay (now University of Mumbai). After his first job at USIS Library (now American Library, Mumbai), Karkhanis moved to the United States in 1960 and enrolled at Rutgers University, where he received his MLS. He also earned a Master’s in International Relations/American Government from CUNY Brooklyn (now Brooklyn College) and a Ph.D. in American Government from New York University. Dr. Karkhanis served as Professor of Political Science and Libraries at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York from 1974-2005.
In 2008, Dr. Karkhanis was named Educator of the Year by the Democracy Project, who cited his “lifetime history of standing up against repression and censorship,” in giving him the award (Orenstein, 2008). An avid author, Karkhanis wrote a number of books and articles, including “Indian Politics and the Role of the Press” and “Jewish Heritage in America: A Bibliography.” In addition, he was the founder and editor of “The Patriot Returns,” a newsletter taking on CUNY administration and faculty. As editor, he fought a long legal battle against censorship regarding his criticism of university establishment and faculty.
Serving as the first APALA president, Karkhanis sought to develop APALA as a long-standing and functional organization through membership drives and published conference proceedings (Cardenas-Dow, 2013). He was also heavily involved with ALA’s Council Resolutions Committees, Bogle Pratt International Travel Fund, and was involved in various regional and university organizations.
Karkhanis was an advocate for young librarians, saying that they could become the agents of change the profession needs.
“He would encourage young Asian Americans to pursue a career in librarianship by promoting the opportunities for fresh ideas, assertive leadership, and intellectual growth that would change the status quo. He believes that new librarians can be the change agents the profession needs.” (Yamashita, 2000, p. 101)
Dr. Sharad Karkhanis spent his later years between Brooklyn and Boca Raton, Fla., where he died March 28, 2013, at age 78.
Cardenas-Dow, M. (2013). APALA Remembers Dr. Sharad D. Karkhanis. Unpublished article. Retrieved Dec. 6, 2013.
Orenstein, P. (2008, Jan. 1). Dr. Sharad Karkhanis Educator of the Year. Queens Village Eagle. Retrieved Dec. 6, 2013, from: http://democracy-project.com/2008/01/dr-sharad-karkhanis-educator-of-the-year/
Yamashita, K. (2000). Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association—A history of APALA and its founders. Library Trends, 49(1), 88-109. Last retrieved April 7, 2013, from: http://www.apalaweb.org/wpsandbox/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/apalahistory.pdf
Editing assistance provided by Alyssa Jocson.